Kashmir Official Defends Plans to Withdraw Impunity Laws

Posted October 27th, 2011 at 5:35 am (UTC-5)
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The chief of Indian-controlled Kashmir has defended plans to roll back controversial laws that allow security forces to act with near impunity in the region, saying the move is not an effort to undermine the army.

Kashmir's Chief Administrator Omar Abdullah said Wednesday the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is being revoked in some areas in consultation with the army, which he says plays a major role in fighting militants.

His comments follow allegations attributed to a politician suggesting members of the army may have been involved in a string of grenade attacks in the region following the Friday announcement that the laws would be revoked. The politician said his comments had been misrepresented and the army rejected the allegations.

Abdullah said Wednesday nobody is trying to demonize the army, saying it is a disciplined force.

The laws give Indian army and paramilitary forces sweeping power to detain people without warrants, use deadly force and destroy property.

Rights groups have criticized the laws, saying troops routinely abuse their powers.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act was enacted in August 1958 as an emergency measure to allow the deployment of the army to counter a separatist movement in the northeastern Naga Hills. But it has remained in force in several northeastern states since 1958, and in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both.

Muslim separatists have been fighting for the Himalayan region's independence from Hindu-majority India or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the insurgency.