Omar for Partial Removal of AFSPA at CM conference
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Agency

New Delhi, August 18 2009: Citing distinct change in security environment in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday pressed for partial withdrawal of dreaded anti-terror laws from the state.

He also appealed to the Centre and political parties to take a pragmatic view on lifting Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA from the districts where militant activities have gone down.

Speaking at the Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security, Omar Abdullah also demanded suitable replacements for the five CRPF battalions that have been withdrawn from the state, saying the move would create a vacuum that was bound to be exploited by insurgents.

"Now that there is a distinct change in the security environment in the state, there is a good case for reviewing the continuation of the AFSPA, particularly in those areas of the state which are at the moment not unduly affected by insurgent or terrorist activities," Omar Abdullah told the meeting which was earlier addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The AFSPA played an important role in providing legal protection to army and paramilitary forces during the years when insurgency was at its peak in the state.

But now it is time for shunning the extreme positions on the issue keeping the changed situation in view," Omar said.

"Even though this is a highly emotive issue which has provoked extreme positions, I would like to request that a pragmatic view about the continuation of the AFSPA be taken with a view to removing its applicability from those districts in the state where terrorist or insurgent activities are minimal or insignificant," Omar pleaded.

Interestingly, the chief minister demanded that while dealing with internal security, adequate precautions should be taken so that no society feels alienated.

"Due care must be taken while handling internal security situations to ensure that the human rights of the citizens are not violated.

The necessity to maintain internal security must be balanced with the need to protect and respect human rights," Omar said.

"It must also be ensured that the response to internal security threats should not have the effect of creating fear among the public about particular sections of society," the Chief Minister said.

Referring to the transition from a situation when the focus was almost entirely on tackling terrorism and militancy to the present situation where priority is on the handling law and order situations, the Chief Minister said that paradigm shift require a re-orientation of mindset and re-training and re-equipping of State Police for handling law and order situation.

He asked the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for extending necessary assistance to the State to retrain and re-equip the State Police.

Abdullah emphasized on fuller utilization of economic potential of the trade across LOC and urged for measures to institutionalize the trade arrangements for financing exchange of goods.

"In the absence any such arrangement, the exchanges taking place on bottle system which is prone to inherent insufficiencies and possible misuse when the value of goods imported and exported are not fully adjusted", he added and asked for quick resolve of the problems by the Union Home Minister and the Ministers of External Affairs and Finance.

Omar complimented the Home Ministry for organizing these Chief Ministers' Conferences on Internal Security on a regular basis and said that the last conference was held in January this year and this conference is, therefore, something of a mid course review of the various decisions taken in the previous conference". The Chief Minister said, "between the last Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security in January, 2009 and the present one, momentous changes have occurred in Jammu and Kashmir.

Elections to the Lok Sabha were conducted without any major incident of terrorist violence or disruption.

The State has also successfully conducted the Amarnath Yatra which has just concluded last week without any security related problems.

These successes are due to the high level of co-ordination between the State government, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Army and the Central Para Military Forces in the State".

Abdullah added, "In recent years, the country has faced numerous threats to its Internal Security.

Even though we seem to have survived the most serious challenges so far, it must be recognized that the evident absence of any overarching strategic doctrine has adversely affected our response to these crises.

The other factor which affects the response of the country to Internal Security crises is the constitutional structure and the balance of power between the Centre and the State.

Even though law and order is a state subject, given the relative financial and administrative weakness of the States vis-�-vis the Centre, it is the Union Home Ministry which has sought to co-ordinate and organize the response to such crises even when it is limited to a single State.

While such a co-ordinate response is essential, there is the accompanying danger of a one-size-fits-all strategy being used for manifestly different kinds of situations in various States in the country.

Omar said, "of all the States in the Union, Jammu and Kashmir has the most experience of handling Internal Security problems.

Starting from Independence when the State was attacked and invaded by raiders from Pakistan and, in particular, the insurgency which the State has been facing since 1989, we in Jammu and Kashmir have suffered greatly but in the process of tackling insurgency we have also learned a great deal and have acquired experience unparalleled in any other State regarding the political and administrative requirements for handling Internal Security situations.

The Chief Minister said, "very often, the standard response to Internal Security crises is the movement of Central Para Military Forces to the State concerned.

However, it must be emphasised that most Internal Security problems have a political origin and, therefore, it is essential that a political strategy be worked out to deal with the root causes of the problem.

This admittedly may be difficult when political parties believing in different philosophies are ruling in the Centre and in the States, but nonetheless without a clear and coherent political strategy it will not be possible to counter or defeat the problem.

Abdullah said, "the focus on responding quickly and effectively against Internal Security threats should not divert attention from the basic imperative of preventing the occurrence of such crises.

Threats to Internal Security do not occur overnight and there is generally a long gestation period involved.

It is during this gestation period that the problems should be sorted out.

For this, the ability to gather, collate and analyze intelligence is vital.

The importance of effective co-ordination between the different Central and State intelligence agencies cannot be overstated.

While there has been improvement in the level of co-ordination between intelligence agencies, it is essential that proper systems to institutionalize this be put in place as quickly as possible.

Referring to the follow up actions taken in the Chief Ministers' Conference on internal security held on January 6, 2009, the Chief Minister said that Quick Response Teams (QRTs) have been created and are operational in the State besides an Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has been set up in the Crime Headquarters.

He urged for extension of modernization of State Force Scheme beyond 2009-10 .

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