Political uproar over Congress’ manifesto seems to be spiraling into a major controversy. Congress, on Tuesday had released its manifesto titled ‘We will deliver’ for the 2019 general election, which contained controversial remarks regarding review or dilution of The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act. Congress had enlisted the help of Lt. Gen. DS Hooda to draft the internal security documents, which he had submitted to Rahul Gandhi. Congress had claimed that remarks made in the manifesto on AFSPA were derived from the said report. However former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda has refuted claims that his report, which he had submitted to Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi, had any indication of diluting or removing Amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, .
“There is no mention of AFSPA as far as my report is concerned. Nor is there any reference to the number of troops who are required to be there in the (Kashmir) Valley because I think these are steps which will come after we have a broad strategy in place,” the Lieutenant General told media.
“I think the way AFSPA is today, it is not providing enough security to our soldiers,” says the General, adding, “there are major problems in it and we need to seriously review it. But as I said, I won’t use the word ‘dilution,’ I won’t use the word ‘removal’. But certainly a review of the act is required.”
Congress in its manifesto had said “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in J&K will be reviewed. Suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights.”
The Congress president Rahul Gandhi had constituted a team to provide for a vision document for the run up to the 2019 elections. The Congress party made it appear as though the suggestions were coming from Lieutenant General D S Hooda (retd), who had overseen the surgical strike of September 2016 on terror camps across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. However after comments from the army veteran, it is clear that the reality diverges from what congress claims it to be.
Congress has been facing sharp criticism for its stand on reviewing The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act, which has been the basis for protection of our security forces from radical aggression and maintaining law and order in the Kashmir valley. With many claiming Congress’ manifesto to be in hand in gloves with the separatist and insurgent forces active in Kashmir valley.
Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attacked the Congress, saying the move to amend AFSPA would demoralize the military. The Congress was trying to help “separatists, directly and indirectly”, she told reporters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also attacked Congress over their manifesto which certainly dilutes legal security to our Armed Forces in the radical infested Kashmir Valley. “The Congress in its manifesto, which is full of lies, has promised to remove the law that protects our forces in terror-affected areas. Removing this will help Pakistan,” he had said.
With just a few days left for the election, using a decorated army veteran to push political agenda is not only condemnable but also indicates towards desperation of Congress to consolidate votes. The use of such subversion tactics to mislead the nation is surely unprecedented. The Congress in its manifesto, to cater to specific vote banks has decided to include multiple ‘schemes’ which many experts claim are economically unfeasible and dangerous to internal and external security.