Army is not master of Kashmir: Farooq Abdullah

New Delhi : Union minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has critcised the Indian Army for opposing the partial withdrawal of the “draconian” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from parts of Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was not the “master” of the state.

“(The) army is not our master. Just remember that. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are the masters of their state,” Abdullah, who has been the chief minister of the state thrice in the past, told Karan Thapar in “Devil’s Advocate” on CNN-IBN news channel.

He said the the army’s job was to protect the borders. “They have to guard the border so the infiltration doesn’t take place. It is their job. Rest the local police, the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) are ready to handle (the situation),” said the union minister of renewable energy.

He criticised the army and intelligence agencies for failing to check the infiltration from the border with Pakistan.

“How are they coming, if they (the army) are able to handle? Tell me how they are able to handle? They must have failed otherwise how do they enter? How do they enter? It’s the failure of the entire system. The intelligence failure. We have intelligence – we have external intelligence and we have internal intelligence. There must be a failure somewhere if they are coming in,” he said.

Strongly supporting his son, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s views on the removal of the law that gives sweeping powers to the army in fighting militancy, the senior Abdullah said he was “sure it will go”.

But added it was not the decision that could be taken in a spur of the moment. “Everything has to take time after all AFSPA was introduced in 1990 by the then government and the governor. Now the question is, situation has gone better. What is the actual situation is known only to the chief minister because he gets all the inputs.”

Calling the the AFSPA a “draconian law”, Adbullah said there was no proposal to withdraw it from bordering areas where terrorists would infiltrate or set up sanctuaries.

“The AFPSA is not going to be removed from those areas. It’s not going from areas they (terrorists) are coming in. But for the other districts it will go. You think the CRPF and the police are useless. That they can’t deal with it. That they are unable to deal with it,” he said.

Asked if his son had mishandled the issue by going public over its withdrawal without taking stake holders on board, Abdullah said: “No, not at all. None, none whatsoever. If he (the chief minister) decides that it (AFSPA) has to go, it must go.”

He said it did not matter if the army and the central government disagree. “It is the wishes of the people that matter and if the people feel that the things are better, then let’s give them that. They (army) said when 40 bunkers were removed. They said if the bunkers go, there will be no safety. The bunkers were removed and the people are able to breathe safely. People are walking safely.”

He said the army had its view over the AFSPA. “As far as I am concerned, I feel that once its lifted, it is not something that cannot be brought back if the situation turns like that. The chief minister has already cleared that.

“Therefore, the army’s feeling that it will give more powers to the militants to act, I don’t agree with this thing because this is going to take place only in Srinagar, Budgam, Samba and Jammu… So how does this affect in such small districts?”

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