NC General Secretary Mustafa Kamal tells Riyaz Wani that the army can’t justify AFSPA just to fight a handful of militants
Steps are on to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from four districts in Jammu & Kashmir. But isn’t militancy still a big problem in the Valley?
There is only residual militancy in the Valley now. So there is no reason for AFSPA to stay. Besides, we think our police is fully capable of dealing with whatever militancy is left. The police has been actively engaged in counterinsurgency operations with the army. The police knows the language, people and the topography and has a statewide reach. The army has no role now. They can’t justify AFSPA on the basis of just a handful of militants.
Are you certain that the removal of AFSPA would not lead to resurgence of militancy as the army seems to believe?
No, there is no reason to believe this. The roots of militancy in the Valley are internal rather than external. External actors only exploited the situation created by the internal players. The internal situation has improved a lot.
Who are these internal players?
When the armed campaign started in 1989, there were only 19 identified militants in the Valley. But then some political vested interests saw an opportunity in this to replace the National Conference government. So they stoked the militancy. There were four main conspirators: My late brother-in- law and former CM Ghulam Muhammad Shah, late Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, late Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who was then Union home minister. The person privy to this information is the then IG Ghulam Jeelani Pandit. Pandit knows all about it. And he owes it to history and Kashmiris to talk about it.
Why is it that the army and the state government don’t see eyeto- eye on AFSPA?
It’s difficult to explain. The army doesn’t want to be accountable for its actions. It doesn’t want to face the law in cases of human rights violations. This is the only reason why it opposes AFSPA. True, the army has done a great job of fighting militancy. But now the militancy is almost over. The police is here to take on the residual militancy. If God forbid, militancy returns in future, AFSPA can be reapplied. One has to also bear in mind that the armed violence in the Valley lasted 22 years despite AFSPA and the enforcement of this law is no guarantee that militancy will not return. In fact, I think the removal of AFSPA will have a salutary effect.
You want the security forces to be made accountable but your government didn’t take action against its own police force, which killed 120 youth during the unrest last year.
It is incorrect to say that all the civilians were killed in police firing. It is only in 3-4 cases that the police was responsible. It has already issued a statement on this.
Then who killed the 116 civilians?
All of them were not hit by police bullets. In most cases it was firing from within the crowd or militants that killed people. Besides, what can the police do when there is a big crowd throwing stones, attacking government property and setting fire to bridges and schools? We had to protect people and property. More than the police, it is the instigators of these protests who need to be taken to task.
Interlocutor Radha Kumar has said the state government itself is competent to revoke AFSPA.
Yes, but we want to work in tandem with Delhi. We are part of India and we want to take the Centre into confidence. Besides, if we go solo on the issue, they (security agencies) may create an incident to prove that we were wrong. So we are in a dangerous situation. There is no choice but to build wider national consensus over the revocation of AFSPA.
Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.