The Impunity Law

A colonial era law adopted and applied by the Indian Parliament to J&K in 1990 kept taking its toll – political as well as otherwise – even 21 years later. 

This year Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – commonly referred to as ‘black law’ – debate ramped up by many decibels, interestingly from chief minister Omar Abdullah himself.  It started when Omar made a dramatic announcement on October 21 at a Police Commemoration Day function that some parts of the state might do away with AFSPA within days from certain areas before the darbar move, as the security situation had improved and there was peace in these areas.  

Leaving no stone unturned Omar went from pillar to post, meeting the prime minister, defense minister, home minister and even the chief of Army staff besides the all powerful Sonia Gandhi.

Back home Omar faced a divided opinion, with army, his coalition partner Congress bullying him. Even PDP and separatists raised concerns. The issue of the withdrawal of AFSPA led to an acrimonious debate which analysts termed as an ‘exercise in absurdity’.

The state Congress as usual represented divergent views. Prof Saifuddin Soz reprimanded the Chief Minister for announcing important policy measures without consulting his party. The PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti said that the “AFSPA issue is being used to divert attention of the people from the custodial death of the National Conference worker”.  She lauded the security forces saying they had done a “commendable job” against terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and they should not be made to feel as if they were being pushed away by calling for the removal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). “Give them an honourable exit. Don’t make them feel that you are pushing them away,” Mufti told reporters during Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

 Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the Hurriyat Conference stated that “if pro-India political parties in Kashmir are really sincere, they can repeal the Disturbed Areas Act on the floor of the J&K Legislative Assembly to make the AFSPA null and void”. The saffron brigade strongly criticised the move on the grounds of national security.

As the argument for partial removal of AFSPA was energised, the army raised a specter to oppose it. In the Unified headquarters chief minister instead of convincing the army to go along with his ‘intention’ of removing AFSPA from some areas, he was made to believe that removal of AFSPA would create conditions to necessitate granting independence to Kashmir by 2016.

This passed all the previous arguments of the Army against AFSPA. On the contrary, Omar and his cohorts consider that the arrival of sustainable peace in J&K is linked to the removal of AFSPA.  

Countering negative inputs from army, Omar came out saying, ‘I have the Authority’ only to later amend himself saying “In this case (revocation of AFSPA), the authority rests with the governor who would act on the basis of the state government’s recommendations.”

The debate is on, but who will have the last laugh?


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