NEW DELHI: The Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign has made an appeal to the Peoples Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party readying to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir, to repeal the ‘draconian” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

AFSPA, 1958 is the one important issue that binds the border regions of the North East and Jammu and Kashmir together, with the people united in their opposition to this legislation.

Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC), the group which has been fighting under the indomitable Irom Sharmila against AFSPA for decades in the North-east region, has urged the two parties in Jammu and Kashmir to prioritise the demand for ‘repeal of the draconian Act’.

SSSC said that though it was necessary to provide political stability in J&K which was only possible through collaboration, the government must not forget that “the real objective of a government is to respect people’s mandate” for which they must repeal the repressive Act.

AFSPA was the most talked about issue, along with Article 370, during the state elections in J&K that had the PDP and BJP positioning themselves on the opposite ends of the spectrum. It has taken both parties over two months to reconcile their differences on these issues, and even though they claim that all hurdles have been crossed and a government in the state is imminent, it has still not happened. AFSPA remains the hurdle still.

The carefully drafted Common Minimum Programme (CMP) though reads that the army's presence shall be steadily reduced and replaced with J&K Police in areas where the security situation is perceived as "improved", this “improved situation” is a matter of perception.

Many people have been strongly criticising this alliance between the two parties with Kashmiris claiming that their mandate (of not choosing the BJP) has been disrespected and ridiculed.

Adhering to the demand of repealing the AFSPA would provide the PDP with the perfect chance to rebuild the lost trust amongst the voters. While on the other hand, for the BJP, the move would help shed its communal baggage and build a sense of confidence amongst the Muslims.

The repeal would also help people believe that the promises made to the people by the political parties are not merely “gimmicks”. The state BJP leadership of Manipur, for instance, had promised to repeal AFSPA before the parliamentary elections but till date, no action has been taken in this regard.

The AFSPA is one of the most draconian legislations in operation in both the N-E and Jammu and Kashmir, regions that have been under virtual army rule. People of these states have been suffering from serious human rights violations, be it extrajudicial killings, fake encounters, cold-blooded murders, rapes or assaults. A report by the United Nations Human Rights Council has listed these crimes carried out under the garb of AFSPA as the major human right violation happening in the country. The Act allows security forces to search, enter property and shoot-on-sight while the men in uniform enjoy absolute impunity.

Many organisations have demanded the repeal of AFSPA since decades- be it national bodies like the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the Jeevan Reddy Commission or Prime Minister's Working Group on Confidence-Building measures in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the Justice Verma Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law had recommended an urgent review of the law.