The final call on the contentious issue of revocation of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from J&K will be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
This message was loud and clear when the Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram Tuesday wrapped up his day long visit to the winter capital of the state.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed three amendments to Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). They are under the consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Once a decision is taken, we’ll announce it,” was the precise reply of Chidambaram during his brief media interaction, while winding up sojourn to Jammu.
No elaboration, however, was made on the nature of the amendments proposed.
Ditto was the status of interlocutors’ report, which he said, would be made public after the CCS considered the matter.
“Interlocutors’ report, as I said in Delhi, will be made public after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) considers the matter,” Chidambaram said.
After meeting different delegations including Congress leaders’ delegation at J&K Guest House, the Union Home Minister was responding to media queries vis-à-vis the reiteration of the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah about AFSPA revocation from selective areas in J&K and the fate of interlocutors’ report.
The two issues, which presumably also figured during the security review meeting chaired by the Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister and the luncheon meeting at Raj Bhawan today, have been repeatedly raked up by the former on different occasions.
On AFSPA revocation issue, in his brief sound byte today, the Union Home Minister almost appeared to be on the same page with the JKPCC President Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz.
JKPCC president on Monday almost on similar lines had stated that the Government of India would decide the point of time about the revocation of AFSPA.
“As and when the Government of India takes a decision, it will decide the point of time,” Soz had said when asked to comment as whether this was the ripe time for AFSPA revocation as was being insisted by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
However, Omar in the just concluded budget session of J&K legislature had stated the process of partial AFSPA revocation from selective areas would start this year.
In the meanwhile, notwithstanding the hectic lobbying by the Chief Minister for AFSPA revocation from selective areas in J&K, the state Congress leaders adopted a contradictory position during their meeting with Chidambaram.
As the Member Parliament (MP) Madan Lal Sharma, while talking to media outside the guest House, stated that though the issues of AFSPA revocation and interlocutors’ report were not discussed during Congress leaders’ meeting with the Union Home Minister yet the party leaders themselves aired their views on the contentious issue (AFSPA revocation). “We made our stand clear on this issue in a subtle manner that the time was not ripe for its revocation,” he said.
Faced with a query as their alliance partner (NC) held entirely a contradictory stand on this account, his one-liner was, “That’s their view point.”
JKPCC president Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, however, steered himself clear of any controversy by charting a safe recourse while responding to media queries about the deliberations between the Congress leaders and Chidambaram.
“During our deliberations with the Union Home Minister, there was a positive message for us. There’s great improvement in the environment which will give a tremendous boost to the tourism here, thus bringing prosperity to J&K. Therefore the Congress party would have to contribute more in maintaining and giving further impetus to this improved security situation scenario to consolidate the dividends of last peaceful summer,” Soz stated.
He added that the Union Home Minister was satisfied with the Congress’ all out efforts in further improving the situation. “As a senior leader of the party, he listened to us and offered his suggestions,” Soz said.
The Congress delegation also raised the issue of West-Pak and PoK refugees and sought Rs 300 Cr central package for their one-time settlement. The issue of migrants from Doda, Reasi and other regions of Jammu too echoed during the meeting with the local leadership stressing that they should be treated at par with the Kashmiri migrants.
The Union Home Minister asked the party leaders to remain alert against the attempts by certain forces to exploit the situation to vitiate the atmosphere as it happened in case of Amarnath row and Shopian case in the past few years. The Congress leaders from Ladakh expressed their concerns about increased activities of China in the cold desert.
“It was a subtle interaction from both sides on varied range of issues. Although the party leaders conveyed their concerns yet all refrained from aiming barbs at the coalition partner. General mood was that the army, security forces’ presence was still imperative in the state but it was conveyed in a very subtle manner. The Union Home Minister, however, did not respond on this issue. One of the leaders raked up the issue of Congress’ thinning share in portfolios yet he (Chidambaram) in his inimitable manner evaded the matter saying JKPCC President would represent the party on this issue,” stated another senior Congress leader, who too was present in the meeting.
Earlier on his arrival from New Delhi in the morning, the Union Home Minister visited Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine and paid obeisance at the Sanctum Sanctorum. He prayed for peace and prosperity of the state and the country. CEO Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Naveen Chowdhary apprised the Home Minister about the facilities being extended to the pilgrims and the overall security scenario enroute the shrine. He also briefed the Home Minister about the infrastructural projects taken up by the Shrine Board in view of the ever increasing pilgrimage.
After his arrival from Vaishnodevi, Chidambaram along with the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reviewed the prevailing law and order and security situation in the state at a high level meeting at the latter’s residence.
From the Chief Minister’s residence, the cavalcades of Chidambaram and Omar drove to Governor House at 1.20 PM. There during an hour long luncheon meeting, Chidambaram had wide ranging consultations with Governor N N Vohra and the Chief Minister on the pace of socio-economic development of the state, internal and external security management, measures taken for empowerment of Panchayati Raj institutions and ensuing elections to the urban local bodies.
From Governor’s House, Chidambaram reached J&K Guest House where the deputations of Congress leaders, All Party Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) and Pahari Cultural and Welfare Forum (PCWF) called on him.
APSCC delegation demanded general amnesty to Sikhs of Kashmir involved in the 1984 Indian Airlines plane hijack case, as was done in case of separatist leader Hashim Qureshi, fresh probe in Chittisinghpora massacre under a timeframe and a central authority for providing state subject status at par with Kashmiri migrants.
The delegation also raised demands for an employment package and extension of Minority Act to J&K.
PCWF delegation reiterated demand for ST status for Pahari speaking people.