India “to ease” sweeping army powers in Kashmir

Tens of thousands of Muslims have been killed since pro-independent moves grew against Indian rule in 1989.

Protesters hold torches and a banner with a photograph depicting Irom Sharmila who has been on a decade long hungers strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act during a protest rally in Srinagar, the summer capital of India-held Ka

Protesters hold torches and a banner with a photograph depicting Irom Sharmila who has been on a decade long hungers strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act during a protest rally in Srinagar, the summer capital of India-held Ka

Widely hated security laws that give Indian forces sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot in Muslim Kashmir are to be withdrawn in parts, India-backed Kashmir’s chief minister said on Friday.

The revocation of the laws, in place for more than two decades, could be a first step by New Delhi “to win hearts and minds” in the Muslim-majority region where anti-Indian sentiment still runs deep.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the portion of Kashmir it controls, with most people favoring independence from India.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) are controversial laws that give government troops sweeping powers to arrest suspects without charge and give troops substantial immunity from prosecution.

“With the gradual improvement in the security situation and return of peace, some laws (AFSPA, DAA) are being removed from some areas within next a few days,” Omar Abdullah told a police function in Srinagar, the state’s summer capital.

“The return of a peaceful situation has paved the way in this direction and these laws would be revoked from all parts of the state with the restoration of peace and tranquility.”

Kashmiris see India as an “occupier” and accuse the ruling of systematic violations, killing dozens of civilians in Himalayan region.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have been killed since pro-independent moves grew against Indian rule in 1989.

In 1948, the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a referendum for Kashmir to determine whether the Himalayan region should be part of India and Pakistan. But India has rejected to hold referendum in Kashmiri territory.

Kashmiri groups and parties have long demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops and scrapping of “anti-terrorism” laws, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir, where about 500,000 troops are stationed.

 

 

21 October 2011 Friday