Ready to re-look at armed forces’ powers: Omar (Lead)

August 2nd, 2010 - 7:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Monday said the government would re-look into repealing the special legal powers given to security forces in the state only after the present cycle of violence ended.
A grim-looking Abdullah arrived in the capital to meet the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-led cabinet panel on security Monday after fresh violence in the Kashmir Valley left 15 more civilians dead, most of them in firing by security forces, in the last four days.

“I had an extensive meeting with the prime minister. We discussed the situation and the steps needed to be taken to bring normalcy,” Abdullah told reporters after the meeting that was also attended by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna - all members of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

He said: “The problem of Jammu and Kashmir was inherently political in nature. For any such initiative, political or administrative, a certain amount of normalcy is absolutely vital for us to be able to have any kind of sustained engagement at the levels that we wanted to take place at.”

Asked what were the initiative that the state and central governments were ready to take, the chief minister said that they were “looking at the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, reducing the foot print of security forces in the state, rehabilitation of boys who have crossed over (to Pakistan for arms training) and want to come back now and financial relief to the victims of the ongoing trouble”.

The act gives armed forces legal immunity for their actions and they cannot be prosecuted. It was extended to Jammu and Kashmir in July 1990.

Abdullah appealed to the people of the state to “break the cycle of violence”.

“Tragically we have locked ourselves into a cycle of violence when protests lead to deaths, deaths lead to more protests and more protests lead to more casualties.

“As much as one wishes not to have to resort to force, when people take law into their own hands, there are consequences. I have been appealing to people to stop this system of lawlessness and to allow the government to take steps to restore normalcy. Curfew where announced will have to be implemented strictly. There will be no other way around this,” he said.

Abdullah said the protests in the valley were “leaderless” and were not being directed by a single individual or group. “I don’t believe that any one particular group or individual is directing what is happening in the valley.”

“While there are a number of elements fishing in the valley, one gets the sense what is happening in valley is largely leaderless,” he said.

Earlier, India had accused Pakistan-based groups of masterminding the stone-throwing protests in Kashmir and the chief minister himself had accused state’s opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of fomenting the trouble.

But Abdullah reasserted that there was no sign to believe that there was a particular organisation which was “managing, directing or orchestrating” the protests.

The valley has been on the boil due to violent protests against civilians being killed in firing by security forces since June 11.

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