AFSPA is a must if Army has to operate in Jammu and Kashmir: Parrikar
New Delhi: The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is mandatory if the Army has to be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir or any other state for internal security, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.
“Mine is not the Ministry to decide about it (AFSPA). It is very simple that if the Act is existing in that particular area, the Army can operate in that area. If it is not there, Army can’t operate there,” Parrikar said.
He was replying to a question about his Ministry’s stand on J-K government’s demand to scrap the controversial AFSPA in the state.
However, the Defence Minister said the decision to lift AFSPA has to be taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“Army’s job is not internal security. Let me be very clear on that. It is not my job to maintain internal security but if I am given a task for internal security then there have to be appropriate powers. Those powers come to me through AFSPA,” Parrikar told PTI in an interview earlier this week.
Giving example of Manipur, he said that AFSPA has been removed from some areas and the army is not operating there.
Tripura government had on Wednesday decided to lift the AFSPA in the state. The controversial law has been in effect for the last 18 years to curb insurgency in the state.
Civil rights activists have called for repeal of the Act or possible amendments in Sections 4 and 7 of AFSPA, which accord far-reaching powers and legal safeguards to security forces while undertaking counter-terrorism operations.
Section 4 gives security personnel sweeping powers to search premises and make arrests without warrants, “use force, even to extent of causing death”, destroy arms dumps, hideouts and to stop, search and seize any vehicle. .
Asked if he was open to Jammu and Kashmir government’s demand to replace the Army with paramilitary forces, Parrikar said, “I don’t want to comment on anything that comes under somebody else’s domain or Home Ministry’s decision making process. They have to analyse the situation and take a decision”.
He added that the MHA has to take a call on where all the Army has to be deployed for internal security.
“MHA has to take a call and tell us whether we operate or not. If they think that we are not required, then they can do whatever they want to do. But if that Act is not there, I will not be able to operate,” he said.
The Army continues to be against any move to dilute the AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Army feels that if AFSPA, which it terms as an “enabling Act”, is partially withdrawn or diluted, there are chances that radicalisation and even violence level are likely to increase.
Talking about infiltration attempts at the Line of Control, the Defence Minister said it was too early to say whether there has been an increase because winter has been late this year and snow has just melted.
However, he said there have always been efforts from the “other side” to push in infiltrators.
“Firing that takes place to keep you engaged away from the border so that you don’t stop infiltration and at times to stop you from constructing bunkers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has welcomed the Tripura government’s decision to withdraw Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state, and said it should serve as an “eye opener” for the Jammu and Kashmir government too.