Average Kashmiri on street wants AFSPA to go, separatists want even more

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AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers ActThe recent statement by top lawyer, and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan regarding the presence of army in Kashmir has created a storm across the country. It has also stirred emotions within Kashmir where the presence of army for maintaining internal security has remained a sore point with the masses. The statement by Bhushan however has made a valid point that there are still people in the country who represent an independent streak in politics. However, it is also to be noted that Bhushan being a lawyer, and not an expert on Kashmir or security issues would be far removed from the reality. The issue is quite sensitive, and needs to be handled with maturity to the benefit of everyone.
U4u Voice spoke to a number of people on this issue, an it realized that more than anything emotions run strong on both sides. “Bhushan only meant the referendum should be held in case of deployment of Army not Kashmir’s relation with India. It was misinterpreted by whole of the country because they cannot think beyond certain limits,” says Bashir Ahmad, a chemistry professor.
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This statement was immediately followed by flood of feedback from all sections of the society country wide. In Kashmir the first to react to Bhushan’s statement was Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah. He fired his reaction through a micro blogging site, Twitter. His tweet reads as: “reduction of the footprint of security forces and phased revocation of AFSPA doesn’t need a referendum, just a courageous statesman to decide.”
In one his tweets Zaffar Iqbal, a valley based journalist working with NDTV wrote: “Prashant Bhushan did not talk about referendum for J&K, but just a referendum for the revocation of AFSPA from the state.” Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) is a much talked about issue in Kashmir. It is considered giving too much power in the hands of the security forces who can take action against any one based on suspicion.
What is wrong if anyone wants this draconian law to be repealed questions a social activist Nisa. She adds that this law is just a licence to kill any innocent. Nisa says, “The sooner it goes the better.” Chief Minister of valley has time and again sought deliberations from the centre to revoke this law from some districts of the valley and not only him but everyone in Kashmir favour its revocation. But as of now people question why is this matter given such hype.
“All political groups over here from separatists to mainstream including Omar Abdullah have been asking for its revocation from J&K,” reads another tweet of Zaffar Iqbal.
Zahoor, an Associate Professor says: in Kashmir everyone is against AFSPA because we know what it is but this time when an Indian does so why is everyone after his life.”Days after this statement was made, headquarters of Aam Aadmi Party in Ghaziabad was attacked by some fringe elements –yesterday which people cite as an example of political terrorism.
“It is the handiwork of BJP which does not want these people to work properly. They believe in ruining things than to settle them,” says Saleem, a journalist. People believe that this matter was given unnecessary attention and say it is the lack of knowledge which had lead to all this.
“Majority of people out there I am sure would have got this news from others and believing half baked story is meant to create hoopla,” says Aijaz Ahmad, Banking Associate.
However for the separatist leaders of the valley this statement came just to woo the people to get them a space in political arena. In his statement Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani maintained that this is just a tactic to increase their vote bank.  Reiterating to the point of self determination of people he says, “there should be a referendum to seek people’s opinion about their political future not just army issues.”
Referendum or plebiscite people say is their right which has been promised to them when the Indian forces entered valley in 1947.“It was Nehru who made a promise to the people of valley that there will be plebiscite to know what people want. In his statement he also has mentioned that providing military assistance to valley does in no way means that it has acceded to India,” says Farooq Ahmad.
Farooq adds if anyone reminds India of those promises why does it start debating endlessly. So, for many Bhushan’s statement is a welcome step. “His is a sane voice who has at least got courage to make this statement. We want more and more people to come forward to understand what a common Kashmiri goes through in everyday life,” says Professor Hameedah Nayeem, a member of Kashmir’s civil society and also a professor.
By Lubna Reshi