Kavita Suri

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Koshur Music

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Jammu 'Disturbed' over Disturbed Areas Act

Its official now. With the extension of Disturbed Areas Act and Armed Forces Special Powers(J&K)Act 1990 to the entire Jammu province, the state government has ultimately made an admission about the security failures in Jammu region and also that the militancy is no longer restricted to Kashmir valley only. But not many people in this part of the state are happy with the extension of these "draconian Acts" to relatively much more peaceful region as it reminds them of the initial years of militancy when much powers were misused by the forces in Kashmir valley. This move of giving more teeth to the security forces in Jammu province has raised many questions in the winter capital which is also known as the City of Temples. Will Jammu go Kashmir way? Would the people here face the same alienation as the poor Kashmiri masses faced in valley? Would this step help in curbing the ever-spreading arc of militancy to the areas south of Peer Panjal? And what about the suppressed feelings of anger, frustration, fear and suspicion which one sees among Kashmiris after almost a decade of "empowering" the forces? Well, it may be too early to respond to all these questions but people of Jammu have reason to ponder over these questions. For they do believe that this step is an indication of state government's failure in stamping out militancy from Kashmir valley and also from preventing its further spreading to the areas of Jammu province. Though Kashmir had become almost synonymous with everything happening in the past 12 years of armed insurgency in the state, militancy however could not take roots so strongly in Jammu. For this province is completely different from Kashmir valley in terms of topography, demographic pattern and other related factors. The situation in Jammu is also not as sensitive as it was in valley where the militants enjoyed some popular support initially.  While Kashmir valley remained engulfed by insurgency, Jammu city and its immediate suburbs had by and large remained free from any such activity. Predominantly a Hindu area, Jammu has always risen against terrorism in the past. This is the reason that despite the under-currents of tension and terrorists threats which have sometimes loomed large over the peace-loving people of the region, militancy could rear its head with vengeance only in the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri followed by Doda. Now barring Ladakh, the entire state is a disturbed area. Though only 20-km belt on the Line of Control in Poonch and Rajouri districts was covered by these Acts, the entire state has come under its purview now. However with this, the long pending demand of the security forces operating in Jammu province has also been met who had always been brooding that their counterparts in Kashmir valley were given special powers while their hands were tied down. Armed with these special powers, they can now (mis)use it to any extent. Besides conducting searches without the permission of District Magistrate or any warrant, they can also make seizures, open fire , destroy any shelter from where armed attacks are made or likely to be made and can stop or pick up anybody simply on the basis of suspicion. Ask anybody in Kashmir valley about these dreaded Acts and the faces turn pale. Kashmiris have suffered too much due to these "draconian" Acts. The outcome of imposition of these powerful Acts in Kashmir valley is 3000 missing people over the last 11 years. Once picked by the forces for interrogation, they never returned home. And their near and dear ones are still hoping against hope for their return. Even recently they constituted Missing Persons Relatives Association in Kashmir. Thanks to these Acts. Mr Balraj Puri, prominent human rights activist  feels that this step is simply a failure of political and administrative machinery in the state. "This is simply a collapse of political and administrative affairs in the state, "he says adding that just by giving more powers to anybody, one can never compensate the lapses on these fronts. "Vaccum created over the years by various failures on the part of both Centre and State governments in the state can never be filled by giving more powers to the forces, "he adds. Puri who has all along been warning that "Jammu would be the last battlefield on all fronts", goes on to add that the extension of the Disturbed Areas Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act(J&K) 1990 is not going to solve the problems. The real test, he asserts, lies in maintaining the secular Indian traditions which one witnesses in abundance in Jammu where people from all religions live in harmony unlike Kashmir which is a Muslim dominated area. He also feels that the tough challenge before the government would be to maintain Jammu's secular traditions. Majority of Jammuites feel that these Acts won't make any difference unless measures are taken to bring round the alienated sections of the people. Today, more than the external challenges, Kashmiri masses are greatly alienated which is posing many problems for the state. Extension of Disturbed Areas Act and Armed Forces(J&K) Special Powers Act 1990 to the districts of Doda, Udhampur, Kathua and Jamma is being seen as a failure on the part of Farooq Abdullah government to control the situation."To escape both Centre's and people's wrath, he has taken this move," says Indu Jalali, a displaced Kashmiri Pandit manangement graduate.Forced to flee from Kashmir valley alongwith her parents in view of the security threat posed to their lives by pan-islamic fundamentalists in early 90's,Indu is among those who believe that the chief minister is going to use these Acts to the maximum in the forthcoming assembly elections. "Armed with these Acts, if he could not contain militancy in Kashmir valley despite the fact that both the Acts were promulgated in 1990 only, how can the head of Unified Command now think of crushing militancy in Jammu? She asks. Puri also supports this view adding that in such kind of atmosphere, even if elections are held, people would not matter and anything can be manipulated. And the voices which have been growing louder and  louder in support of their demand for separate statehood for Jammu, believe that this step is Dr Abdullah’s trump card in view of his failure to provide security to innocent civilians. They too believe that it can be misused by him in the forthcoming elections which the chief minister is planning to pre-pone. "Farooq is playing safe at this moment" says Panthers Party MLA Harsh Dev Singh adding that it is quite unfortunate that Jammu has been brought under the purview of these Acts. Law and order is not a problem here, he says wondering that just a few weeks ago, the Chief minister himself had said that the law and order situation was perfectly normal.  The JJSF, a powerful students organisation which supports separate statehood demand for Jammu also believes that it is one of his tactics to save his government which is under fire from opposition parties and also the Union minister of civil aviation Prof Chaman Lal Gupta. Congress and many other parties in the state have however once again raised the demand for the dismissal of the National Conference (NC) government and imposition of President's rule in the state.  Congress chief Mohammed Shafi Qureshi said the NC government was the root cause of the crisis in the state and it should be dismissed and President's rule imposed.  Political observers also feel that it is a clear admission of the fact that we have been defeated and are not able to meet the challenges posed by the enemy fully. 

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