Tuesday, June 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Autonomy session begins
Tight security around Assembly
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, June 19 — The special session of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly which began amid tight security arrangements here today, is going to discuss the much publicised state autonomy report for the next four days. The report has come up for discussion after more than a year of its tabling in the legislative assembly during budget session early last year.

The security around the assembly and council halls was tight to foil any militant attempt to disrupt the proceedings.

Border Security Force and Jammu and Kashmir police personnel were patrolling the streets at Maisuma, Budshah Chowk, Gaw Kadal, Hari Singh High Street, Shaheed Gunj and Tankipora. The security personnel were also seen in boats in the Jhelum.

Due to security reasons, traffic on the main road was diverted through Hari Singh High Street and this led to snarl-ups.

People trekked from Jehangir Chowk to city bus stand as no vehicle was allowed to cross the Budshah Bridge. The security forces near the city bus stand didn’t even allow vehicles of newsmen with passes issued by the assembly secretariat to pass.

This was the first time in the past three years that restrictions were imposed on traffic around the assembly. Of late, militants have been targeting important buildings, including the heavily-guarded Civil Secretariat and the office of Director General of Police with rifle grenades.

While the ruling National Conference is a votary of the autonomy, the BJP is going to oppose the move. The BJP has been criticising the ruling National Conference on the autonomy issue, though the NC is an ally of the BJP-led government at the Centre. Out of six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference represents four seats of Srinagar, Baramula, Anantnag and Ladakh. The party’s member, Umar Abdullah, representing Srinagar, is the Minister of State for Industries and Commerce.

The Congress has not yet made its stand clear on the autonomy issue as put forth by the National Conference.

Yet another breakaway group of the Congress, the PDP headed by former Union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, seems to offer resistance to the move, with its two members in the 87-member House. Ms Mehbooba Mufti, a daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed resigned from the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leadership and the Congress membership in July last year. The PDP later fielded its candidates in the assembly byelections that were held along with the Lok Sabha elections in September. The PDP bagged two seats of Beijbehara and Langate. While Beijbehara seat had fallen vacant after the resignation of Ms Mehbooba Mufti, the Langate constituency had fallen vacant due to the killing by unidentified militants of a former MLA, Abdul Ahad Kar.

The PDP at its two-day meeting of the State executive committee recently criticised the NC’s autonomy issue at this point of time, saying it was a ploy to thwart Centre’s move for a dialogue with the separatists in Kashmir. “It is obvious that the National Conference which used the issue of greater autonomy as a ploy to come to power in 1996, is now planning to use the same to perpetuate its rule by trying to mislead and confuse the people of the state, sidetrack the proposed dialogue and blackmail the BJP-led government at the Centre of which National Conference is a part”, a resolution adopted at the meeting said.

The autonomy report was submitted to the assembly during April last year, when the Budget session was about to finish. The report recommends the restoration of the pre-1953 constitutional position to Jammu and Kashmir. It has already been adopted by the state Cabinet.


Ladakhis oppose move, seek UT status

LEH, June 19 (PTI) — Putting a major obstacle to the Jammu and Kashmir Government’s move for “greater autonomy” to the state, thousands of Ladakhis and several parties, including Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference, today launched a week-long protest and demanded union territory (UT) status for the region.

Protesters, mostly Buddhists, including women and children, clad in traditional “dongsa”, staged a 10-km “padyatra” as shutters at all shops and business establishment went down.

Vehicular traffic went off the roads as demonstrators, carrying flags, raised slogans against the autonomy package and the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism frequently punctuating with one liners like “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.

Gey Lobzang Nyantak, president of youth wing of the Ladakh Buddhists Association (LBA) under whose aegis the “black week” is being observed, threatened that “Ladakhis will be compelled to take AK-47” if the government continued with its “step motherly” treatment against the region.

LBA president Tsering Samphel, in his address at the local polo ground, cautioned New Delhi and Srinagar that if the present trend continued, Ladakhis would not hesitate to knock the doors of United Nations and seek “mass asylum” especially for the Buddhists “in any other country.”

To the embarrassment of the National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, the Leh district unit chief of the party Tseringe Norbu Lampa opposed the autonomy package and announced his support to the cause of UT status.

“We should forget party affiliation and join the movement. It is a genuine regional demand and all parties should favour it in a consensual manner,” he said.

Local Congress leader Mohammad Yakub Bijjol, said “Farooq Abdullah should understand that first of all we are Ladakhis.”

The legendry 84-year-old Kushuk Bakula, who first pioneered the movement against “rule from Srinagar” said, “Ladakhis cannot accept the autonomy package or restoration of pre-1953 status.

“It can come only on our dead bodies,” Bakula, hailed here to the status of Lal Denga and A. Phizo in North-East, said.

Reports of similar protests have come from block headquarters of Nyoma, Durbuk, Khaltsi and Padum.

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