AFSPA soon to be withdrawn partially

2011 has been the most peaceful for Jammu and Kashmir in the past two decades. And peaceful summer in the state has further paved the way for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some peaceful areas in a phased manner. In view of the prevailing situation in the state, Home Minister P Chidambaram has asked chief minister Omar Abdullah to withdraw AFSPA from violence free districts in parts.

Earlier Omar Abdullah had thought of removing AFSPA by the end of 2011 if the summer passed off peacefully. Omar after his recent meet with P Chidambaram said that during their meeting the possibility of removal of AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act from certain parts of the state was discussed and after talks with cabinet colleagues a final decision would be taken in this regard. Omar however has clarified that AFSPA can only go in parts and not by any overnight decision of revocation of the AFSPA or the Disturbed Areas Act from the entire state. He further said, We have to see the areas where the footprints of the Army was minimal and then go for revocation of the Disturbed Areas Act and subsequently AFSPA. Under the law, if a state de-notifies Disturbed Areas Act from certain districts, the AFSPA will automatically be withdrawn from those districts.” On the issue of the report submitted by the interlocutors Omar said that it was a timely thought, and a step in the right direction and urged the Centre to hold an all party meet to discuss the report and find ways and means to take positive things from the report and ensure that it is implemented.

There has been a relentless campaign to either repeal or withdraw the draconian law as believed by those seeking to withdraw the law from Kashmir and Manipur. The law gives enough powers to security forces to search, seize and arrest without any warrant at places declared to be disturbed areas. It took too long for Irom Sharmila’s fast against the law to strike a chord. Slowly and steadily people are joining hands to demand the repeal of AFSPA. New Delhi based National Alliance for Peoples’ Movement (NAPM) has already launched a signature campaign across India from 2 October in order to spread the message far and wide on Irom Sharmila’s struggle and to build public support for the “Save Sharmila” campaign.

On October 16, The Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) led by social activist Medha Patkar began a Jan Caravan march from Srinagar to Imphal. Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey has also come forward to support Sharmila’s struggle because he is of the opinion that AFSPA is responsible for the pain and suffering of people in the North East and Kashmir. Many other organizations like NAPM, Asha Parivar, Mission Bhartiyam, Mahila Chetna Kendra, Yuva Koshish, Khudai Khidmatgar, Manushi, and Sadbhavna Mission, We the Common People, SAMAR, La Mashale, SIO, Asian Centre of Social Studies are part of this campaign. Save Sharmila Jan Caravan will cover 4,500 km across 10 states.

When Jan Caravan reached Delhi on 19 October a group shouting slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Matram attacked and manhandled people participating in the solidarity campaign for Sharmila. Faisal Khan, coordinator of the Save Sharmila Jan Caravan said that while we were on our way some people shouting slogans approached us and asked to stop. When we refused to do so they misbehaved and splashed ink on our clothes. Assistant co-ordinator of the Manipur based organisation Apunba Lup’s, assistant coordinator Elangbam Johnson while reacting to suspected right wing activists attack on the caravan said that it was an act against humanity and warned the attackers not to repeat such acts in the future. The Apunba Lup was formed following the brutal rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama Devi in Manipur by Assam Rifles soldiers in July 2004.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2011 on page no. 12

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