New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says the killing of three civilians in an alleged staged shootout in Nadihal village April 30 has raised doubts over the genuineness of other gunfights between security forces and separatist guerrillas with many cases being re-investigated now.
Abdullah, while speaking on a television show late Saturday, also sought more transparency in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The chief minister told NDTV’s ‘Left Right and Centre’ programme that the Jammu and Kashmir Police were flooded with complaints questioning the genuineness of previous shootouts, all of which are being probed again now.
‘I am saying that almost every encounter, unfortunately, that has taken place now has question marks being posed by people and it is our duty to address those questions,’ Abdullah said.
‘We have dug up bodies and are verifying whether the encounters are genuine or not. This has really put a lot of additional work on the already burdened police force because a whole host of questions are being asked about these encounters.
‘Obviously there would be doubts. This is the problem when a handful of people for their short-term gains are willing to sacrifice the long-term interests of not only the forces they represent but that of everybody else,’ Abdullah added.
Three villagers — Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Muhammad Shafi Lone — were allegedly framed as separatist guerrillas and killed in a staged shootout in north Kashmir’s Machil sector of the Line of Control (LOC), which divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Police have arrested four people — a soldier of the Territorial Army and three army informers — for luring the three civilians to work as labourers for the army. An army officer has also been accused in the case.
Abdullah maintained that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was still required in Kashmir, but said it should be made more transparent.
AFSPA, which dates back to 1958, is considered by rights activists as a draconian law that gives security forces unrestricted power to carry out their operations in a ‘disturbed area’.
Under the legislation, even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion. It gives the armed forces wide powers to shoot, arrest and search.
‘Unfortunately, under the AFSPA, because it is built for the armed forces, the army is the judge, jury and the hangman. Therefore, there is absence of transparency as a result of which people have lost faith in the system,’ Abdullah said.
Accepting that AFSPA was still required to tackle separatist violence, he said: ‘It needs to be amended so that it is more transparent, more accountable and people have more faith in the system.’
Asked whether the ‘quiet dialogue’ initiated by Home Minister P. Chidambaram with a section of the separatists had not been handled well, he said: ‘I don’t think that it was Delhi’s fault that the quiet dialogue didn’t remain quiet.
‘I think concerted efforts were made by certain quarters throughout the dialogue process and that is what it fell victim to,’ he said.
On people’s expectations from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two-day visit to the state starting Monday, Abdullah said they would seek some sort of indication on the central government’s intention to kickstart the stalled dialogue between New Delhi and mainstream political voices as also other players.
Manmohan Singh last visited Srinagar in October.