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AUGUST 2013 ISSUE

Guest Column - Force Magazine
To repeal or not to repeal
Relevance of the AFSPA in J&K today
 
Lt Gen. Mukesh Sabharwal (retd)By Lt Gen. Mukesh Sabharwal (retd)
There has been a long-standing demand of separatists, their supporters and some regional political parties in J&K to repeal the AFPSA. Some want it removed totally while others have propounded the idea of a partial revocation from certain areas of the State. This may be as good a time as any to review the relevance of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in J&K today.

Just when we thought peace may finally prevail, consequent to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s initiative in 1999, Pakistan surprised us with Kargil. Operation Parakram followed the attack on the Indian Parliament and tension continued till the ceasefire was established in November 2003. Ever since, the Valley has witnessed periods of intermittent levels of low and high violence. Despite an increased influx of tourists and yatris, years like 2008 and 2010 saw massive protests with the Kashmiri youth out on the streets, pelting stones at the behest of the separatists. The last year and a half was seemingly quiet when suddenly the silence was disturbed by a couple of terrorist attacks on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police in Srinagar, followed by one on an army convoy on the National Highway in June 2013.

Across the line of control, over 500 terrorists in camps and launch-pads await an opportunity for infiltration into J&K. People still fear the sporadic terrorist strikes; sentiments of secession and azadi still reverberate; insult to the national flag and anthem is often witnessed; and the Kashmiri Pandits remain refugees in their own state. So, have the conditions drastically changed? This is not to suggest that the situation is grave. Trade and tourism are prospering and the rail link to Banihal has been completed. Yes, there is a discernible improvement on many counts, but is the picture so rosy, so as to throw caution to the winds?

Repealing the Act will result in severe limitations to the army. Proactive operations will be severely affected and will result in the initiative being passed to the militant. Absence of legal cover would be detrimental to the morale of the soldiers on ground, whereas it would bolster the will of anti-nationals and provide an opportunity to Tanzeems to fuel militancy.
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