Srinagar, Feb 14: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday said there is no connection between the January 9 execution of 2001 Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru and the application of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ANI TV, Abdullah said using the Afzal Guru execution to suggest that AFSPA as an issue cannot be discussed is not acceptable.
He said that the debate on where the AFSPA should be used or used was not over.
“Why is the AFSPA debate over? Who says? Why are you linking the two issues? There is no connection between the execution of Afzal Guru and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The requirement of the army is for insurgency and militancy dealing. As far as the army requirement for law and order is concerned, that provision is anyway built into the Constitution. You anyway have recourse to the army in aid to civil administration that does not require AFSPA. So, don’t link the two,” Abdullah said.
“Yes, the army requires (it) to operate. Yes, the army continues to have a role, particularly on the Line of Control, and also in those areas where militancy still prevails. So, nobody is suggesting to you that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be revoked from the entire state in one go. But don’t use the Afzal Guru execution as an excuse to suggest that this is a topic that can no longer be discussed. Of course it can be,” he added.
Regarding the handing over of Guru’s body to his family for last rites, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said: “We have received representation. I received a copy of the representation that was addressed to the DC (District Collector) of Baramulla. I have asked for that representation to be forwarded to the Government of India. It’s part of an ongoing discussion with them. Beyond that, I don’t want to say anything.
Abdullah said that his government is dealing with the situation in the aftermath of Guru’s execution, and did not agree with the view that developments had reached a boiling point in Kashmir.
“I would not use words like boiling up. Yes, we had a difficult week or so to deal with in the aftermath of the execution of Afzal Guru. We are continuing to deal with that situation. It’s had a fallout on our tourism numbers already. We have seen a reduction in arrivals, we have seen a spate of cancellations. I am hoping that the separatist leadership will not try and prolong this protest that they want to. I think if those words in the newspapers are correct, then one of Afzal Guru’s dying wishes was that peace should prevail and that his death should not be a reason to cause violence or heap even more suffering on the people. If that be the case, then I think people should recognise that and hopefully we will be able to tide over this difficult time,” Abdullah said.
He further said: “How can I tell people not to identify with him? This is not a totalitarian state. I can’t force people not to identify with him any more than the Government of India could force people in the 50s and 60 s not to identify with Sheikh Abdullah. They couldn’t, they tried their level best to get Kashmiris not to identify with Sheikh Abdullah. They kept him in jail, they kept him in exile, but people identified with him.”
“So, I can’t force people not to identify with somebody. If somebody wants to identify with Maqbool Bhatt, with Syed Ali Shah Geelani or with Afzal Guru they will identify and we have to recognise that,” he added.
On the issue of Kashmir’s first girl band not being allowed to perform because it went against Koranic dogma, Abdullah said: “Yes, we can try and overtime address the deeper issues that concern people. Yes, I believe that we need to continue to press forward for a political resolution of the Kashmir issue that is perhaps the only thing that will change the narrative, otherwise no.” (ANI)