With the country set to elect the 17th Lok Sabha, the Congress on Tuesday released its election manifesto which among other things promised a review of the AFSPA and reduction in the presence of Army and personnel of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in Valley.
The Congress Manifesto on Kashmir also said a review of both the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act would be carried out, and “suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws”.
“Congress promises to review the deployment of armed forces, move more troops to the border to stop infiltration completely, reduce the presence of the Army and CAPFs in the Kashmir Valley, and entrust more responsibility to the J&K police for maintaining law and order,” the party said in the manifesto released by Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“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 manifesto, titled ‘Congress Will Deliver’, added.
Underlining its “two-pronged approach”, the party said that while it will ensure “uncompromising firmness on the border” it will work with “absolute fairness in dealing with the demands of the people and winning their hearts and minds”.
In its 9-point agenda for Jammu-Kashmir, the Congress said that “dialogue is the only way to understand the aspirations of the people” of the state and it will take the path that helps find an “honourable solution” to the issues of the people.
The Congress promised that it will avoid “muscular militarism and legalistic formulations” and look for “an innovative federal solution” for Kashmir through dialogue and talks with “all stakeholders in the State”.
“Congress promises the people of J&K talks without pre-conditions. We will appoint 3 interlocutors drawn from civil society to facilitate such talks,” the party assured in the manifesto.
The party also promised to renew UPA government initiatives such as Udaan, Himayat and Ummed for the state’s economic growth.
In the manifesto, the Congress also took note of the recent cases of violence and discrimination against students from Jammu-Kashmir as well as traders following the 14 February Pulwama terror attack.
“We are deeply concerned about the cases of discrimination and harassment of students, traders and others belonging to Jammu & Kashmir in the rest of India and we will ensure their safety and their right to study or do business,” the party assured.
Commenting on the current political situation in the state, the party said it will immediately hold assembly elections after coming to power in the state.
At the same time, the Congress said that Article 370 in the Constitution of India, which guarantees a distinct character to the state, will not be changed.