No suggestion on Afspa in report to Congress, says Hooda
As a political slugfest over a proposed review of the Armed Forces Special Forces Act (Afspa) rages between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General D S Hooda said his recommendations to the Congress were “broad, strategic in nature on a range of issues including internal security”.
General Hooda, who led the September 2016 cross-border strikes in Pakistan following the attack on the Uri Brigade headquarters, had presented a 42-page national security document to Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The document is not public yet.
In its election manifesto released on Tuesday, the Congress had said that, if voted to power, it would review the Afspa and the Disturbed Areas Act 1976 – enabling legislation for the implementation of AFSPA. The party said it would make suitable changes to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights. Afspa is a special law that protects forces against unnecessary litigation and investigation when they are deployed in an internal security role.
The manifesto also said the party would review the deployment of armed forces in the Kashmir valley – moving more troops to the border to check infiltration while reducing the presence of the Army and Central Armed Police Forces in the valley.
“Let us not take one issue like Afspa and swing everything around it. A broader strategy to deal with Kashmir has several facets,” he said. He added that “Afspa did not figure in the recommendations” made by him, although he had looked at internal conflicts and the Jammu and Kashmir situation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hit out at the Congress at a rally in Kolkata on Wednesday. “The Congress in its manifesto, which is full of lies, has promised to remove the law that protects our forces in terror-affected areas. Removing this will help Pakistan,” he had said.
Later, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman attacked the Congress, saying the move to amend AFSPA would demoralize the military. The Congress was trying to help “separatists, directly and indirectly”, she told reporters on Wednesday.