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Armed Forces Special Powers and the present turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir

Shanthi Rajagopal

Reasons for the present unrest in Jammu and Kashmir

The immediate trigger for the current phase of protests was the death of 17-year-old Tufail Mattoo, who was killed by a tear gas canister which struck his head during a protest in Srinagar in June, 2010 against the Machhil fake encounter of April 30, 2010. Many observers have blamed his death — and the deaths of other young men since then — on the security forces lacking the training and means for non-lethal crowd control. Tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon are used all over the world in situations where protests turn violent but in India, live ammunition seems to be the first and only line of defence. Even tear gas canisters are so poorly designed here that they lead to fatalities.

Whatever the immediate cause, however, it is also safe to say that young Tufail died as a direct result of Machhil. Though the Army has arrested the soldiers responsible for the fake encounter, the only reason they had the nerve to commit such a heinous crime was because they were confident they would get away with it. And at the root of that confidence is Pathribal, the notorious fake encounter of 2000. The army officers involved in the kidnapping and murder of five Kashmiri civilians there continue to be at liberty despite being charge-sheeted by the CBI. The Ministry of Defence has refused to grant sanction for their prosecution and has taken the matter all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to ensure its men do not face trial. What was the message that went out as a result?

Had the Centre made an example of the rotten apples that have spoiled the reputation of the Army instead of protecting them all these years, the Machhil encounter might never have happened? Tufail would not be dead and angry mobs would not be attacking police stations and government buildings. Impunity for the few Army personnel has directly endangered the lives of all policemen and paramilitary personnel stationed in Kashmir. There is a lesson in this, surely, for those who say punishing the guilty will lower the morale of the security forces.

Criticism against AFSPA

Whatever is its logic, it is certain that the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) has long been regarded a heavy-handed law, one that allows the Army overweening powers and special immunity in areas that are deemed “disturbed”. Primarily intended for the Northeast when it was crafted in 1958, it was extended to Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. In both cases, the Law has been central to the region’s resentments.

Though it has long been contested as disproportionate and “draconian”, the Armed Forces and Defence Ministry have long objected to its withdrawal saying that the forces need that special cover to maintain control in volatile areas, and that taking it away could have serious security implications. On the other hand, there is unanimity in Kashmir that AFSPA should be relooked, given the new normal in the state, it’s clear investment in the electoral process and then waning of violence, and there were signs that this would be heeded, even through this new cycle of conflict in the Valley. The debate over the act continues but now, there is indication that AFSPA may be relaxed in six districts in Jammu and Kashmir — Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam, Jammu, Samba and Kathua (conveniently, NC and Congress bastions). This is not just a huge symbolic move, it will also compel Security forces to reorient their actions in the interiors of the State and make a visible difference in daily life.

However, now it all hinges on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. He has received a tremendous boost, having demonstrated the Centre’s backing on a core demand — the question is whether he can channel this newfound political capital into keeping these regions secure. Imphal witnessed a round of extortions and separatist trouble, after AFSPA was withdrawn, and the Chief Minister looks hapless. Omar must be careful not to become another Ibobi, and end up proving the necessity of a harsh Act that no one really wants.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is supposed one of the most draconian pieces of legislation passed by Parliament. Under the Act, all security forces are given unbridled powers to carry out their operations once an area is declared ‘disturbed‘. Even a non-commissioned officer can shoot to kill based on the mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so to “maintain public order”.

The people of Jammu & Kashmir have been agitating for the past three months for withdrawal of the Act. Chief Minister of Jammu Omar, too, has stressed that AFSPA should be withdrawn from areas where it has not been used at all.

The Indian Defence Minister, Thiru Antony, however, is believed to have told the chief minister that the army has reservations against any amendment to or partial withdrawal of the AFSPA from the State.

The Act was imposed on Jammu & Kashmir at the height of the separatist terrorist movement. Now, as most places in the State have reported a drop in terrorist violence, the people are demanding its withdrawal. But others believe the State is still ‘sensitive’ and withdrawing the Act will handicap the Army.

Passing of the Act

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was passed on 11 September 1958 by the Parliament of India. It conferred special powers upon armed forces in what the language of the act calls “disturbed areas” in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.

The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 was an Act to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon members of the Armed Forces in the disturbed areas in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. “Armed forces” means the Military forces and the Air forces operating as land forces and includes any other Armed forces of the Union so operating.

Special powers of the Armed Forces

Section 4:

This section sets out the powers granted to the military stationed in a disturbed area. These powers are granted to the commissioned officer, warrant officer, or non-commissioned officer, only a jawan (private) does not have these powers. The Section allows the armed forces personnel to use force for a variety of reasons.

Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area,-

(a} if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of firearms, ammunition or explosive substances;

This means the army can shoot to kill, under the powers of section 4:-

(a), for the commission or suspicion of the commission of the following offenses: acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons, carrying weapons, or carrying anything which is capable of being used as a fire-arm or ammunition. To justify the invocation of this provision, the officer must be “of the opinion that it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order” and should give “such due warning as he may consider necessary”.

(b) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made, or any structure used as training camp for armed volunteers or utilized as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence;

This means the army can destroy property under section 4(b) if it is an arms dump, a fortified position or shelter from where armed attacks are made or are suspected of being made, if the structure is used as a training camp or as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders.

(c) arrest, without warrant, any persons who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest;

This means the Army can arrest anyone without a warrant under section 4(c) who has committed, is suspected of having committed or of being about to commit, a cognizable offence and use any amount of force “necessary to effect the arrest”.

(d) enter and search, without warrant, any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongful restrained or confined or any property reasonably suspected to be stolen property or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawful kept in such premises, and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary, and seize any such property, arms, ammunition or explosive substances;

Under section 4(d), the army can enter and search without a warrant to make an arrest or to recover any property, arms, ammunition or explosives which are believed to be unlawfully kept on the premises. This section also allows the use of force necessary for the search.

(e) stop, search and seize any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying any person who is a proclaimed offender, or any persons who has committed a non-cognizable offence, or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a non-cognizable offence, or any person who is carrying any arms, ammunition or explosive substance believed to be unlawfully held by him, and may, for that  purpose, use such force as may be necessary to effect such stoppage, search or seizure, as the case may be.

Search and Seizure

Every person making a search under this Act shall have the power to break open the lock of any door, almirah, safe, box, cupboard, drawer, package or other thing, if the key thereof is withheld. Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act and every property, arms, ammunition or explosive substance or any vehicle or vessel seized under this Act, shall be made over to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest, or as the case may be, occasioning the seizure of such property, arms, ammunition or explosive substance or any vehicle or vessel, as the case may be.

Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act

No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.

Section 5: This section states that after the military has arrested someone under the AFSPA, they must hand that person over to the nearest police station with the “least possible delay”. There is no definition in the act of what constitutes the least possible delay. Some case-law has established that 4 to 5 days is too long. But since this provision has been interpreted as depending on the specifics circumstances of each case, there is no precise amount of time after which the section is violated.

Section 6: This section establishes that no legal proceeding can be brought against any member of the armed forces acting under the AFSPA, without the permission of the Central Government.

Though human rights advocates term these provisions as draconian, one must consider the armed forces point of view as they have to actually operate on ground against trained and armed insurgents without any concern or protection of their own human rights. If we want our armed forces to operate effectively against armed insurgents, we as a nation are obliged to provide them with necessary wherewithals and constitutional support. This is exactly what has been catered through AFSPA by our national parliament.

Immunity of the Security Forces

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, which grants soldiers far-reaching powers to arrest and kill, has impunity scripted into it. In line with Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Section 6 of AFSPA prohibits the prosecution of a soldier accused of misusing its provisions unless the central government grants sanction.

In Kashmir, the Army brass has used this section to protect its men from going to trial even in incidents where they stand accused of heinous crimes such as the abduction and murder of unarmed civilians. In States like Manipur, so powerless have the civilian authorities become in the face of the Army presence that no one is even willing to take cognizance of serious crimes allegedly committed by soldiers.

In 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised the people of Manipur that he would seriously consider replacing AFSPA with a more humane law. He appointed a committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy to examine the functioning of the law; and the committee, noting the way in which the law was being abused, suggested its replacement by an amended version of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. In the face of the Defence Ministry’s objections, however, the report was quietly shelved.

Now, in the wake of the resurgence of mass protest in the Kashmir valley, the central government has once again started making promises about amending AFSPA. The time to make these changes is now. Section 4 should be amended to explicitly incorporate the principles of necessity and proportionality and

Section 6 must be changed to allow for the prosecution of illegal acts in all cases except where the government is able to convince the courts otherwise. Expedient steps like taking some districts out of the ambit of “declared areas” just won’t do, it is felt.

13th September 2010

Cabinet Committee on Security is set to decide on the J&K government’s demand for partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.  Indications suggest that the political leadership is coming around to accept J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s demand for partial lifting of AFSPA, the Armed Forces are stating that the State government is trying to pass the buck to the Army to conceal its own failure. The Army’s argument already has support within the CCS with Defence minister A K Antony refusing to give in to persuasion by Home minister P Chidambaram who has been spearheading the move to withdraw or amend the law which the Army believes to be crucial for its operations in the troubled State. The Army has a sympathiser also in Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Army’s reservations have been conveyed to the Prime Minister by its Chief, General V K Singh, himself. Significantly, General Singh had earlier publicly complained about the political leadership frittering away the gains the armed forces have made in the fight against terror at a huge cost.

The key question before the CCS headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be whether to or not to withdraw the AFSPA from certain parts of the strife-torn Valley. It is a proposal backed by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as a confidence building measure after months of unrelenting protests in the Valley.

Do you think the time has come to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu & Kashmir? Or will such an action lead to greater problems in the State?

September 2010

BJP holds dharnas in J&K to protest against autonomy

Pradesh BJP staged dharnas in 41 assembly constituencies of the State to protest against the demand for granting autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir terming it as a “dead issue”, as per a Jammu report.

BJP State President Shamsher Singh Manhas, along with party MLA Jugal Kishore Sharma, led protest dharna at Nagrota, which was attended by over 600 party activists from different parts of the constituency.

Speaking on the occasion Manhas said except for a handful of NC leaders, including its chief Farooq Abdullah and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, no one from any of the State’s three regions has uttered even a single word in favour of autonomy during all these years of Independence.

Since the NC-Congress combine has failed to come up to the expectations of the people and maintain law and order in the State, the NC leaders are now trying to divert the attention of people from the real problems confronting the State by talking about dead issues like autonomy, he alleged.

The BJP on 15th September 2010 put up a staunch opposition to any move to tinker with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and grant of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. However, the party’s stance regarding the AFSPA drew support only from ally Shiv Sena and the Samajwadi Party. The party blamed Pakistan for violence in the Valley and sought a say for the Jammu and Ladakh regions while taking any decision to defuse the ongoing crisis.

Reflecting the seriousness with which the BJP takes the Kashmir issue, its top four leaders, L K Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, attended the all-party meet. Having already made its stand clear, Gadkari minced no words in arguing that the BJP would oppose any move to partially withdraw or dilute the AFSPA. The party leaders also asked the government not to concede to demands for autonomy.

Sources said the BJP leaders argued that security forces including the Army have done an exemplary job in dealing with separatists and fighting terrorists. They contended that no decision should be taken under pressure which would demoralise the Forces.

Pak trying to exploit unrest in Kashmir: Army Chief

Pakistan is trying to take advantage of the unrest in Kashmir as indicated by a few infiltration attempts across the border, Army Chief General VK Singh said on 19.09.2010.

“There have been more attempts at infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir in the last two months. There could be some links (between the attempts and the situation in the border State). Pakistan is trying to exploit the situation,” said Gen Singh, who was in Chennai to review the passing out parade at the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA).

The army chief’s comments came a day after India asked Pakistan to take effective action against infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC) and dismantle terror infrastructure as it is people of Jammu and Kashmir who suffer its consequences.

On the demand for dilution of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and its partial withdrawal from Kashmir, Gen Singh said as the Supreme Court observed, the provisions of AFSPA are neither arbitrary nor in violation of the Constitution of India. “We have told the Ministry of Defence whatever the army has to say and the matter is under the Government’s consideration,” he said.

Congress top body discusses Kashmir

The Congress Core Group on 17.09.2010 met at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence in New Delhi to discuss the present unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting is learnt to have discussed the current unrest in the Valley that has claimed nearly 70 lives since mid-June, 2010.

Ways to restore peace and normalcy in the Valley was reportedly explored during the meet.
The government has been trying hard to bring the situation under control as stone-pelting mobs continued to clash with security personnel routinely. There has been relative calm in the Valley since the past two days due to Eid celebrations on Saturday.

Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were present at the meeting, as were Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home minister P Chidambaram and party’s president’s political secretary Ahmed Patel. Prithviraj Chavan, AICC in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, and senior party leaders from the state Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz also attended the meeting.

I am a fighter and will overcome this crisis – Omar Abdullah

On the eve of the all-party delegation’s visit to Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on 19.09.2010 ruled out his resignation and hoped the controversial AFSPA would be removed from the entire State for which people should create conducive atmosphere of peace.

Removal of the AFSPA would be the first confidence building measure for the people of Kashmir by the Centre to demonstrate its sincerity and it could build on it to take further steps in future to resolve the problem, he said.

“I am not the one who shows his back when problems are there. I am a fighter and will overcome this crisis for the people who have voted me to power. Insha Allah we will overcome this soon,” he told in an interview.

J & K unrest: Death toll crosses 104 in 100 days – 19.09.2010

Death continues to be the only constant in the Kashmir Valley with the toll mounting to 104 over the last 100 days.

Home Minister to lead team, invite goes to Hurriyat as well

Home Minister P Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal will be part of the all-party delegation that will visit Jammu & Kashmir to assess the ground situation and gather views for inputs to the Centre on tackling the unrest in the Valley. The delegation is expected to commence its two-day visit from 20.09.2010.

While there will be an “open invitation” to all stakeholders to meet the delegation, official sources said that written invitations would be sent to over 30 leaders, including separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.

Sources said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee could also join the delegation, but it has not been finalised yet. All political parties have been asked to nominate one representative to the delegation.

Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi held deliberations with senior party leaders on the modalities of the visit. Those present included Mukherjee, Chidambaram, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prithviraj Chavan and PCC chief Saifuddin Soz.

All Party Delegation visit Jammu and Kashmir – 21.09.2010

With a thick security blanket in place to enforce curfew, a 39-member all-party delegation on 20.09.2010 began the task of assessing the situation in Kashmir by meeting representatives of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.

Some of the delegates called on separatist leaders, including hardliner Syed Ali Geelani, and moderates like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik.

The Mirwaiz, in a memorandum to the delegation, said: “Let the Government of India act on the suggestions given by the Kashmiris and facilitate to establish and empower an official body, a Kashmir Committee, consisting of senior representatives of all major Indian political parties to develop and enter into a process of engagement with the representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Let this process be transparently designed to deliver a negotiated solution to the Kashmir issue that is mutually worked towards by and acceptable to all parties concerned.”

The delegation, headed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, arrived Sri Nagar early in the morning and drove to the S.K. International Conference Centre (SKICC). Setting the tone for three-day deliberations, which will conclude in Jammu on 22.09.2010, Mr. Chidambaram told the visiting delegations that they were in Jammu and Kashmir to listen to their views and give them a patient hearing and reach out to the State people.

In a closed door session, leaders of the National Conference (NC), the Congress, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other smaller groups put forth their views on putting an end to the cycle of violence.

However, informed sources said most of the participants largely spoke about the resolution of the Kashmir issue and reaching out to the victims of excesses in the past three months.

State Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather, who headed the NC delegation, said: “We stressed on the restoration of autonomy as permanent solution to the Kashmir problem and also demanded that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act be withdrawn and a dialogue process initiated. We did not expect immediate results.” He said the NC would not reconsider its alliance with the Congress.

Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz led the party delegation. “We stressed upon the unity of the State, which cannot be compromised at all. We also asked the all-party delegation to reach out to civil society in order to get the real feel of the situation,” he said.

The PDP delegation was led by its general secretary, Mohammad Dillawar Mir. Its senior leader and MLA, Nizamuddin Bhat, said the party was shocked as they could not get adequate time to express their ideas. “We only got 15 minutes and that was not enough.”

The PDP was even thinking of not meeting the all-party delegation as the government had “declared war on its own people by imposing 72-hour long curfew,” but “since we were part of a decision taken about it in Delhi, we were morally bound to come here.”

CPI(M) State secretary Y. Tarigami told the delegates: “The current crisis is the manifestation of aggregation of failed political approaches to resolve the basic problem. There has been failure to develop and evolve a sustainable, result-oriented dialogue process, debates and discussions aimed at resolving the main problem rather than dealing with its offshoots.”

Mr. Tarigami reminded Mr. Chidambaram of his various statements, including the one in which the latter termed Kashmir a “unique problem, which requires a unique solution.” He told the Minister that his statement needed to be implemented in letter and in spirit. “This approach needs to be carried forward and strengthened.”

“Cutting across the party lines and their respective positions vis-à-vis the Kashmir problem, Parliament is expected to address the Kashmir issue with the utmost seriousness. There could be difference of opinion, but that does not denote that Kashmir can be made a battleground for the conflicting political ideology at the cost of Kashmiris’ genuine political aspirations,” he added.

Centre unveils 8 point formula for Kashmir – 26.09.2010

The Centre will appoint a group of interlocutors, under the chairmanship of an eminent person, to begin the process of sustained dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir with political parties, groups, students, civil society and other stakeholders.

The decision to begin the process of sustained dialogue was part of an eight-point initiative taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in New Delhi on 25.10.2010. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Briefing journalists on the slew of measures finalised, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the decisions were based on the report submitted by him to the Prime Minister and the inputs of the all-party delegation that had visited Srinagar and Jammu on September 20 and 21.10.2010. Mr. Chidambaram had led the 39-member all-party delegation to the State.

In a step aimed at reaching out to the people of the State, the Centre would advise the Jammu and Kashmir government to release all students detained for stone-pelting and similar violations of law, and to withdraw all charges.

Mr. Chidambaram said the Centre would request the State government to immediately convene a meeting of the Unified Command to review deployment of security forces in the Kashmir Valley, especially in Srinagar, with particular reference to descaling those at bunkers and checkpoints in the city and other towns. He said the Unified Command would review notifications issued for disturbed areas.

Replying to a question, he said that withdrawal or dilution of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was not discussed.

He said the government would grant an ex gratia of Rs. five lakh to the family of each of those killed in civil disturbances in Kashmir since June 11, 2010. He said the Centre would also advise the State government to review cases of all Public Safety Act (PSA) detenus and withdraw detention orders in appropriate cases.

Replying to a question, the Home Minister said there were 84 persons under judicial custody, 110 under police custody and 51 had been detained under the Public Safety Act since civil disturbances began in the Kashmir Valley in June. He said that 108 persons had lost their lives in civil disturbances.

The Centre would request the State government to take steps to immediately reopen all schools, colleges, and universities, hold special classes and ensure that examinations are conducted on schedule for the current academic year.

Mixed reactions from mainstream and separatist political parties – 26.09.2010

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s announcement of an eight-point formula to defuse the crisis in Kashmir has evoked mixed reaction from mainstream and separatist political parties.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the Centre’s decision to move towards finding a solution to the Kashmir problem. Four points concerned the State government and of that “we have already decided on one regarding opening of schools on 27.10.2010.” He said his government would take gradual steps to de-escalate the tension in the area.

“The Unified Headquarters will review areas under the Disturbed Areas Act but don’t expect results after the first meet, it will take time. We need to discuss how to reduce security forces’ footprint,” Mr. Abdullah said.

Opposition People’s Democratic Party’s senior leader Nizamuddin Bhat was cautious in responding to the announcement. “To address the current situation in Kashmir is a complex issue. We will have a look at the announcement and will discuss it within ourselves before making a response but one thing is clear that the thrust is to be given to minimising the trust deficit,” he said.

Senior NC leader and Law Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar said it was a good initiative especially the one on appointing interlocutors. “We hope that these interlocutors would meet separatist leadership and take forward the dialogue process for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue. Other announcements are also positive in nature,” he said.

Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz too welcomed the appointment of interlocutors, saying it was a good beginning. “I have heard about the release of all students, reviewing the laws, and a package to the families who have lost their dear ones. This all has relieved me,” Professor Soz told.

Describing the eight-point package as mere ‘eye wash,’ Chairman of hard-line Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani said India was buying time. “None of our demands has been discussed.” “This is mere time-buying tactics adopted by India. We will not bow down to the economic packages by the New Delhi. Our youth did not sacrifice their lives for the economic packages,” said Mr. Geelani. He said the protests would continue “till India accepts Kashmir as an international dispute and other four conditions laid down by our party.”

On removing bunkers from Srinagar city, Mr. Geelani said this is was just a cosmetic measure which won’t help. “We want complete demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir and not cosmetic measures.”

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik said, “Our working committee will meet and discuss it threadbare and comment.”

Three interlocutors chosen for Jammu and Kashmir – 13.10.2010

Government on 13.10.2010 named three interlocutors, including eminent journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, to hold talks with all shades of opinion including the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir as part of efforts to bring peace in the state.

Besides Mr. Padgaonkar, Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari and noted academician Radha Kumar were the other two named by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram as interlocutors chosen in consultation with the state government.

Mr. Chidambaram said the three interlocutors are “very credible people” and they will begin work as early as possible. “We may add one more interlocutor later,” he said.

The decision to appoint a set of interlocutors was taken at the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting chaired by Prime Manmohan Singh on September 25, 2010.

The terms and references of the panel will be to hold talks all shades of opinion including mainstream political parties and separatists. The panel will cover views of all the three regions — Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.

Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Milia Islamia, has been engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Recently, she was in the Valley and had met Geelani who was undergoing treatment in Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar.

Padgaonkar was part of Kashmir committee led by eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

Ansari, who was professor and Director at the Hamdard University, is an educationist and economist before moving as an Information Commissioner.

Two special task forces for Jammu, Ladakh constituted 13.10.2010

The Government has constituted two special task forces for Jammu and Ladakh regions to examine the allocations in terms of infrastructure needs and make suitable recommendations to overcome the deficiencies.

While Abhijit Sen, a Planning Commission member, will be leading a task force on Jammu, Narendra Jadhav, another Planning Commission member, will be the chairperson of the team on Ladakh, an official notification said on 12.10.2010.

It said the two task forces have been constituted keeping in view the immediate objectives to maintain peace and order and defuse the situation through confidence building measures.

The decision on forming of three task forces was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 25, 2010.

The terms and references of the two task forces would be to identify the special development needs of the region and suggest measures to address them and to examine allocations to the regions in terms of infrastructure needs. They will make suitable recommendations to overcome the deficiencies.

The task forces have been given three months to submit their reports.

Besides Sen, the other members for Jammu task force are Joint Secretary, (Plan Finance-I), Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure, Divisional Commissioner (Jammu), Dr Najeeb Jung, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia University and Dr Amaresh Dubey, Prof of Economics, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, JNU. Joint Secretary (Kashmir), Ministry of Home Affairs will be the Convenor.

Besides Jhadav, the task force on Ladakh will comprise Joint Secretary, (Plan Finance-II), Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Prof Akhtar Majeed, Director, Centre for Federal Studies and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Hamdard University, Dr Navnita Chadha Behera, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi as members and Director (Kashmir), Ministry of Home Affairs as Convener.

The task forces may co-opt officers of the state government and such other officers of the Central and State Governments as and when necessary. They include Commissioner and Secretary to state government, Principal Secretary, Planning, Development and Ladakh Affairs and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.

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