National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Thursday alleged that Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah had lied when he claimed that the saffron party had dissolved its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir last year over a disagreement about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Abullah also claimed that PDP President Mehbooba Mufti had “no intention of doing anything” about the legislation.
“Why are Amit Shah and the PDP lying to the people?” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister tweeted.
Abdullah also shared a February 2018 report from The Economic Times which said that Mufti, then the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had ruled out revoking AFSPA during a discussion in the state Assembly, citing the fraught situation in the Valley and recurring encounters between militants and security forces.
AFSPA grants the armed forces sweeping powers to search arrest, open fire if deemed necessary, with a degree of immunity from prosecution, in areas classified as “disturbed”. The Act has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990.
A few hours after Abdullah’s tweet, Mufti shared a link to a 2017 article on Twitter which said that Mufti had raised the possibility of removing AFSPA from parts of the state at the India Today Conclave in March that year. She said she’s sharing the article “since its the season to float lies and conspiracy theories”.
Addressing twin rallies in Sunderbani and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, Shah claimed that the BJP-PDP alliance had ended last July because the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP pressurised them to dilute AFSPA. “We kicked the chair. We left the government on AFSPA,” he said, reported PTI.
Shah’s remarks came in the wake of the Congress party’s manifesto promise to amend AFPSA in order to “strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens” and review its immunity clause. The manifesto was released on Tuesday.
Mufti had hailed the Congress’s manifesto promise but claimed that her party too had sought the dilution of AFSPA as one of the terms of entering into an alliance with the BJP in 2015.
Congress defends AFSPA stance
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday defended his party’s promise to review AFSPA, PTI reported. He also said that his party would not tinker with Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “I think Article 370 is there for the last 70 years and it will stay,” he told reporters while releasing the Congress manifesto in the Jammu and Kashmir.
The provision has been a flashpoint between Centre and Kashmir politicians, with some BJP leaders including Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley advocating repealing Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special rights and privileges pertaining to jobs, and property ownership, among other things, to “permanent residents” of the state.
With regard to AFSPA, Azad said it is in the country’s interest to review it. “The security forces should enjoy full powers to eliminate militancy but at the same time we have to ensure that no human rights violation takes place,” he said.