SRINAGAR, July 22: Kashmir’s ruling National Conference party has appealed to the central government in New Delhi to restore autonomy and revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as a goodwill gesture towards Kashmir, where tens of thousands have died in conflict but now violence is on a decline.
“There is absolutely no doubt that our autonomy has been unconstitutionally eroded from time to time,” spokesperson of the National Conference (NC), Tanvir Sadiq said on Saturday.
“The holy month of Ramadan has started and what better time could it be for the centre as a goodwill gesture to withdraw AFSPA from areas not affected by militancy anymore,” Sadiq added.
Analysts say calls for revocation of the Act, at least from areas with a negligible militancy-related violence, could soon be reduced to “helpless pleas” as such demands by mainstream leaders of the state, especially Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, have been consistently vetoed by the the Army.
AFSPA provides immunity from prosecution to army personnel operating in the conflict-ridden state and Generals have been outrightly opposing demands for it to be scrapped, saying the move could be ‘disastrous’ for the security situation in the region.
Sadiq said that the Army “had done its job” and that “now was the time was to address genuine demands” like revocation of the Act.
“The Act was not implemented in the state to meet the law and order situation but to deal with the militancy and one can easily figure out that militancy has declined over the years,” he said.
The two different stands on the issue could unfold in nothing but a spat between the civilian and the military quarters in the state.
The government has been playing the ‘high rush of tourists’ card to impress upon the centre that things were ripe for the Act to go. ”We have close to around a million odd tourists who visited Kashmir for vacation till now and around half a million yatris performing Darshan of Shri Amarnath Ji. If this is not an indication to withdraw AFSPA, I wonder what is?” Sadiq asked.
The Army on the other hand has been “alarmed” at the potential threat to the security of the state which, it says, came to fore with a recent series of gun battles across the valley.