Monday, June 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Autonomy for J&K
NC panel report opposed

Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, June 18 — With a special session of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly set to discuss the autonomy report prepared by a committee set up by the National Conference-led government, at least four national parties have expressed their opposition to the report.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have resolved to oppose the report in the Assembly while the Communist Party of India is of the opinion that such an important issue should not have been brought before the state assembly before discussing the same at an all-party meeting. The Nationalist Congress Party also has serious reservations about the report.

The BJP Vice-President, Mr J. P. Mathur, said: “The question of reverting to pre-1953 status does not arise at all. A unanimous resolution passed by Parliament said that all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, are an integral part of India. After the agreement of 1952, several articles of the Indian Constitution have been increasingly applied to the State. There is no question of going back. The BJP will oppose the report “Mr Mathur said. The BJP has 11 MLAs in the 87-strong Assembly.

Asked to comment on a statement of a RSS functionary supporting the trifurcation of the state, Mr Mathur said it was a statement of an individual in the context of utilisation of resources and development and removal of regional imbalances.

The Congress which has six MLAs says it is not against granting greater autonomy in principle but was against the current report which it felt divides the state on communal lines.

The AICC Treasurer Mr Ahmed Patel, who is in charge of the party affairs in the State said: “The autonomy committee was packed with National Conference members. We are not against autonomy but not as mentioned in the report.

The CPI General Secretary, Mr A.B.Bardhan felt the matter was too serious to be dealt in such manner. He said: “It is too serious a matter to be discussed in the Assembly straightway. We feel the ruling party should have called an all-party meeting before arriving at any decision.”

The NCP spokesman, Mr Devendra Nath Dwivedi said in his opinion the move to discuss the report reflected some kind of “one-upmanship” between the Centre and the state government. He said the move could be linked to the initiative of the Union Government to release Hurriyat leaders.

“I think Dr Abdullah felt neglected after the initiative of the Centre to release Hurriyat leaders and wants to project that the National Conference represents the cause of Kashmir. I feel the move to discuss the autonomy report at this juncture is in response to the Centre’s initiative”.

The NCP leader said the 1975 agreement between Mr Sheikh Abdullah and Mrs Indira Gandhi should be the basis for any solution.


NC issues whip on autonomy report
From M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, June 18 — Will the special session of the state Assembly beginning in Srinagar from tomorrow to discuss and adopt the state Autonomy Committee report widen the distance between Srinagar and Delhi forcing the National Conference, which has four MPs, to pull out of the NDA?

This question is being debated in political circles in the state and in Delhi following a secret whip the National Conference has issued to its legislators that they should vote in favour of the motion when it will be put to the vote. Since the party has a two-third majority in the Assembly, it will have no difficulty in getting the motion on acceptance of the report adopted.

In order to be on the safe side, the National Conference leadership has shown its inclination to accept Mr G.M. Shah and his supporters back in the ruling party. Mr Shah, who is brother-in-law of Dr Farooq Abdullah, had left the party in 1984 when he had staged a coup against his brother-in-law and dislodged the Farooq-led government through defections.

Reports said Begum Sheikh Abdullah played a key role in bringing the two closer. Dr Abdullah and Mr Shah were together recently for over 90 minutes where the two estranged leaders decided to adopt a “foregive and forget” policy.

According to these reports, Dr Abdullah, does not want to allow any chance to Mr Shah to repeat the 1984 drama and that too during the special session of the Assembly and hence a word has been conveyed to Mr Shah that the modalities of his reentry in the party would be decided after the session was over.

However, other reports said that Mr Shah would not take any hasty step for rejoining the National Conference. He is likely to rejoin the party after he gets a suitable post for him or his son in the organisation.

In the meantime, reports said the hawks in the ruling BJP had decided to adopt a tough posture in case the National Conference adopted the motion seeking restoration of greater autonomy. The Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, has already declared that there was no question of going back to the pre-1953 constitutional position. Even the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, is said to have conveyed his displeasure over the National Conference’s move to rake up the restoration of greater autonomy issue.

The Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, has directed party legislators in the state to oppose the motion because the Congress was against granting greater autonomy to the state though it favoured restoration of Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union. The Congress legislators have been divided over the issue.

The BJP, which is opposed to the demand for the restoration of greater autonomy, has started countering the move by demanding trifurcation of the state. Professor Gupta too issued a statement in Jammu yesterday saying that nobody could stop the trifurcation of the state because people of the Jammu region and the Ladakh province had been given a raw deal by the Kashmiri leaders.

He described the demand for return to the pre-1953 constitutional status as “ill-conceived” and said it was guided “purely by communal and regional considerations.” Informed sources said the union minister had held two long sessions with Mr Vajpayee in Delhi recently where he briefed the Prime Minister about the dangerous consequences of the greater antonomy move.

Panun Kashmir, a premier organisation of Kashmiri displaced people, while opposing the greater autonomy move has gone a step further by demanding quadrification of the state so that a separate homeland for Pandits and other nationalist forces could be carved within the valley.

Latest reports said some well-wishers of Dr Abdullah had suggested to the Chief Minister to refer the Autonomy Committee report either to a team of constitutional experts or to a select committee of the two Houses of the state legislature in order to buy time. Any hasty step, they have counselled, could precipitate a state-Centre rift which could be harmful to the interests of the state.

PTI adds: Meanwhile, security arrangements in Srinagar have been further beefed up to ensure a trouble-free special session of the state Assembly.

Additional forces had been deployed, especially in and around the legislature complex at Sher-gahri in Srinagar, to thwart any attempt by militants to disrupt the proceedings, official sources said here.


APHC ‘not serious’ about talks

NEW DELHI, June 18 (PTI) — As the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government were trying to “clear the hurdles” for proposed talks with the Hurriyat Conference, the latter was still indulging in anti-national and anti-people activities, official sources said here today.

The sources said intelligence agencies had intercepted a message from the Hurriyat office to “Kashmir Media Service”, a so-called media unit created by Pakistan’s ISI to launch a propaganda campaign.

The intercepted message, which is often used in the Pakistan Television (PTV) news bulletins, defames the country on the false pretext of human rights.

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has already expressed his apprehension about holding talks with the amalgam but says “If the centre is interested, I will not create hurdles.”

The sources said the indication of talks had come even from a high office like that of Home Minister L. K. Advani but the response from the organisation has not been even lukewarm.

Their (Hurriyat leaders) release from various jails, where they were detained under the Public Safety Act, was a goodwill gesture from the Centre which is yet to be reciprocated by them.

The sources said instead, these leaders attributed their release to continued international pressure on New Delhi which is a “blatant lie”.

Mr Abdullah says his government is keen on bringing peace in the state and if the Hurriyat Conference could control the gun, then they should come to the negotiating table.

“We are keen to bring peace back to the state and for that we have kept our doors open for everybody. The ball is in their court,” Mr Abdullah had said recently.

Airing his doubts over any fruitful talks with the separatist amalgam, Mr Abdullah said “the Hurriyat Conference or any other overground separatist organisation has no control over the gun. How can we expect a miracle out of such talks.”

Terming the Hurriyat Conference as a party full of leaders but without any people, he had asked them to shun “double standards” and reciprocate the goodwill gesture of the state and central governments by entering into a dialogue to usher peace in the valley.

Instead, according to sources, Hurriyat leaders had allegedly spread rumours that militants had threatened them against travelling to Delhi. However, after this every second leader has visited Delhi and attended functions.

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