Forces cut in Kashmir if situation improves: minister

Jammu, March 4 (IANS) The Jammu and Kashmir government Thursday said that reduction of security forces and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state would depend on improvement in the situation.

Responding to a joint resolution of Javed Mustafa Mir and Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which called for the reduction of the security forces and repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ministerr Ali Mohammad Sagar said the situation in the state needed to improve before these steps could be taken.

‘The state has passed through a turbulent period when many families were uprooted and thousands were killed. Every member has to supplement the peace initiative,’ Sagar said in ther assembly.

‘We have to ensure a peaceful environment where local police get a prominent role so that special powers to security forces can gradually be taken back,’ he added.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had vowed when he took office that he would work for the reduction of troops and also withdrawal of the army’s special powers that allow the security forces to shoot and kill terrorists, or their harbourers, without facing any legal consequence.

But rise in incursions and the increased violence in the state have caused problems, he stated in a media interview last month.

However, Defence Minister A.K. Antony disclosed in January that the Indian Army had cut the number of troops in the state by 30,000 over the past two years.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram in Jammu on Feb 17 disclosed that ‘steps are afoot to give a larger role to Jammu and Kashmir police to deal with terrorism and more personnel would be added to the force’.

Citing these observations of the two ministers, Sagar said this showed the ‘state government was working seriously on these issues, without making noise about it.’

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti claimed the National Conference government has done nothing in this regard and ‘in fact, human rights abuses are on the rise’.

Nizad-ud-Din Bhat, terming the special powers act as ‘draconian and harsh’, said it was an ‘implacable law in the democratic system which has outlived its utility’.

He said that the situation was ‘different when such laws were imposed in the state. But now the situation has changed and such laws have lost their relevance and are undermining the normal functioning of democratic system’.

He said stray incidents of militancy in different parts of the state was not the parameter of assessing the situation.

He termed the AFSMA an impediment to the peace process initiated by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and carried forward by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, the resolution was rejected by voice vote in the house of 87. The chief minister was not in the house when the debate took place.

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