NC-Cong coalition was close to revoking armed forces Act claims Azad, No one can dilute AFSPA says Amit Shah

Former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday claimed that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) would have been revoked from a few districts had the NC and Congress coalition remained in power in the state for a year more.

“A time had come when it (AFSPA) would have been removed from a few districts. Had we remained in power for a year more…the way things were returning to normal…probably it (AFSPA abrogation) was a question of a few months…from top, militancy was coming down to zero…the ultimate (aim) was to end AFSPA…or (at least) from a few districts,” Azad told reporters on the sidelines of a Congress rally at Lolab in Kupwara district.

The senior Congress leader made the comments when asked why AFSPA was not removed when the party was in coalition with the NC in the state even as its manifesto released on Tuesday had promised a review of the controversial Act.

Azad said the Congress manifesto had been drafted after a party committee travelled across the country to take views of the people from all walks of life. “This year, the manifesto panel travelled across the country for six months and talked to farmers, youth and businessmen. We consolidated (the manifesto) after taking views of a cross-section of society. It used to be drafted in Delhi but this time it was prepared after travelling the entire country.”

He said in the past, the Congress had made a ‘massive effort’ to normalise the situation in the Kashmir valley.

“We started a roundtable conference during my period (tenure as CM) only…27 parties took part in it and no less than the Prime Minister presided over the meet. We made a massive effort to normalise the situation,” said Azad, adding that PM-led Central government had ‘pushed to corner’ the people and leadership of Kashmir.

At a rally at Bhour Camp in Jammu on Wednesday evening, Azad accused PMNarendra Modi of spreading ‘hatred’ to garner voters for the Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, A day after the Congress promised to amend the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah on Wednesday vociferously raked up this contentious issue to woo voters in the Hindu dominated Jammu province of J&K.

“You have to choose between those who sacrificed their government to strengthen AFSPA or those who have promised to dilute this Act, which gives powers to the security forces fighting terrorism in J&K,” Shah said while addressing a rally at Udhampur in support of party candidate and Union Minister Jitendra Singh.

The Congress in its election manifesto on Tuesday had promised that AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act in J&K will be reviewed if the party came to power after the polls.

“It is shameful that the Congress has promised the dilution of AFSPA to appease the PDP and the NC,” Shah said, adding that, “no one can dilute this Act, which is required to tackle terrorism in J&K”.

Launching a blistering attack on the Congress for ‘ganging up’ of the NC and the PDP to demoralise forces engaged in fighting terrorism, Shah recalled that the BJP had withdrawn the support of the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition on this issue. “When we faced pressure to dilute AFSPA, the BJP, in no time, had sacrificed its government to protect this Act,” he recalled.

Realising that ex-servicemen are the deciding factor in the two Lok Sabha seats of Jammu province, Shah made it a point to take on the Congress on the AFSPA issue to give an impression that the party (Congress) was all out to demoralise the forces deployed in the terrorism-plagued areas of J&K. “Since 1990 to 2014, there was no fear among terrorists in J&K, it was only after the formation of the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre that a freehand was given to the forces to deal with terrorism,” he said, adding that the BJP-led government had conducted surgical and air strikes after the Uri and Pulwama incidents.

Shah also seized the opportunity to exploit the recent controversial statements given by some NC and PDP leaders to corner arch-rival Congress, which was in direct fight with the BJP in the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Jammu province. “Congress president Rahul Gandhi has to clear his position on the pro-Pakistan slogans raised by Baramulla NC candidate.”

Meanwhile, asserting that no one can turn back the clock, Shah on Wednesday warned former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah against restoring the position of Prime Minister in J&K.

On Monday, Omar had said that his party will strive hard for restoring the autonomy of J&K that could include having the positions of “Sadr-e-Riyasat” and “Wazir-e-Azam”.

“As long as the BJP is there, Omar cannot accomplish his nefarious designs,” he said, adding that the government headed by Narendra Modi would intensify the campaign against terrorism in J&K.

Also, while starting the poll campaign for BJP candidate Jugal Kishore at Sunderbani in Rajouri district, Shah lambasted the NC and Congress for advocating a separate Prime Minister for J&K and diluting AFSPA. Shah said, “Whether the BJP is in power or not, but it will not allow any such steps in future.”

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