Srinagar: Welcoming as “better late than never” the Congress poll promise of amending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said earlier “some friends” in the grand old party had “conspired” against scrapping the controversial law when he had demanded so during his tenure as the Chief Minister.
“I wish they would have mentioned this issue (in the manifesto) earlier when I was the Chief Minister. At that time, when I demanded AFSPA’s removal, some Congress friends had conspired against it. I do not want to name them. But, I got support only from (former Union Minister P) Chidambaram sa’ab,” he told ANI.
“If the Congress has mentioned this in their manifesto, I welcome it… It’s better late than never. If they had done this before 2014, we would have worked to lift ASFPA from certain parts of the state,” he added.
The Congress, which released its election manifesto earlier today, promised that if the party came to power after the ensuing Lok Sabha elections it would amend the AFSPA Act that grants special powers to the Indian armed forces in insurgency-hit areas.
The party said in the manifesto, “Amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in order to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture.”
The Congress said that the Disturbed Areas Act and the AFSPA Act in Jammu and Kashmir will be reviewed if the party came to power after the polls.
“The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in Jammu and Kashmir will be reviewed. Suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights,” the party said in the manifesto.
Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, the AFSPA Act is applicable in Nagaland and Manipur and some parts of north-eastern states.
Under AFSPA, the armed forces are given special powers to arrest, use force and even open fire on anyone who violates the law. But over the years, civilians have levelled allegations of Army excesses in the insurgency-hit areas.
Human right groups have been demanding the scrapping of the AFSPA Act, claiming the law gives “sweeping powers” to the soldiers to act against civilians. Activists have also alleged extra-judicial killings in those areas where AFSPA is in force.
Notably, renowned Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila had launched an indefinite fast for 16 years (2000-2016) in protest against the controversial Act.