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Difficult to Move Forward on Amending AFSPA: PC
The Army has taken a strong stand against any dilution or amendment to the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, making it difficult for the government to move forward on this proposal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said today.

Chidambaram, who was the Home Minister till a few months ago, said any question about opposition to amend the Act to make it "more humanitarian" should be posed to the Army.

"The armed forces, and especially the Chief of Army Staff, the present one and the previous one, have taken a very strong position that AFSPA should not be amended," he said while delivering the K Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture here.

There was a proposal to amend the AFSPA as also to lift it from certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir but the Defence Ministry is strongly opposed to it.

"Now, how does the government move forward in the face of such widely divergent views on the sensitive subject"? Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah are in favour of dilution of AFSPA.

"My view on AFSPA is known, the view of the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on AFSPA is known. We have Jeevan Reddy Committee report but yet if the Army takes a very strong stand against any dilution or any amendment to AFSPA, it is difficult for a civil government to move forward," Chidambaram said.

"I think you should ask the question to the armed forces and ask why are they so opposed to even some amendment to AFSPA which will make AFSPA more humanitarian," he said.

On the issue of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Chidambaram said the Centre was in favour of it while state governments were opposed to it.

"Central government is championing NCTC, state governments are opposing NCTC. Very seasoned critics will jump to criticism if their is an opportunity to criticise the central government. They are completely silent in criticising the state governments. Why is that?" he said.

Chidambaram wondered why there were no seminars or conferences in states like Tamil Nadu or Odisha or Gujarat to speak against the respective Chief Ministers for opposing NCTC.

On VHP leader Praveen Togadia's alleged hate speech, he said "I have no comments on the person you have mentioned. These are persons who are determined to create disharmony in society. The law must take its course".

"I don't know what the person you referred to (has) said, whether he said it, whether it is an offence. I can't say it, I can't judge sitting here. The law must take its course if there is a violation," Chidmabaram said.
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Digression

23/D-137
Feb 16, 2013
09:04 PM

 For the record. There was a panel discussion on AFSPA on NDTV's "The Big Fight".

Never thought I'd ever agree with Mani Shankar Aiyar on anything, but his opening remark was "We should not be discussing withdrawal of AFSPA, we should be discussing withdrawal of the Army and there will then be no requirement of AFSPA". He also said that the Army is being overused for Internal Security duties.

Another point made by the moderator, Vikram Chandra, was that AFSPA affords no protection whatsoever to soldiers accused of sexual assault or rape. No one contested this and a general on the panel gave an example of a soldier under his command who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in a trial which finished in 3 months.

A lady from Manipur made an impassioned plea arguing that there had been peace in the erstwhile "disturbed" areas for 30 years. She stated that AFSPA had been passed "in the well of the house" and it should be removed "in the well of the house". (Hope PC was watching). She also stated that we are one country and we should have one law. (Art 370 anyone?)

The weak link amongst the panelists was Tarun Vijay of the BJP.To be fair to him, though he was largely irrelevant, it was Aiyar who introduced a political element by making some unnecessary comment about the BJP into what was, strangely, till then, a totally apolitical debate.

Bonita, Chennai
22/D-52
Feb 12, 2013
12:02 PM

Bonita,

When I said, "Armed forces must always be subservient to the civilian government," in response to the headline: "Difficult to Move Forward on Amending AFSPA: PC" (# 2), was that an endorsement of PC?

When I said "Thanks for your response. We can agree to disagree" (# 14), I was hoping to avert unpleasantness, but I had a nagging suspicion that it would not work. Well, it didn't! In any case, if I feel that I have said all that I wanted to say, I opt out of a dialogue. You can of course continue to make your points, but it is no longer a dialogue. Peace!

Anwaar, Dallas
21/D-44
Feb 12, 2013
10:43 AM

 Anwaar,

If you are so inclined, you may like to read the following article by Sanjoy Hazarika, a member of the Jeevan Reddy Committee which recommended the abolition of AFSPA. An abomination called AFSPA. The blurb reads

Mr. Chidambaram has sought to blame the Army for the failure to repeal the draconian Act but the government is equally guilty as it has abdicated responsibility in the matter

Hazarika raises the same questions about Chidambaram's speech which you have assiduously avoided and called subsidiary points.

Bonita, Chennai
20/D-26
Feb 12, 2013
08:41 AM

 Anwaar,

After you lose an argument, you still keep coming back with some subsidiary points in order

Facts, ever heard of them? Let's examine them.

#2 - Armed forces must always be subservient to the civilian government.

I have not disputed this. In fact I have asked you (#15) whether you agree with PC's various statements that his hands are tied because of the intransigence of the army and the MOD and that the army has the last word on legislation. Instead of answering, you come up with your statement about losing etc.

In post #5 I wrote

We live in a democracy in which the army is subject to civilian authority. If Chidambaram and his fellow MPs in the ruling coalition believe that AFSPA is wrong and unjustified, then what stops them from repealing the Act?

Instead of addressing this (which incidentally also refutes your #2) you have dodged the issue and quoted an article by Seema Mustafa which says 

it has proposed that soldiers and officers guilty of rape and sexual assault be tried under the law of the land and not under the protectionist clauses of AFSPA

Now, it is you not I who have introduced the element of rape and sexual assault in the context of AFSPA. We have agreed to disagree on Ms Mustafa's use of the word guilty. However, in post #8 you accused me

Your position was that soldiers accused of rape, unlike civilians accused of rape, should continue to have AFSPA protection.

Though I have not read the Justice Verma Committee report I did google AFSPA to find out what protection it afforded to soldiers accused (guilty if you wish) of rape and sexual assault. Most surprisingly, I could find none. I have asked you several times (#9, 13, 15) to educate me by showing me the relvant provisions of AFSPA but you have evaded this by quoting someone's statement.

Finally, in #15 I asked you 4 questions which are germane to this discussion. I am repeating them below :

1. If you did read the AFSPA, did you find anything which bears out yours and the eminent jurists' contention that it provides the Army a licence to rape?

2. The Hon'ble Finance Minister has said that the army has the final say on legislation. Do you agree with him?

3. If so, when did the Government of India abrogate its right and duty to exercise civilian control over the army?

4. If not, what does that say about the character and competence of someone like Chidambaram? (I forgot to mention that his statement that "I want to repeal it, but the Defence Ministry is opposed" violates the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet).

Instead of attempting to rebut any of them, you come out with this statement, which like many others you make is your opinion, but unfortunately contradictory to the facts.

After you lose an argument, you still keep coming back with some subsidiary points in order to keep your interminable escalation going!

If you wish to leave please do so. If you wish to stay, try answering the questions, NONE of which are subsidiary to the article or the discussion.

Bonita, Chennai
19/D-9
Feb 12, 2013
01:33 AM

Bonita,

>> What you mean is: "I don't care what the facts are. I have said what I have to say and do not wish to discuss this anymore".

After you lose an argument, you still keep coming back with some subsidiary points in order to keep your interminable escalation going! Why should I want to indulge such a tendency?

Anwaar, Dallas
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