Amid assertions by the J&K Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed that his government was committed to ensure revocation of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), top army commanders have briefed Chief of Army staff Dalbir Singh on “possibilities” of scrapping the act from “some peaceful areas” of the State, sources said.
The Army chief would now brief the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the feedback he received from the commanders based in Jammu and Kashmir, they said.
A top Army official said their Chief, who reached Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur Wednesday morning, returned to New Delhi Thursday after getting feedback on all aspects of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and would brief Parrikar about the deliberations “soon.”
“There was a healthy discussion on prevailing situation in J&K during a meeting of top commanders,” the official said.
“The J&K-based Army Commanders briefed Gen Singh about the stand of Jammu and Kashmir government on revocation of AFSPA from certain pockets of the state. They also briefed the Chief about overall situation in J&K and also gave their feedback on the Act.”
The official said Gen Singh will be briefing Parrikar who will later brief the Prime Minister on revocation of the act “from some peaceful areas of the state.”
The official said five days ago, the AFSPA issue figured during a dinner hosted by Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed for Army Commanders of J&K. “In that backdrop, this meeting of Gen Singh with Army Commanders is significant,” he said.
The official said the meeting chaired by Army Chief was attended by Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda, Western Command chief Lt Gen KJ Singh, GOC-in-C Army Training Command, Shimla Lt Gen Sanjeev Madhok, GOC Nagrota-based 16 Corps Lt Gen KH Singh, GOC Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt Gen SubrataSaha and GOC Leh based 14 Corps Lt Gen BS Negi.
Sources in J&K Government said Chief Minister has asked army to facilitate revocation of the Act from Srinagar and Jammu districts in the first place.
“This was convoyed by Mufti to Army during the dinner hosted by him for Army Commanders,” sources said, adding that even during Unified Headquarters meeting, the Chief Minister talked about revocation of the act. “Chief Minister has also asked Army to minimize footprints of forces,” they said.
Pertinently Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju last week said the Ministry of Defence has a view about the revocation of Act. “AFSPA is a very special provision and it is invoked in special circumstances. When the situation is ripe, it should be revoked. No democratic society will want to have such a law,” he had told reporters here.
“Any decision on the revocation of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) would be taken after consultations with all the stakeholders, provided normalcy is restored.”
Describing Kashmir University (KU) as a “trouble monger” for the efficient and intelligent students of Kashmir, director Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Sandeep Gupta said that KU is the only University across India that does not accept degrees of IGNOU in MCA and BCA.
“Our students are far better than the students of Kashmir University. Some ‘ignorant’ from KU have made it a criteria not to allow students from IGNOU get admitted in the University, which is not only biased but a foolish decision,” Gupta said adding that the refusal of KU to accept degrees obtained from IGNOU for further studies has triggered resentment among qualified youth in Valley.
Gupta said that KU is only known for its landscape and not for its academic skills. He said the arrogance and ignorance on part of KU would ruin career of thousands of students who had pursued studies through IGNOU.
“There are Universities in India which are far better than KU. All these Universities accept degrees of IGNOU students. I fail to understand why some ‘ignorant’ in KU are hell bent to ruin the career of hundreds of Kashmiri students,” he said.
“What is the fun of this criteria that any students with BCA degree from IGNOU can’t get admission in KU for MCA and similarly students with MCA degrees from IGNOU can’t do PhD from the varsity,” he said.
He said that all IGNOU courses are UGC recommended and all universities across India except KU provides scope for IGNOU students to go for further studies.
Director IGNOU said that he has taken up the matter with the higher authorities and the matter will be resolved within a week. “I assure the IGNOU students that I will resolve the matter within a week and there is no need to get disheartened,” Sandeep Gupta said.
Amnesty International on Thursday urged state government to ensure an independent investigation into the killing of a 24-year-old student, Khalid Muzaffar Wani, by the army in Tral area of Pulwama district on Monday.
The global rights watchdog also urged army to cooperate and “not try to shield soldiers from prosecution.”
Army claimed Monday that Khalid was an “over ground worker” for the Hizbul Mujahedeen and was killed in a gunfight in Tral forest. However his father contested the claims, saying Khalid was not associated with the Hizb and that he was “tortured to death” for being brother of Burhan, a Hizb commander believed to be active in Tral.
“The Jammu and Kashmir government must ensure a swift, thorough and impartial investigation to determine if Khalid Muzaffar Wani was killed in an extrajudicial execution. They must also look into the family’s claims that he was targeted because of his brother’s suspected links with (the) armed group (Hizbul Mujahedeen),” said Shemeer Babu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India in a statement issued here.
“If sufficient evidence is found, those suspected must be prosecuted in a civilian court. Army authorities must co-operate with the investigation, and not try to shield soldiers from prosecution.”
The UN principles on the effective prevention and investigation of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, he said, require that there shall be thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases.
Bahu said that the Director General of Police told Amnesty International that the student’s brother was a senior member of the Hizbul Mujahedeen, and police was investigating whether Khalid also had any links to armed groups.
However, Kashmir inspector general of police was quoted by a local English Daily, even before the investigation had begun, as saying that Khalid “was an over ground worker of militants and there is no doubt about his involvement in militancy”.
Quoting police, Babu said Khalid along with three other friends, had gone to meet his brother in Kamla forests.
“The three other men are in police custody. The police say an autopsy has been carried out, whose results will be made public soon. They also claim to have found the body of another suspected member of an armed group from the Kamla forests on Tuesday.”
Khalid’s father Mohammed Muzaffar Wani told Amnesty that his son had been a victim of staged extrajudicial execution.
“My son’s body had no bullet wounds on it. His head had severe injuries and several teeth had been pulled out,” Khalid told Amnesty, Bahu said.
Reiterating demand for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Amnesty said the law provides armed forces with sweeping powers and virtual immunity from prosecution, as the state government has to seek central government’s permission to persecute them.
“This permission is almost never given. The law has facilitated grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill-treatment,” Babu said and demanded repeal of the Act.
Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed Thursday announced a revised relief plan for people affected by floods last year with a compensation of Rs 5 to 7 lakhs for those, whose houses were completely damaged.
In his interaction with media personnel after distributing cheques to destitutes and marginal shopkeepers, Mufti said relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected is a priority for the coalition government.
He said Rs 75,000 given to people, whose houses were fully damaged in the floods, is not enough.
“Even mud houses cannot be constructed with this sum of money,” Mufti said adding that the situation has been reassessed and the losses will be compensated accordingly.
He said Rs 5 to 7 lakhs will be paid to people, whose houses were fully damaged.
“Partial damages to residential houses will be compensated with Rs 2.5 lakh,” he said.
Stressing on rehabilitation of traders, Mufti said the traders will be compensated keeping in view the quantum of their losses.
“Traders with losses of more than Rs 10 lakh will be paid Rs 2.5 lakh and those with loses between Rs 5 to 7 lakhs will be compensated with Rs 1.5 lakhs. The traders with losses of up to Rs 5 lakhs will be paid an amount of Rs 1 lakh,” he said.
Later, CM also distributed cheques to flood victims in Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir.
He was accompanied by Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu; Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Relief & Rehabilitation Basharat Bukhari; Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Sukhnandan Kumar.
Local legislators including NC MLA from Pahalgam, Altaf Kaloo; Congress MLA from Devsar Muhammad Amin Bhat; Congress MLA from Shangus Gulzar Ahmad and NC MLA from Homeshalibugh Abdul Majeed Bhat were also present.