`Army being made scapegoat in J&K`

The Army is not responsible for the current turmoil in J&K, MoS for Defence Pallam Raju said.

Updated: Sep 21, 2010, 17:05 PM IST

New Delhi: Terming the Armed Forces
Special Powers Act as an "essential instrument", Minister of
State for Defence M M Pallam Raju Tuesday said the Army was
being "demonised" and made a "scapegoat" in Jammu and Kashmir
affairs which are mainly linked to the peoples` "aspirations".

Raju said the government was conscious that normalcy
needed to be restored in all areas of Jammu and Kashmir and
"from that point of view we trying to minimise the use of
armed forces".

He said the Army "is moving away from civilian areas
and all the government buildings and we are paying huge
compensation for agricultural land".

Talking about the situation in Kashmir, he said it is
"not normal" and pointed out that infiltration is still
continuing although the number of infiltrators has gone down.

"The will to create trouble and foment trouble is
still there and that is why the infiltration is still
continuing and till that happens I think the security blanket
(is needed)," he said in an interaction with reporters at the
Indian Women`s Press Corps here.

Raju said the bigger challenge in Kashmir is meeting
the aspirations of the people. The Army is being "demonised"
in Kashmir although it is not responsible for the situation
there. "Army becomes the scapegoat," he said.

"We should not look at it from the point of view of
the AFSPA or the Army," he said adding the government should
focus on bringing about greater opportunity. "The presence of
Army is helping that cause,"

"They have contained the situation in certain areas.
Their visibility is also less. The recent upsurge is a very
grave phenomenon".

Justifying the application of the AFSPA, the Minister
said it is an "essential instrument" for forces in strife-torn
areas and gives them a "security blanket".

He added "that (AFSPA) has been an essential
instrument for the armed forces to go about confidently...you
don`t want somebody thrusting human rights violations on our
soldiers.

"So you have to give some amount of security blanket
to these guys who are doing a hard job and you really don`t
know in conflict places where the threat is coming from and
how the terror element is going to strike".

The Minister, however, added it can be reviewed
periodically.

Questioned on the continuation of the AFSPA in Jammu
and Kashmir, he said, it was essential as "in order to have
the upper hand, you need sufficient security blanket for the
armed forces to move in and prevent what they perceive as a
threat".

Raju said, "From our armed forces point of view, a
situation may be peaceful but it takes very little time for an
area to become infested with terrorists. So you know trying to
deal with such an area you need this kind of a blanket.

He quickly added that, "this does not mean that they
(the forces) have an free hand to run and do whatever they
want. We have a very strict zero tolerance policy about issues
of (human rights) and we have been acting very stringently
against people who have violated that".

On providing security to the Commonwealth Games, he
said, "there would be sufficient deployment in order to
prevent any external threat".

"Any equipment that is needed to be brought in, I
think the government of India will do that," he added.

Identifying Maoist violence as a "grave threat", Raju
said, "We should not underestimate the problem. From the point
of view of security, we should be prepared," he added.

On Indo-US defence ties, he said, the relations
between the two countries in this field are progressing very
well. "We also hope they will be more generous in sharing
technology and help us in improving our preparations".

On the Chinese missile defence shield, he said, "we
need not be alarmed".

The Minister said that the government wants to open up
more streams for women in the armed forces.

"We are also encouraging the service chiefs to create
conditions for the permanent commission of women in armed
forces," he said.

Armed forces, he added, are "wary of putting women in
positions where they will be vulnerable and can get captured".

PTI