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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2678

Chidambaram’s Mission Kashmir

By Sarala Handoo - Syndicate Features

If the Home Minster P. Chidambaram’s Srinagar visit has raised hopes among the people that the State and the Central Governments would take all necessary steps to ensure that the Security Forces would be more disciplined hereafter and no Human Rights violations would take place in the state, it has also disappointed some quarters who feel that their expectations have not been met. This is primarily with regard to reduction of level of troops in the state and withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

As far as the first issue is concerned both the State and the Central Governments would always like to pull out security forces from internal law and order duties and to retain only that much strength which is required to defend the borders. Given the state of terrorism prevailing now, this may not be an easy option. It is true that the level of terrorism in Kashmir has come down. But infiltration from across the Line of Control is continuing.

According to the Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, 500 to 600 terrorists are active in Kashmir even today; of whom more than 40 percent are of foreign origin. Besides, 30 to 40 terrorist training camps are still in place in Pakistan and the Pak Occupied Kashmir (POK). This means that Pakistan has not given up its policy of meddling in Kashmir by resorting to proxy war. Another fact is that the level of infiltration goes up in summer when the snow starts melting on the hills opening up routes for infiltration.

The troop strength can be reduced only after the J&K Police is ready to take up the responsibility of looking after the law and order problems on its own. But it appears a distant goal given the prevailing conditions. To his credit, Chidambaram, has nevertheless, set the road map which calls for a gradual reversal of roles between the Para Military forces and the state police. As far as Army is concerned its’ primary responsibility is to defend the borders. The Army too has always been saying that it should not be involved with the day- to- day maintenance of law and order.

The Union Home Minister has promised to look into the demand for withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act “in all earnestness”. The demand was raised by none other than chief minister Omar Abdullah himself. He raised the issue soon after the NC-Congress coalition came to office. Several other political parties share his concern over the sweeping powers of search and seizure the Act confers on the Army and paramilitary forces.

The controversial act came on the statute book as a tool for the police in quelling internal disturbance. Recourse to the law becomes unnecessary if the security situation improves. While this is a pious wish, there is no gain saying that the AFSP Act has inherent potential for misuse and it is indeed abused, which have contributed to the concern all round. The Home Minister’s promise of discussing the matter with the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister could mark a beginning of the process.

Chidambaram has voiced concern over increasing recourse to agitations for redressal of grievances saying the practice puts the common man to great difficulty. The strikes and protests the valley witnessed in the wake of rape and murder of two women in Shopian town is a case in point. It is nobody’s case that such incidents can be accepted by any civil society. Fortunately, the state government was swift in ordering a judicial probe into the incident. It has also taken action against some police officials at the district level who failed to swiftly act in the case. But a lot remains to be done.

The most reassuring thing by far to emerge from Mission Chidambaram to Srinagar has been the realization that something drastic needs to be done to make the paramilitary forces more disciplined. In most of the cases Human Rights violations take place at the ground level which calls for better controls by the superior officers. As Chidambaram put it, top police officers must acquaint their rank and file with the provisions of the code of conduct. They also must ensure that field officers and jawans don’t transgress the code while performing their.

Needless to say, it is the duty of all political parties not to politicize any security related or rights violation issues for narrow political gains. It is very easy to exploit the sentiments of the people but it is very difficult to control the situation when things go out of control.

The trouble with and in Kashmir has been that the politicians who ask people to come to the streets have always ensured that their own children are away in US or London. Those who ask the students to boycott classes see to it that their own children are studying in world class institutes all over the globe. The people have to see through this.

It is the responsibility of every right thinking man to think of those who earn their living on a daily basis, of those students who loose their studies by bandhs and strikes, of those patients who need to reach a hospital for treatment but cannot. There are many ways of voicing grievances. Bandhs and strikes are not the only way.

- Asian Tribune -

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