Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Friday defended the Indian Army as the “most disciplined force” in the world and said calls for revocation of the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) “at this point of time” were unrealistic.
“We also want AFSPA to go. There was a time when people would desert villages whenever there was an anti-militancy operation. Now people from four to five adjacent villages come to pelt stones at encounter sites. Is it realistic to call for the revocation of AFSPA at this point of time?” Mehbooba said in the Legislative Assembly.
She made the remarks after CPI(M) legislator Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami raised the issue of AFSPA revocation in wake of five civilian killings in Shopian district in the recent days.
A youth was killed in Chaigund on January 25 in forces firing during a gunfight while a minor boy Musharraf Fayaz injured in a shell explosion at the gunfight site succumbed on Friday. Three civilians were killed after army opened fire on protesters in Ganowpora village on January 27.
“There may have been a time when there was possibility of gradual revocation of AFSPA from few places but not today,” she said, adding,” the biggest problem for me, for all us, today that the footprint of army and other security forces will increase with the increase in militancy and stone pelting. This is the bitter truth. What can I do?”
“We got camps removed but then something happened. You won’t believe that in 2016 and 2017, people said they want these camps back because then the Army won’t come to the villages for crackdowns and search operations due to presence of militants . This is a viscous cycle,” she said.
Mehbooba said the Army was an institution which had worked hard over the years “with our police and other security forces to create an environment where elections were possible and we were elected to the Assembly.”
“They have made huge sacrifices,” she said.
Responding to the National Conference’s concerns about the fate of FIR registered against Army men over the killing of three civilians in Ganowpora , Mehbooba said the army had not filed any counter FIR.
“A day after the police filed an FIR into the firing incident, the army filed a report about the incident in a police station. That report has been kept on record with the already filed FIR into this incident,” she said after National Conference working president Omar Abdullah asked the government to constitute a Special Investigation Team to probe the incident since the army had filed a “counter FIR.”
Omar Abdullah also took a dig at Mehbooba’s statement that the FIR against Army will be taken to logical conclusion.
“You have assured the people of the state that FIR will be taken to conclusion. It is good. But till now, there has been no action on FIRs (registered against forces in the past),” Omar said.
He said that since 2000, the state government had forwarded 50 requests to the Government of India to give permission for prosecution of forces, particularly the Army, where “we have seen human right violations”.
“Forty-seven requests were rejected and three are still pending…This is our track record,” the leader of the opposition and former chief minister said.
Meanwhile, Mehbooba said J&K’s decision to join India in 1947 cannot be changed and pro-India political parties have to work for making that decision ‘likable and beautiful’ for the people of the state. “Separatists won’t do it. Let us leave Azadi to them, whenever that happens,” she added.
She further said that the only solution to solve the issues between both parts of Kashmir is to adopt the “vision” of former state chief minister and her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
“According to me, if there is any solution for Jammu and Kashmir, then its only the vision of Mufti sahab, which is open all the ways, let people come and go. Because we say that Kashmir (Pakistan-administered Kashmir) is also a part of our estate,” she said.