Home Minister Snubs Mufti: AFSPA To Stay, No Talks
A longstanding demand
SRINAGAR: Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, Thursday ruled out the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a clear embarrassment for Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whose coalition government has promised to do away with the legislation, Singh also said that there was no proposal to hold talks with separatist groups in J&K.
Both the issues figure prominently in 'Agenda of the Alliance', a highly ambitious document between the coalition partners which was expected to steer the course of the government over six years in J&K but has got lost in translation.
"I wish the situation improves to that point, and I pray that this law is not required anywhere in the country, but we will need cooperation of one and all to achieve this goal," Singh told reporters in Srinagar.
Asked whether the Centre will hold talks with the Hurriyat, he said: "There is no such proposal but we are ready to talk and listen to anyone. However, anti-national activities should be opposed and boycotted." The union minister was on a two-day visit to the state for reviewing preparations for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage. He also met the state's Governor, NN Vohra, who also heads Shri Amarnath Shrine Board that conducts the pilgrimage.
More than 8000 pilgrims, including the union minister, paid obeisance at the shrine on the first day on Thursday.
Throwing his weight behind the senior BJP leader from J&K and union minister of state in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, Rajnath said the stakeholders, including the Army, will have to "cooperate" in order to pave way for revocation of the act.
Dr Singh, who belongs to Jammu region, had ruled out revocation of AFSPA from places in the state which have seen relative calm over the years, saying it was like "not having it in Jamia (in Delhi) and having it in Connaught Place."
"So somebody does something in Connaught Place and finds a safe haven here (Jamia) to reside, because it is a protective mechanism for the security forces," Dr Singh had said.
The Peoples Democratic Party had termed the remarks as "obnoxious" and asserted that the elected representatives of the state, not armed forces, will take final call on the matter.
Dr Mehboob Beg, PDP's chief spokesperson, said that Dr Singh's views bore "unacceptable and unpardonable undertones", "What about the places in North East? Who took call in that case? Has the government played no role there," he asked, expressing the frustration within the PDP that has been left high and dry by the BJP leadership at the Centre.
Soon after Rajnath Singh asserted that the AFSPA will stay in J&K, the opposition National Conference (NC) said the PDP had made a "complete sell-out" to the BJP for power.
"Both PDP and BJP had pledged to pave way for the revocation of AFSPA in their alliance agenda. Mufti sahab tried to create moral smokescreens ahead of alliance with the BJP. One such moral smokescreen was revoking AFSPA. It has now become evident that this was a lie," NC's general secretary, Ali Mohamnmad Sagar, said.