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Army ready to face IS if it joins hands with LeT to attack India, says top commander

Jammu: A top Army commander on Thursday said there was a “possibility” that global terror outfit Islamic State (IS) may join hands with Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba to launch attacks in India.

“Yes, that (IS joining hands with LeT to launch attacks in India) can be a possibility as the motive of the terrorists is to spread their propaganda.

“They want their name and for that, they can do anything. And if they get successful, they can take advantage of it by using any name. Yes it is a possibility,” General Officer Commanding of the 16 corps of the army Lt Gen RR Nimbhorkar told reporters on Thursday.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

He was replying to a question whether IS can join hands with other terrorists outfits like LeT to launch Paris-type attacks in India.

Lt Gen RR Nimbhorkar also said there are around 700 active militants in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

On a question about the number of terrorist training camps active across the Line of Control in the POK, he said that from the inputs that the captured terrorist Navid has given there are around 37 active camps in that region.

“See, there are a number of launching pads and we are all aware of it as it is in the open domain. So, therefore, I will not exactly say as to how many are there,” he said.

The army commander said,”There are sufficient number of launching pads and if you calculate that way… take the statement which is given by terrorist captured in Udhampur attack so you can easily co-relate what he said and calculate…

“So to my mind in the entire PoK there may be about 600-700 terrorists.”

He said that out of the 700 militants present in the PoK, half of them are ready and waiting for a chance to infiltrate into the Indian side.

“Out of them, half are ready to be launched so they can come in the launch pad and get launched,” he said.
The army commander said Navid had revealed that 35-37 terrorist camps were active in the PoK region.

“Thirty-five to thirty-seven camps are there and if in every camp there are 20-30 (terrorists), then the total figure reaches to 600-700 and out of them half are ready to be launched,” he said.

Lt Gen RR Nimbhorkar said the militants were looking for ways and means to infiltrate.

“We cannot say this with certainty whether the number has increased or decreased. In my opinion, it is their job to find ways and means to infiltrate and whenever they get a chance they do it and our job is to stop them and if one of them slips in and our job is to clear them. It is an ongoing game which keeps on going,” he said.

Replying to a question about radicalisation of Kashmiri youth and their attraction towards IS ideology, he said that if any organisation wants to grow then it is bound to recruit people into its folds.

“See, right now, these are speculation and we cannot say anything about it. If any organisation wants to grow, they will definitely go for recruitment, it is their job and it is to be seen in how much area they get success. It depends on their propaganda,” he added.

He said, “I cannot say this with any degree of certainty if they are present or not. IS flags which are being raised we have seen these are scattered incidents, in Srinagar we cannot say with certainty about their influence having increased.”

He said that the need of the hour was to remain alert and be ready to face any eventuality.

“Right now, we have to do detailed analysis but at the end it is our job that we have to be ready all the time. We have to remain alert. Whatever the name be, be it the IS, the LeT, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen etc if they attack the final result would be the same. We have to guard against that final result and I want to assure you that we are always ready,” he said.

On the question about the presence of IS in terrorist training camps in the PoK, Lt Gen Nimbhorkar said that nothing can be said with certainty about the presence of IS in PoK.

On reports about youth in Kashmir being radicalised by the use of Internet and that IS was trying to spread its ideology in the Valley through social media, the officer said that it has become a global problem.

“See management of the Internet is a worldwide problem. It is a power that can be used by anyone, who is not empowered by other means. They can use this media to their advantage. So how to fight it, is a different issue altogether and that has to be dealt and looked into its perspective,” he said.

“This stance of yours that the IS is using the (social) media is correct and I have read it on the net that they are using it to their advantage. But I am quite certain people at the helm of affairs are aware of this and they will take necessary measures to counter it in a manner which is legal and firm,” he said.

On another question about the threat of IS penetrating into the Kashmir Valley, he said, “I feel that and I have said it that IS is a worldwide problem and people are aware of this issue.

“As far as our area is concerned, whether it is IS whether it is LeT, they all are inimical to us and we have to be guarding against this. Our basic philosophy of not allowing them to intrude or infiltrate and we are geared up for the same. And so therefore any action on their part we are ready to counter them,” he said.

He said that if militants would get a chance they would try to target the civilian areas as they have done in the past, but the methodology adopted by the army was helping prevent such attempts.

On the issue of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Lt Gen Nimbhorkar said that the top brass of the force was aware of the issue and it was being discussed at the highest level in the government.

“They are aware about the issue of AFSPA and they will take up appropriate decision on it,” he said.

PTI

Don’t give permanent UNSC membership to India: Assamese group urges Ban Ki-moon

They also requested the UN to send an observer team to the North Eastern states for taking stock of the injustice meted out to indigenous people in the region.

Matiur Rahman

The Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a confederation of indigenous people in Assam, has written a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, urging him not to give permanent membership to India in the UN Security Council till the Indian government repeals the AFSPA in the North East states of India.In a press conference held at the Manipur press club in Imphal on Wednesday, Matiur Rahman, working president of the organisation said, “The Indian government is playing a colonial role by imposing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the North Eastern states. Till date, about 60,000 indigenous people have been killed by the Indian Army under this Act”.The association also requested the UN to send an observer team to the North Eastern states for taking stock of the injustice meted out to indigenous people in the region.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahman submitted the letter to the UN Secretary General through the Director of United Nations Information Centre in New Delhi on November 4. Copies of the letter were also sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz – the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Mativez Cobo – Permanent Member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.The association also protested some guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs of India. The guidelines say that anyone, including members of NGOs, companies, media and academics, intending to visit a prison for the purpose of conducting an interview, making a documentary or engaging in research work may be required to submit a security deposit of Rs 1 lakh. These guidelines have also put restrictions on visitors wishing to meet Manipur human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, who is lodged in the security wards of Jawaharal Nehru Institute of Medical Science (JNIMS), Imphal for her protest against AFSPA. Sharmila has been fasting for over 15 years now, demanding the repeal of AFSPA. “In this regard, the association submitted a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and state Home Minister Kiren Rijiju on 7 October, stating that Sharmila is not a criminal activist, and hence the government should not impose these guidelines. The government’s attitude to Sharmila is totally inhuman and painful. She should be free to meet anybody as she wishes,” said Rahman.Rahman added that the Mahasangha may also move the Supreme Court in protest to these guidelines.

Irom Sharmila completes 15 years of a hunger fast

The 42-year-old Manipuri started her fast in 2000, after the death of 10 Manipuris at the hands of the Assam Rifles in Imphal.

Irom Sharmila

AFP
A historic day went by quietly on Sunday as human rights activist from Manipur, Irom Sharmila, completed 15 years of her hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The 42-year-old Manipuri started her fast in 2000, after the death of 10 Manipuris at the hands of the Assam Rifles in Imphal. Amnesty International, on Sunday said it was “15 years of the selfless and unparalleled protest”.As the speakers at the Convention to Repeal AFSPA, in New Delhi, repeatedly said, Sharmila is an ordinary woman representing people’s ordinary desires, to live as equal citizens with rights and dignity. How she has carried on her protest is extraordinary said Professor Deepti Priya Mehrotra, author of Burning Bright a biography of Sharmila; she practices non-violence “philosophically” not strategically. Her’s is the declaration that life cannot be lived unless the state accords an equal right to life to all its citizens, said Mehrotra.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Unfortunately, as the solemn gathering recognised, the state does not seem to listen. According to the activists these are the most peaceful times the north eastern states have seen in the recent past. However, “fractured” the Mizo Accord for peace with these groups, it has held for 30 years. Yet, as Amnesty said “despite repeated calls to withdraw the AFSPA from UN experts as well as national and international groups, the Act continues to be enforced and continues to cause flagrant human rights violations.”AS the Amnesty statement added, “the Indian government-appointed High Level Committee on the Status of Women recommended repealing AFSPA. Previously, several other government-appointed commissions have recommended repealing the law. The Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir have recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.”Sharmila herself, said Babloo Loitongbam, from Human Rights Alert, is living a legal and political paradox. Her fight, he said, was for the right to live. In her own words, she didn’t want to die but live a full life. Yet, she has been charged with attempt to suicide and remanded to judicial custody 365 times; a “ritual” that takes place every 15 days. Loitongbam said that Sharmila wanted “people of prominence” to come to court with her to repeat her arguments.Sociologist Nandini Sundar read out the testimonies of two anonymous students who had applied for the Irom Sharmila scholarship–for students from AFSPA affected areas–a man from Manipur, and a woman from Kashmir. Both accounts spoke of coming terrifyingly close to death at the army’s hands, and its impact on one’s mind. Academic Sanjoy Hazarika elaborated this psychological impact, talking about generations living with trauma and mental health problems wherever there was AFSPA. What was telling was the absolute lack of medical help available to these people.A short film presented by the Extra Judicial Execution Victims Families’ Association (EEVFAM) said that in 2012 they had present 1528 cases of killings by the armed forces in Manipur, to the Supreme Court. The apex court picked six cases at random to be investigated and found the army version to be false. The film said that since these cases reached the court, the number of extra judicial killings came down from 500 in a year to 2 in 2013. However, there is concern that if the court does not expedite the other cases, the killings could go back to their former frequency. Families and witnesses, too, need to be protected and rehabilitated, as the film showed the widow of a man slain by the army talking about the pressure the latter was putting on her to withdraw the case.More bleakly, as Professor Ashok Agarwal and Babloo Loitongbam of the Human Right Alert questioned, were civil societies waiting for Irom Sharmila to die to make a statement of her struggle. If so, there would be “riots in Manipur” as Loitongbam put it, but as Agarwal added, it would be a collective failure of not being able to transform her sacrifice in to a “political struggle”. “If this is so,” said Agarwal, “then Sharmila is right in feeling there isn’t enough support for her struggle.”

Hindu Sena chief justifies act of splattering ink on J&K MLA Engineer Rashid, says forming ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is my goal

“The Hindu Sena, founded in 2011, works on the agenda of the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra in the nation, the construction of the Ram Mandir and the abolishment of Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir etc,” Vishnu Gupta told ANI.

Justifying the act of splattering ink on Jammu and Kashmir MLA Engineer Rashid, the founder of the Hindu Sena, Vishnu Gupta, said his organisation works on the agenda of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, and anyone who opposes it, would not be spared.”The Hindu Sena, founded in 2011, works on the agenda of the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra in the nation, the construction of the Ram Mandir and the abolishment of Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir etc,” Vishnu Gupta told ANI.Having its headquarters in New Delhi, the organisation claims to have numerous units in at least seven states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Assam, Manipur and New Delhi.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Around 50,000 people are online connected to the organisation and we have around 10,000 workers in the field,” he added.Vishnu Gupta, who started as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker, said he had also worked for the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (BSKS), but left it in 2012.”I had protested against writer-activist Arundhati Roy after she had expressed her views on Kashmir in her address at the Indian Habitat Centre in 2011. However, the BJP had not supported us and that’s when I left BSKS. I had also worked with the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, which is the student wing of Shiv Sena. But in 2010, I had resigned from it, because I was against their ideology of attacking North Indians in Maharashtra,” he added.Gupta said the Hindu Sena, founded in 2011, was registered this year, and has the registration number DL-10 August2015/1720.On 8 January 2014, the Hindu Sena along with the Sri Ram Sena and the Bajrang Dal attacked the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Kaushambi office after warning Arvind Kejriwal to expel senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan over latter’s controversial remarks on the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the Kashmir Valley. Bhushan had called for a referendum as a likely medium to gauge whether AFSPA was indeed needed in valley. The organisation had also held a protest outside The Indian Express office on January 6, 2014, against what they called its “anti-national” coverage of the Pakistani boat incident. “The reportage of January 3 edition of The Indian Express says the occupants of the Pakistani vessel were not terrorists. This is like speaking the language of Pakistan,” said Gupta.

Kiren Rijiju bypassed over declaring Nagaland disturbed area?

When contacted, Rijiju said he was not aware of any decision on extending ‘disturbed area’ in Nagaland. “I am not aware about any decision of extending disturbed area in Nagaland,” he told PTI in a huff, indicating his displeasure.

Minister of State Kiren Rijiju, who looks after the Northeast division in the Home Ministry, seems to have been bypassed in recent decision to declare entire Nagaland as ‘disturbed area’ under the AFSPA with clear indications emerging of his unhappiness.Sources said the Home Ministry file related to the extension of ‘disturbed area’ in Nagaland for one more year never reached Rijiju’s desk even though he is technically head of the Northeast division. The file was never put before Rijiju, notwithstanding the fact he has been playing a key role in issues related to the Northeast and has been continuously travelling to that part of the country, they said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When contacted, Rijiju said he was not aware of any decision on extending ‘disturbed area’ in Nagaland. “I am not aware about any decision of extending disturbed area in Nagaland,” he told PTI in a huff, indicating his displeasure.There have been reports of discontentment in Nagaland over the decision and civil society groups have reportedly expressed their anguish. On June 30, the Centre declared entire Nagaland as a “disturbed area” stating that a “dangerous condition” prevails in the state and armed forces should assist the civil administration in maintaining law and order.In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said that it was of the opinion that the whole state of Nagaland is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary. “Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, the central government hereby declares that whole of the said state to be a disturbed area for a period of one year with effect from June 30, 2015 for the purpose of the Act,” the notification said.But the sources stressed that Rijiju continues to have good working working relations with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and enjoys his “complete trust”.

Amnesty report says AFSPA shields human rights violators: Jammu’s PDP-BJP govt won’t scrap it soon

Citing a damning report they have prepared, the Amnesty International has called for the immediate repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir.

The 77-page report says that the Army personnel accused of abusing fundamental rights of J&K residents have never been tried in civilian courts. The report listed out several cases where AFSPA made it impossible to book Army personnel involved in incidents of serious human rights violations.

However, experts are of the opinion that the report put together of the rights group may not be able to move the ruling PDP-BJP alliance in the state to overturn AFSPA.

Curiously enough, when PDP forged an alliance with the BJP, one of its extensively publicized agendas was the removal of AFSPA from the areas of Jammu and Kashmir which had not seen too many disturbances recently. The allies had even promised to begin de-notifying areas marked ‘disturbed’ to pave the way for AFSPA to get revoked.

Five months after the government assumed office, there is no headway on the issue. While PDP has preferred to maintain silence over the issue, the BJP’s state leadership has vociferously opposed the idea of repealing AFSPA. The withdrawal of the act from places which have witnessed very little violence in the recent times has also become a very remote possibility. Home minister Rajnath Singh, during is recent two-day visit, declared that the Act will only be removed when the situation is ‘conducive’. However, he didn’t explain what exactly would be a ‘conducive’ situation.

Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.

Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.

“I want to say that the situation should be such that AFSPA should not be needed anywhere in the country,” Singh told reporters after paying obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir. Hinting at the Army without naming it, Singh said the all stakeholders in the issue will have to cooperate and agree in order to get AFSPA permanently revoked.

“When will Kashmir have an atmosphere that will convince the government to repeal AFSPA? Even if one wing of the state advocates for removal of the Act (AFSPA), another blocks it. The political class doesn’t want to resolutely act against it because it provides cover for a lot of human rights offenders who may be close to them,” human rights activist Khurram Pervez told Firstpost.

The civil society in Kashmir seems to have given up on the hope that the Act will be repealed. Their efforts have yielded little result and have largely gone unnoticed in the corridors of power in New Delhi.

“Amnesty’s report doesn’t ask for independence for Kashmir. It asks the armed forces to be made accountable. However, the media and general public in the country have largely ignored the report. The victims mentioned in the report may never get justice and New Delhi will never repeal AFSPA to keep its iron fist on the state intact, ” Ifra Bhat, a student of International relations in Srinagar, says.

In Kashmir, the notification to enact the AFSPA was issued by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir twice — once in 1990 and then in 2001 — declaring the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding the Ladakh districts of Leh and Kargil, as ‘Disturbed Area’ . This law was initially named the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. It came into force on July 5, 1990.

“Majority of the people in Kashmir valley want the act to go. But, more than any else, what would be needed is a strong political will and coordination between Centre and state leadership and a [real] impulse of the ground reality,” Noor Mohammad Baba, head of Political Science department at the Central University of Kashmir, says.

“The problems is that while in power a former home minister says the Act is necessary but when he is in opposition, he says the law has no place in civilised society,” says Baba.

National Conference General Secretary, Ali Mohammad Sagar, says that although he is optimistic about the repeal of the act but he blames the ruling BJP-PDP coalition for the delay. “PDP talked about repealing the act, only because it wanted votes,” says Sagar.

However, the PDP says it has not left the demand for the removal of the act from some places, saying the laws like these have no place in a democratic setup where people have chosen democracy over military rule. “There is need for its partial withdrawal to strengthen the confidence of people in the functioning of democracy. We are clear that ultimately this law has to go, in a step-wise manner,” PDP’s chief spokesperson, Dr Mehboob Beg, says.

Manipur ambush: All you need to know about attack that killed 20 jawans

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Unrelenting BJP and a volatile LOC: Two biggest reasons why AFSPA is not being removed in J&K soon

Srinagar: Following the decision of the Tripura government to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) after 18 years, similar demands are echoing in Jammu and Kashmir. The controversial law has been criticised in Jammu and Kashmir as it has been alleged many times that the legislated has been misused by armed forces involved in counter-insurgency operations on many occasions for cash rewards and promotions.

The demand has been spurred by the promise of the Peoples Democratic Party (PD)-led coalition government which, in its alliance agenda with the BJP, had promised to remove AFSPA from areas in the state which have largely remained peaceful over the last decade.

AFP image.AFP image.

AFP image.

The notification to enact the AFSPA was issued by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir twice — once in 1990 and then in 2001 — declaring entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding the Ladakh districts of Leh and Kargil, as “Disturbed Area.” This law was initially titled as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. It came into force on July 5, 1990, and was notified by Governor Girish Chander Saxena’s government on July 6, when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister.

PDP and BJP chalked out a carefully worded ‘Agenda of the Alliance’ which promised to begin the process of de-notifying areas declared as ‘disturbed’ that would eventually pave the way for the revocation of AFSPA. However, the BJP refused to give any written assurance to the PDP, and its state leaders have been vociferously opposing the demands on removing the act ever since the new government came into power on 1 March.

Led by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the Centre has categorically ruled out revoking the law from Jammu and Kashmir.

“If it is possible for the government in Tripura, why not Kashmir? There are also areas in Kashmir where insurgency has largely been contained. Why do you need the draconian law in Srinagar or other peaceful areas in the state,” Muzaffar Ahmad, a businessman in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar, told Firstpost.

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who heads the law department at Central University of Kashmir, says there is a genuine demand that the law must be removed from the places where situation has improved since the law was enacted. “But the central government measures Kashmir with a different yardstick. Despite one-third of the country being under Maoist insurgency, there is no AFSPA in many such states, but it exists with other draconian laws in J&K,” he said.

“The tangible improvement in security situation in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be reciprocated with matching measures like revocation of AFSPA so that people feel change on the ground,” PDP’s chief spokesperson, Mehboob Beg, said in a statement here.

However, people’s opinion on ground is in sharp contrast with the figures. According to official figures released by Director General of Tripura Police, K Nagaraj on 4 January, 2015, only eight militancy-related incidents were registered in 2014 compared to nine such incidents in 2013 in Tripura. In Jammu and Kashmir, however, while the insurgency-related killings came down to record a low of 117 in 2012, the violence has seen an increase since. In 2013, 181 were killed and in 2014, casualties were 193 with civilian killings increasing by over 60 percent.

“The situation in last four to five years has improved because the infiltration levels on Line of Control have gone down. However, the cause of concern remains the local recruits, who are snatching weapons from security forces because of lack of external support. In this year alone, we have seen five to six weapon snatching incidents,” Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani, IGP Kashmir told Firstpost.

AFSPA, which exists with other controversial special laws like Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir, has been condemned widely for giving impunity to armed forced which has resulted in “gross human rights violations.”

The demand to repeal the act has been continuously turned down by successive governments in the Valley. Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist with Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, said the state government is not in a position to work on its own and, instead, has to “obey the diktats” from the Centre. “The government could not safeguard the release of just one political prisoner (Masarat Alam) and had to re-arrest him after the BJP’s rebuff,” Parvez said.

Recently, after Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed called for the removal of AFSPA, the Union Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, is believed to have categorically told the CM that it’s only “up to the Army to decide on the case.”

The BJP’s media advisor in Kashmir, Altaf Thakur, also denied any possibility regarding the removal of the act, arguing that the militancy in Kashmir has not waned. “There have been attacks recently in Sopore and, unlike Tripura, the militant threat has not waned in Kashmir, so the act should stay,” Thakur said.

Unrelenting BJP and volatile LOC: 2 biggest reasons why AFSPA’s not being removed in J&K

Srinagar: Following the decision of the Tripura government to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) after 18 years, similar demands are echoing in Jammu and Kashmir. The controversial law has been criticised in Jammu and Kashmir as it has been alleged many times that the legislated has been misused by armed forces involved in counter-insurgency operations on many occasions for cash rewards and promotions.

The demand has been spurred by the promise of the Peoples Democratic Party (PD)-led coalition government which, in its alliance agenda with the BJP, had promised to remove AFSPA from areas in the state which have largely remained peaceful over the last decade.

AFP image.AFP image.

AFP image.

The notification to enact the AFSPA was issued by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir twice — once in 1990 and then in 2001 — declaring entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding the Ladakh districts of Leh and Kargil, as “Disturbed Area.” This law was initially titled as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. It came into force on July 5, 1990, and was notified by Governor Girish Chander Saxena’s government on July 6, when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister.

PDP and BJP chalked out a carefully worded ‘Agenda of the Alliance’ which promised to begin the process of de-notifying areas declared as ‘disturbed’ that would eventually pave the way for the revocation of AFSPA. However, the BJP refused to give any written assurance to the PDP, and its state leaders have been vociferously opposing the demands on removing the act ever since the new government came into power on 1 March.

Led by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the Centre has categorically ruled out revoking the law from Jammu and Kashmir.

“If it is possible for the government in Tripura, why not Kashmir? There are also areas in Kashmir where insurgency has largely been contained. Why do you need the draconian law in Srinagar or other peaceful areas in the state,” Muzaffar Ahmad, a businessman in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar, told Firstpost.

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who heads the law department at Central University of Kashmir, says there is a genuine demand that the law must be removed from the places where situation has improved since the law was enacted. “But the central government measures Kashmir with a different yardstick. Despite one-third of the country being under Maoist insurgency, there is no AFSPA in many such states, but it exists with other draconian laws in J&K,” he said.

“The tangible improvement in security situation in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be reciprocated with matching measures like revocation of AFSPA so that people feel change on the ground,” PDP’s chief spokesperson, Mehboob Beg, said in a statement here.

However, people’s opinion on ground is in sharp contrast with the figures. According to official figures released by Director General of Tripura Police, K Nagaraj on 4 January, 2015, only eight militancy-related incidents were registered in 2014 compared to nine such incidents in 2013 in Tripura. In Jammu and Kashmir, however, while the insurgency-related killings came down to record a low of 117 in 2012, the violence has seen an increase since. In 2013, 181 were killed and in 2014, casualties were 193 with civilian killings increasing by over 60 percent.

“The situation in last four to five years has improved because the infiltration levels on Line of Control have gone down. However, the cause of concern remains the local recruits, who are snatching weapons from security forces because of lack of external support. In this year alone, we have seen five to six weapon snatching incidents,” Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani, IGP Kashmir told Firstpost.

AFSPA, which exists with other controversial special laws like Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir, has been condemned widely for giving impunity to armed forced which has resulted in “gross human rights violations.”

The demand to repeal the act has been continuously turned down by successive governments in the Valley. Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist with Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, said the state government is not in a position to work on its own and, instead, has to “obey the diktats” from the Centre. “The government could not safeguard the release of just one political prisoner (Masarat Alam) and had to re-arrest him after the BJP’s rebuff,” Parvez said.

Recently, after Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed called for the removal of AFSPA, the Union Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, is believed to have categorically told the CM that it’s only “up to the Army to decide on the case.”

The BJP’s media advisor in Kashmir, Altaf Thakur, also denied any possibility regarding the removal of the act, arguing that the militancy in Kashmir has not waned. “There have been attacks recently in Sopore and, unlike Tripura, the militant threat has not waned in Kashmir, so the act should stay,” Thakur said.

AFSPA removed in Tripura after 18 years: Here’s why it was enforced and why it’s gone now

A bit over 18 years after the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was enforced in Tripura, the state government on Wednesday decided to withdraw the Act.

“In view of the significant taming of terrorism in Tripura, the council of ministers today (Wednesday) decided to withdraw the AFSPA from the entire state,” Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told reporters.

AFSPA had been enforced in Tripura in 1997. AFP

AFSPA had been enforced in Tripura in 1997. AFP

“The security forces recently exhaustively reviewed the law and order situation in the state. Considering the reports of the security forces, the council of ministers decided to recommend to the union home ministry to issue a notification to withdraw the AFSPA,” he said.

“The decisions were taken in view of the decrease of militancy-related incidents in Tripura over the last few years. However, the security forces would be watchful over the situation,” Sarkar said.

AFSPA provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without consent . All this knowing that they wouldn’t face any legal action for any action undertaken under the act.

The central act was first enforced in Tripura on 16 February, 1997 when terrorism was at its peak in the state, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh.

Members of two separatist groups – National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) – are still sheltered and accused of getting arms training in Bangladesh. These two groups have been demanding the secession of Tripura from India.

Local rights groups and political parties in Tripura had described the act as “draconian” and wanted it repealed. “Tribal parties such as the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura had been demanding the withdrawal of the Act, saying it was aimed at suppressing the State’s 33 percent tribal population,” said a report in The Hindu.

Ever since it was enforced in Tripura, the Act, as per its provisions, was reviewed and extended after every six months.

“When the Act was imposed there were only 42 police stations and two-third of the entire police station areas were under this act,” CM Sarkar said on Wednesday.

However, in view of the improvement in the situation and fewer terrorist activities being reported, the Tripura government in June 2013 reduced operational areas of the AFSPA to 30 police station areas. Before that, out of 72 police stations in Tripura, AFSPA had been force in 40. The total number of police stations in Tripura is 74 now.

According to a Deccan Herald report, Tripura saw a rapid decline in militancy over the past five years as hundreds of militants surrendered. The ruling Left Front, which has been in power in Tripura since 1993, has been contemplating the withdrawal of the law and had the support from opposition parties like the Congress and BJP, who were also in favour the move.

The report quoted unnamed sources in the Home Ministry as saying that talks on the issue of withdrawal of AFSPA from Tripura had been on for the last few months.

The last six-month extension to AFSPA was given in November 2014, when police had said militants had killed two BSF troopers, a civilian driver and had abducted several people in six different incidents in the state.

However, perhaps the most prominent evidence of the decline of militancy and separatism in Tripura came when the state recorded over 84 percent voter turnout in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, one of the highest voter turnouts in the country, according to the Election Commission.

On Wednesday, when the state government decided to withdraw the Act, an official with the home department said: “Though the four-and-half-decade-old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is always cautious about the terror outfits and their activities.”

In one of the first political reactions, Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram welcomed the withdrawal of AFSPA.

Besides Tripura, AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Manipur’s human rights activist Irom Sharmila has been on an indefinite hunger strike for over 15 years, demanding the withdrawal of the act in her home state.

(With agency inputs)

AFSPA is a must if army has to operate in Jammu and Kashmir: Defence Minister Parrikar

New Delhi: The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is mandatory if the Army has to be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir or any other state for internal security, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said AFSPA was a must for Jammu and Kashmir. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said AFSPA was a must for Jammu and Kashmir. PTI

“Mine is not the Ministry to decide about it (AFSPA). It is very simple that if the Act is existing in that particular area, the Army can operate in that area. If it is not there, Army can’t operate there,” Parrikar said.

He was replying to a question about his Ministry’s stand on J-K government’s demand to scrap the controversial AFSPA in the state.

However, the Defence Minister said the decision to lift AFSPA has to be taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“Army’s job is not internal security. Let me be very clear on that. It is not my job to maintain internal security but if I am given a task for internal security then there have to be appropriate powers. Those powers come to me through AFSPA,” Parrikar told PTI in an interview earlier this week.

Giving example of Manipur, he said that AFSPA has been removed from some areas and the army is not operating there.

Tripura government had on Wednesday decided to lift the AFSPA in the state. The controversial law has been in effect for the last 18 years to curb insurgency in the state.

Civil rights activists have called for repeal of the Act or possible amendments in Sections 4 and 7 of AFSPA, which accord far-reaching powers and legal safeguards to security forces while undertaking counter-terrorism operations.

Section 4 gives security personnel sweeping powers to search premises and make arrests without warrants, “use force, even to extent of causing death”, destroy arms dumps, hideouts and to stop, search and seize any vehicle.

Asked if he was open to Jammu and Kashmir government’s demand to replace the Army with paramilitary forces, Parrikar said, “I don’t want to comment on anything that comes under somebody else’s domain or Home Ministry’s decision making process. They have to analyse the situation and take a decision.”

He added that the MHA has to take a call on where all the Army has to be deployed for internal security.

“MHA has to take a call and tell us whether we operate or not. If they think that we are not required, then they can do whatever they want to do. But if that Act is not there, I will not be able to operate,” he said.

The Army continues to be against any move to dilute the AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir. The Army feels that if AFSPA, which it terms as an “enabling Act”, is partially withdrawn or diluted, there are chances that radicalisation and even violence level are likely to increase.

Talking about infiltration attempts at the Line of Control, the Defence Minister said it was too early to say whether there has been an increase because winter has been late this year and snow has just melted.

However, he said there have always been efforts from the “other side” to push in infiltrators.

“Firing that takes place to keep you engaged away from the border so that you don’t stop infiltration and at times to stop you from constructing bunkers,” he said.

PTI

Tripura lifts controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act

“We have reviewed the situation of the disturbed areas of the state after every six months and also discussed the issue with the state police and other security forces working in the state.

Tripura CM Manik Sarkar

The Tripura government on Wednesday decide to lift Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from the state, where the controversial law was in effect for the last 18 years to curb insurgency.Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who is also the Home Minister of the state said this decision was taken in the meeting of the council of ministers during the day.”We have reviewed the situation of the disturbed areas of the state after every six months and also discussed the issue with the state police and other security forces working in the state.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”They suggested that there is no requirement of the Act now as the insurgency problem has largely been contained. We would soon issue gazette notification in this regard,” Sarkar told reporters.This Act was imposed in the state on February 16, 1997 following spurt of violence by the ultras.”When the Act was imposed there were only 42 police stations and two-third of the entire police station areas were under this act.”The number of police station areas at present are 74 and out of 74 police stations 26 police stations were fully and four police stations partly under this Act till recently,” he added.

MHA will look into rolling back AFSPA in Arunachal Pradesh: Rajnath Singh

Itanagar: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured his ministry would look into rolling back of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Arunachal Pradesh, a major students union of the state said on Monday.

The assurance was given by Singh when All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) delegation met the minister at his residence in the national capital yesterday and submitted a memorandum to him.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTIUnion Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Singh said the notification regarding extension of AFSPA to nine districts other than besides Tirap, Changlang and Longding is being kept in abeyance, AAPSU said in a statement on Monday.

He said he would discuss the issue with Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and the decision would be based on his (Rijiju’s) wish and interpretation, the statement said.

AAPSU president Kamta Lapung informed Singh that the strict tribal customs of Arunachal Pradesh prevent illegal activities from occurring and therefore AFSPA is not relevant in the state.

North East Students Organisation coordinator Pritam Sonam said while the people of Arunachal Pradesh are thankful to the Centre for inducting Rijiju as MoS for home affairs, it is unfortunate that AFSPA has been extended in the state after he got the portfolio.

Arunachal Pradesh is known as an island of peace and the people are peace-loving and patriotic, Sonam was quoted as saying in the statement.

PTI

Arunachal Pradesh wants Centre to reconsider extention of AFSPA

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh will ask the Centre to review and reconsider the decision to extend Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act (AFSPA) to all districts of the state bordering with Assam.

“The state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Nabam Tuki which had its sitting on April 14 last unanimously decided to urge the Centre to repeal the Act immediately,” Arunachal Pradesh Home Minister Tanga Byaling informed in a statement today.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Taking into consideration that Arunachal Pradesh has been the most peaceful state in the North East with no history of home grown insurgency, extension of AFSPA to border districts of the state in entirety is not justified at this stage, he said.

The cabinet, he said, also resolved to plead the Centre to maintain status-quo-ante as an alternative by revoking the notification and reinstating the previous stand of extension to a 20 km wide belt in districts bordering Assam in addition to Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts.

Byaling denied the statement of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju of having telephonic conversation with him in regard to the extension of AFSPA in all districts bordering with Assam.

He said no intelligence information was shared with the state home department in connection with the recent attack on army by armed militants at Khonsa in Tirap district leading to the death of four jawans as claimed by Rijiju.

Byaling said he had sought detailed report from security agencies and district administrations from across the state but could not ascertain the presence of any extremist hideout as claimed.

The state government had been coordinating with the Centre on internal security as it believes that internal security is the collective responsibility of both state and the Centre.

PTI

Jammu-Kashmir: Army commanders meet CM Mufti Sayeed to discuss security, AFSPA

The CM was briefed on the security, particularly along International Border in Jammu region.

Top officials of Army’s Western Command today met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and discussed overall security situation and other important security issues, including Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).The GOC-in-C Western Command Lt Gen K J Singh and General Officer Commanding (GoC), 9 Corps, Lt Gen Rajiv Tewari called on Chief Minister at his residence here today, officials said.During the meeting, Lt Gen Singh briefed the Chief Minister about the overall security situation in the areas of his responsibility, particularly along International Border in Jammu region and beyond, they said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Army Commander also discussed the present security scenario in Jammu region, they added.The Chief Minister discussed with Lt Gen Singh several important issues relating to external security management in the region, they said, adding that AFSPA also came up in discussion.The CM was presented a Memento along with a Coffee Table Book by GOC-in-C Western Command on the occasion.

Before initiating ‘Act East Policy’, Modi govt should review AFSPA, say experts

Kolkata: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiating the ‘Act East Policy’, the government should review the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the northeast as it could be a barrier in connecting the region to the South-East neighbours, experts feel.

“If by our own definition the Northeast is a ‘disturbed area’ under AFSPA, then how can you ask everyone to look at east under the ‘Act East’ policy? How will you improve connectivity?” questions Sanjoy Hazarika, Director of the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi.

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

Earlier in the year, the central government had extended AFSPA for another year in the entire state of Assam and along a 20-km-long belt in Assam’s border with Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, he said in Kolkata recently at a conference on improving connectivity in Asia.

Northeast expert Hazarika, who was also a member of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to Review AFSPA, said the conflicts in the region had decreased drastically over the last few years.

“The Indian government should see this as its success and restrict AFSPA. If you restrict the Disturbed Areas Act, you end up restricting AFSPA,” he said.

In Manipur, civil rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila has been on a fast-unto-death for the last 14 years demanding repeal of AFSPA in the region.

Douglas Hill, south Asia researcher at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the focus of India’s ‘Act East’ policy should be more on fulfilling the needs of the people living in the northeast region rather than targeting the domination of powers like China.

“In the spheres of connectivity, security, counter-terrorism, trade and environmental affairs, there are a number of issues affecting east Asian countries,” he said.

According higher importance to east Asian neighbours, the new Modi government has renamed India’s erstwhile “Look East” policy into a more pro-active “Act East” policy.

To build more connectivity among east Asian nations, a 3200-km-long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is planned, which will run from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay in Myanmar.

Kelly D Alley from Auburn University stressed on political willpower to solve problems in the region.

PTI

SC scraps Section 66A: A progressive move, say lawyers, activists

New Delhi: Lawyers, artists and activists struggling to preserve freedom of expression have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the controversial Section 66A of the Information Technology Act and hoped that with the “landmark judgment” would help prevent the “abuse” of the “draconian law”.

“We are extremely happy with the SC ruling. It will send across a positive signal. From now on, no one will be scared of sharing his or her views on Internet,” Supreme Court lawyer Manali Singhal, who was the main petitioner in the case, told Firstpost. “By striking down of the draconian law (Section 66A of the IT Act), the apex court has restored our faith in democracy,” she added.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

When asked about the possible misuse of social network in the name of freedom of expression, she said, “Other provisions in IT act are still there. In case of hate speech, the person involved will be dealt under those provisions.” Asked if she considers it a defeat of the government, she added, “It is the victory of right to free speech.”

The highest court on Tuesday struck down Section 66A of the IT Act holding it “violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution”, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Section 66(A), which prohibits the sending of information of a “grossly offensive” or “menacing” nature through computers and communication devices, has been used by several states to arrest people over posts on social media that officials claimed were “seditious”,” communally sensitive” or abusive.

Reacting to the development, political cartoonist and free speech campaigner Aseem Trivedi, who was jailed for posting a controversial sketch on his Facebook page and website, termed the verdict a “progressive step”, which will give “confidence to people to express their views on any issue on social media without the fear of going behind bars”.

“Although the Constitution of India guarantees the freedom of speech and expression, common people do not have a platform to put their views except the social media network. If this space is censored or encroached upon, where will they go? How will they react? I am thankful to the court which understood the gravity of the situation and came up with such a remarkable judgement,” he said.

Professor Anand Kumar of the Aam Aadmi Party said, “It makes me feel better in these times of control and regulations against expressions in even films, literature and arts. It is a lesson for self-appointed culture monitors to desist from destroying creativity which is a dividend of democratic processes and institutions.”

Rights activist Kavita Krishnan welcomed the verdict as a victory of Shaheen Dhada, Shreya Singhal and of all the civil liberties lawyers and activists of India.

“The use of (Article) 66A to curb dissent was shameful for India’s democracy. The Supreme Court has done well to strike down this law,” she said adding that several others laws are also “inconsistent with constitutional liberties”.

“We hope other draconian laws, including Article 377, 294 A, Sedition Act, AFSPA, will also go next,” she told Firstpost.

She considers the judgement a “well-deserved blow to successive governments that have used and defended the Act”.

“We won…,” says Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy says. “Section 66A that had the truth telling Shaheen Dhada arrested for a Facebook post, that Azam Khan used to criminalise a Class XI student, that had people worry about jail for being ‘annoying’ and ‘inconvenient’ has been struck down by the Supreme Court this morning. Almost three years after the work started, it’s hard to absorb, but thank you, Constitution of India, you still redeem us,” she wrote on Facebook.

Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) President Subho Ray described the verdict as “landmark judgment” which will “strengthen the safe harbour provisions for intermediaries contained in Section 79 of the IT Act”.

“Internet users will be able to use online services without fear of illegal censorship or harassment, and online businesses, ranging from established international companies to small Indian start-ups, will be able to take advantage of a more conducive business environment,” he said.

Prominent Indian poet Mangalesh Dabral says, “It is a great day for those who work for freedom of expression. The controversial provision was being abused. No one will now be allowed to curb any voice of dissent, which is essential for a healthy democracy.”

Anil Chamaria, chairperson of Media Studies group, says, “I am glad that the SC has struck down Sec 66A of IT Act, which was liable to misuse. Freedom must not be curbed. The SC has made appropriate decision.”

Debate on AFSPA uncalled for, politically motivated, says BJP

Jammu: Terming the debate on revocation of AFSPA “uncalled for” and politically motivated, BJP on Tuesday said nothing should be done that hampers anti-insurgency operations in the state and undermines the resolve of the security forces to maintain internal and external security.

“The said Act (AFSPA) is very much in force and no area has been denotified for the purpose of the applicability of this Act,” said Farooq Khan, BJP state spokesperson.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“The debate is uncalled for and politically motivated,” he said.

Khan, while explaining the issue, said that Disturbed Area Act (DAA) 1997, which is under discussion has no relevance with the continuation of AFSPA in JK state.

“In fact, AFSPA is a self-contained Act, which came into being in JK in September 1990 with retrospective effect from July 1990, while the said DAA was not even born on the statute Books of the state,” he added.

“Any notification under AFSPA regarding denotification of any area of the state has to be issued by the Governor or Government of India,” he said, adding that the confusion, which is deliberately being created that AFSPA is dependent upon DAA for its existence in the state, is far from truth.

“Even the agenda of governance unambiguously says that only the Centre in this regard will take the final view,” he said.

“The state BJP, once again, reassures the nation that it will not allow anybody to tinker with Indian sovereignty and integrity of the nation,” he added.

PTI

Union home ministry against repealing of ‘draconian’ AFSPA

New Delhi: The Home Ministry has recommended against repealing the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, dubbed by its critics as “draconian”.

In a report submitted to the Cabinet Committee of Security, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry said that the report of the Justice BP Jeevan Reddy committee, which recommended repeal of the law terming it as “a symbol of oppression” should be rejected.

A protest campaign against AFSPA.A protest campaign against AFSPA.

A protest campaign against AFSPA.

“We have recommended to the Union Cabinet to reject the report of Justice Jeevan Reddy committee,” a Home Ministry official said.

The Defence Ministry is also opposed to any dilution of the Act and has said that the forces operating in insurgency-prone areas are protected by the AFSPA from “harassment”.

The committee was set up in 2004, in the wake of intense agitation in Manipur following killing of a woman, Thangjam Manorama, while in the custody of Assam Rifles and the indefinite fast undertaken by activist Irom Sharmila.

The five-member committee, headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy, a former Supreme Court judge, had submitted its report on June 6, 2005.

The 147-page report recommends, “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed.”

The committee in the report observed that “the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness”.

“It is highly desirable and advisable to repeal the Act altogether, without of course, losing sight of the overwhelming desire of an overwhelming majority of the (northeast) region that the Army should remain (though the Act should go),” it said.

Various organisations in northeast have termed the controversial law as “draconian”. Ever since the killing of Manorama, Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast and had declared that she would continue her fast till the Act is repealed.

PTI

Amit Shah talks to RSS over govt formation in Jammu & Kashmir

BJP today intensified its efforts for government-formation in Jammu and Kashmir with party President Amit Shah rushing to RSS headquarters to pacify Sangh leaders and another set of saffron leaders approaching PDP leaders who include patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, to find an amicable stand on controversial AFSPA.

Amit Shah

BJP today intensified its efforts for government-formation in Jammu and Kashmir with party President Amit Shah rushing to RSS headquarters to pacify Sangh leaders and another set of saffron leaders approaching PDP leaders who include patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, to find an amicable stand on controversial AFSPA.While PDP spokesman Naeem Akthar said “talks were on and we are hopeful of a positive outcome soon”, sources in the know of the developments said that both sides were finding a solution on withdrawal of controversial of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).PDP has been demanding a written assurance for withdrawal of AFSPA from certain areas of the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, an idea first floated by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. BJP, however, has started dragging its feet and made it clear that it will not dilute its stand on issues like Article 370 and AFSPA.BJP sources said the dialogue with PDP leaders is continuing to iron out differences on crucial issues and come out with a consensus and make it a part of the common minimum programme of the proposed alliance government in the state.Amit Shah rushed to meet top RSS leaders this morning and is learnt to have discussed these crucial issues with them.The meeting comes in the backdrop of opposition from RSS over reported dilution of BJP’s stand on Article 370 and giving citizenship to West Pakistan Refugees.BJP and PDP are keen to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir where assembly elections threw up a hung verdict. Earlier, the two parties wanted a government in place before budget session of parliament session beginning February 23 but the differences on crucial issues has delayed such an exercise.While PDP emerged as the single-largest party with 28 seats, BJP won 25 seats in the 87-member state assembly in results declared in December last.The leaders of the two parties have been in constant talks with each other to iron out differences and come out with a CMP. Leaders also admit to differences between the ideologies of the two parties on certain crucial issues including AFSPA and Article 370.The protracted talks between BJP and PDP has evoked reactions from National Conference (NC) which said the two parties should now come in the open and stop “fooling” people in the name of good governance.Working President of the party Omar tweeted “I have to ask – PDP/BJP support each other for the RS polls, repeat for the Legislative council seats and expect people to believe no tie up yet???”

Home Ministry’s Jammu and Kashmir division does not have AFSPA records

The Home Ministry Division handling matters related to Jammu and Kashmir does not have a copy of any communication from the state government on the areas covered under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).Activist Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative had sought to know from the Home Ministry, under the RTI Act, all the communications received till date from the Jammu and Kashmir government relating to notifications issued under the Section 3 of AFSPA. Under Section 3, the state government declares the whole or part of the state to be a disturbed area through a Gazette notification allowing the use of armed forces in aid of the civil forces.The query posed by Nayak to the Home Ministry was sent to the Jammu and Kashmir Division which handles the affairs of the state here. Responding to the query, the Central Public Information Officer and Director in the division said, “In this regard, it is stated that no such record has been found in this desk relating to communication received from the Government of Jammu and Kashmir in relation to notifications issued by that Government under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.”As such the information may be treated as ‘NIL’.” Nayak said, “In fact these notifications were available on the MHA’s website earlier as they were cc’ed to the J and K Division. But they are no longer uploaded on the MHA website although their text is re-typed under the bare Act of J&K AFSPA uploaded on the MHA’s website. Yet the MHA cannot find the original notifications and has sent me a ‘Nil’ reply. This is very strange indeed.”

Eyes on the border as BJP, PDP get closer

As the BJP and PDP inched closer to forming a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, both parties are keeping their fingers crossed in the wake of tensions along the India-Pakistan border.In the course of informal talks, the two sides are understood to have worded a proposal that government will “strive for normalising relations with Pakistan to begin a meaningful dialogue process to discuss all contentious issues.” With this being a crucial aspect of an understanding between the BJP and PDP, there is concern about the firing at the border casting a shadow on the talks, sources said.However, the BJP and PDP struck conciliatory notes on Monday.In the Capital, BJP’s Ram Madhav said there has been some forward movement. “There has been an initiative from the PDP’s side. To take this forward, we discussed to hold further discussions on issues,” he said after the state’s core group leaders met BJP President Amit Shah here.During the 90-minute meeting, the state leaders entrusted the party leadership to take forward the process of negotiations, sources said. While they conveyed their keenness on BJP’s participation in government to break the jinx of being perpetually in Opposition in the state, the state leaders cautioned against compromising on the party’s basic ideology.Sources said they also expressed misgivings over the central leadership sending a response to PDP through an intermediary on Saturday when Shah had invited them for discussions on Monday. They objected to the BJP agreeing for PDP’s Mufti Mohd Sayeed being the chief minister for the entire six years. The BJP president told them no such assurance has been given during the informal communication to the PDP and so far only “talking points” have been circulated to work out a common minimum programme for running the government.The intermediary who took the BJP’s points to the PDP has not yet come back with a response from the PDP and as such the BJP put off any interaction with the Mufti’s party till Wednesday, the sources said.While the two parties had neared an understanding on issues like chief ministership and Article 370, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) continues to be a bone of contention between the BJP and PDP, sources said.Both parties are forming four-five member high-level teams to hold talks on the proposed alliance.In Srinagar, PDP chief spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said if government formation was the only issue they could have aligned with any party be Congress, BJP or even National Conference. “But the question is if we go with Congress or NC can we solve the issues which are in the domain of central government.”He said reconciliation, dialogue, cross-LoC trade, revocation of AFSPA and return of power projects are some of the basic issues which PDP has promised to people. “Can we get back even one power project from the center if we go with NC or Congress?” Akhtar asked. He said rehabilitation of flood victims needed Rs 50,000 crore.But, he said that his party will never make any compromise with regional aspirations and political issues.Finance minister Arun Jaitley was quoted by PTI as saying it was “very difficult” for political parties to give up their ideological position but hinted that controversial issues could be set aside.

Omar Abdullah attacks BJP over ‘negotiations’ with PDP, raises AFSPA

Outgoing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday questioned BJP’s reported negotiations with PDP, which wants revocation of AFSPA, saying the ruling party at the Centre had accused him of compromising national security whenever he raised the issue.”So when I raised AFSPA I was accused of playing politics with Nat Sec (national security). BJP negotiates Govt (government) formation with @jkpdp using AFSPA & that’s OK??” Omar wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.Omar also criticized Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for its “assertion” that a coalition with BJP is necessary for getting the special assistance of Rs 44,000 crore submitted by his government for the flood affected people of the state.”We are being told by the @jkpdp that the tie up with BJP is necessary for the 44,000 crore flood relief. Shouldn’t a state just get its due?” Omar said.