With elections slated in Jammu and Kashmir later this year, the sudden noise about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA should not come as a surprise, at least not for common Kashmiris and Kashmir observers. The AFSPA issue has been brandished by the Omar Abdullah Govt in the lat five years whenever it found it politically necessary and convenient. Unfortunately this issue has been misused by the present Govt so much that any talk about this by it now seems to cut no ice with anyone, in J & K or outside of it. Over the tenure of the present Govt, the Chief Minister has made many noises about its revocationat least from the areas that the Govt called peaceful. Nothing has changed vis a vis AFSPA in the last five years and it would be naïve to believe that anything meaningful will happen in this year.
The fact is that the State will go into elections by the end of this year. Before that general elections will be held in India in May this year. So effectively we have a lame duck Govt at the centre, which cant pass any legislation, let alone something as serious as revocation from parts of the State. The CM made some token noises on the floor of the House recently about revocation of FSPA during his present tenure. He maintained that he was in touch with the Government of India on the issue. But uring his address at the passing out parade at Sheeri, Baramulla on Monday, Omar Abdullah took a complte U-turn by saying that AFSPA wont go yet.
It seems that the current coalition Govt led by the National Conference has run out of genuine ideas and has regularly harped on the revocation of AFSPA, knowing full well that it is an emotional issue with the people of Kashmir. It is no secret that people in J & K want the complete revocation of AFSPA given that it gives unlimited powers to the security forces and allows them power without any accountability. But it is also well known that both the political and the security establishment in Delhi are not yet willing to consider its revocation, even in areas which are supposedly peaceful. The Defence Ministry has, time and again, made its position clear on this issue.
The Home Ministry has also said that it has not received any formal request from the State for considering the revocation of AFSPA. The Ministry has received a formal request from Nagaland for its revocation, but not from J & K Govt.
It would be also in place here to mention that not only is the present Govt at the centre in no position to pass any legislation regarding revocation of AFSPA, but it is widely believed that it will not be voted back to power. The pollsters are predicting a victory for the BJP lead NDA in these elections. That NC was a part of the ruling UPA Govt and still could not achieve anything meaningful vis a vis AFSPA, it seems sheer political gimmickry on part of the NC lead coalition Govt to make tall claims about its revocation.
The last time when the National conference was in power in the State, between 1996-2002, it had made tall claims about more autonomy for the State and had made it an election issue. That idea was flogged to death during the term of that Govt. On similar lines, the present Govt has gone to town too often about its seriousness in having AFSPA revoked without any tangible results whatsoever. Knowing it fully well, the Govt would do well to tackle problems of the common man that they face on a day to day basis and where the Govt does not depend on any piece of legislation or interference from the Central Govt. Perhaps time is up for this Govt as well as National conference to stop politically exploiting as serious an issue as AFSPA.