The Jammu and Kashmir government may revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Srinagar city. Sources close to the ruling National Conference said that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah may revoke the Act within the municipal limits of Srinagar city on the pattern of Manipur. In 2004, the Manipur government had revoked AFSPA from Imphal without taking the consent of the Centre after massive protests were sparked by the gang rape of women allegedly by men in uniform.
Abdullah has directed the state’s Law Department to study the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee and propose a line of action. The Justice Verma report has said that sexual offences committed by the armed forces and uniformed men should be brought under ordinary criminal law, besides appointment of special commissioners to ensure the safety of women complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual assault by armed personnel. The committee was set up after the Delhi gang rape case, to look into the laws for sexual crimes, including in conflict zones.
A senior official of the state Law Department said that the Verma Committee recommendations have come handy for them and they will soon submit a detailed report on them. Abdullah has on this issue not only the support of Opposition PDP, but also of separatists and civil society. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has welcomed the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee. “Now Omar should act and pave way for fast tracking all the cases of rape pending against men-in-uniform in the past 24 years. New Delhi is keen to give shelter to these criminals under AFSPA,” Geelani said. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq has said that the J&K government should scrap the Disturbed Area Act (DAA) and repeal the Public Safety Act (PSA). The second step should be to revoke AFSPA in Kashmir, instead of making it a political game. “New Delhi has no justification to keep AFSPA in Kashmir as people have long back opted for non-violent means to keep their struggle alive,” said JKLF chairman Yasin Malik.