AFSPA – the ‘latest revelation’
The demand for revocation of Armed Forces Special Power Act, that gives impunity to army and paramilitary forces operating in JK state against criminal prosecution, has always figured top on agenda of National Conference since Omar Abdullah assumed power in 2009. The pledge to purge Kashmir off this dreaded draconian law within two years of its coming to power too occupied prominence in election manifesto of the grand organization in 2008. Hardly a day passes when the party functionaries, in particular the General Secretary and CM’s uncle Mustafa Kamal, do not vomit out anger on the continuation of the black law. Time and again Omar-led government has been claiming that it has taken up the matter of AFSPA revocation with the centre.
But the ‘latest revelation’ that JK government has not made any formal request to New Delhi for revocation of AFSPA exposes Omar Sarkar’s and his party’s public stand on the controversial law. In a written reply to a starred question by two MPs in the recently concluded Monsoon Session of the Parliament, the Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramchandran said that unlike Nagaland, JK government has not pleaded for the revocation of the Act.
As we are given to forgetfulness, the ‘latest revelation’ is not that latest and fresh. In March this year after Omar Abdullah upped the ante on AFSPA revocation in state legislative following the killing of a youth in Baramulla in army firing, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde took the steam off the CM’s campaign on AFSPA by stating that ‘there have been no formal request from the JK government for scrapping of the Act’ (GK, 7 March 2013). Shinde’s remarks on AFSPA came in a written reply to query raised in Rajya Sabha by NC parliament member Gulam Nabi Ratanpuri.
The rebuff to Kashmir chief minister by India’s Home Minister exposed the double speak and double standard of Omar on an issue he held close to his heart and consumed a lot of his vocal energy. Clearly he possessed two contradictory copies of his character, one “within house” massaged copy of supine allegiance to Darbar, another a lion-roaring one for public consumption. Unfortunately for Omar, however, the veneer of brokered silence that the Darbar has so far put on did not tolerate further head-butting from the young chief minister. Like his predecessors his frolics always hinged on the mood of Darbar which reserved the rights to embarrass or vilify the men it grooms and pats. For her these are occasions of deriving vicarious pleasure.
Anyways, Shinde’s revelation should have geared Omar Sahab to approach Delhi on AFSPA revocation in submitting a written request. Nearly six months have gone by till the ‘latest’ one by Ramchandran has surfaced. Given the rigid attitude of Delhi on the AFSPA, one is tempted to bet that nothing concrete would have emerged even if ‘formal request’ could have been made on this issue by JK government. But at least Omar doing that could have silenced his critics. That a simple innocuous plea frowns ‘elected’ leadership of Kashmir to make a case of and which is legally permissible, reflects how helpless it is before Delhi. The two revelations give lie to the claim and sincerity Omar and his party have showcased so far on the dreaded law. They have approached the problem with the same tools of deceit as they did in case of autonomy resolution. Even when the resolution which called for reverting Delhi-Srinagar constitutional relationship prior to 1953 position, was disdainfully rejected by Delhi, NC under Omar’s Dad remained glued to power. Omar is religiously aping his father in preferring power to his commitment on AFSPA revocation. Honesty and integrity become the casualty when interests get priority.
Strangely pro-accessionist parties have not extracted from Darbar even what is permissible within the ambit of Indian Constitution, autonomy or self-rule. On the other hand, they are used as valuable political lackeys meant to strengthen status quo and change the dominant Kashmir mainstream discourse. Whether it is the killing spree the forces have resorted to under the impunity cover of AFSPA or refusal of their demands, pro-Darbar forces have never caused any embarrassment or proved irritant that could have changed its attitude to sufferings of people. None from them have tendered a resignation on any fake encounter any rape incident or robbing Kashmir of its resources and individuality. The quid pro quo equation dries that option, which becomes more pronouncing as the days roll on.