Wednesday, June 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Stormy start to debate
Autonomy won’t hit national unity: Farooq
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, June 20 — The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, today said that the grant of autonomy was only to give equitable share to all three regions of the state and no step would be taken to disintegrate the country.

He was intervening in the discussion on the first day of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC) report in the special session of the assembly today. He hit out at the central rule in Jammu and Kashmir for six years after his government was dismissed in 1990, with the eruption of militancy. He said the people of Kashmir had suffered a lot during the six years of Central rule. He held that the situation would have further deteriorated had his party not returned to power in 1996.

The Chief Minister expressed serious concern over the remarks made by a BJP member during discussion on the autonomy report. He said he favoured the changing of the LoC into international border and while lashing out at BJP member’s claim, said the party would “make Chenab the international border” thereby seceding Ladakh and Kashmir totally. He said those criticising the suggestions had not been able to liberate the Pak-occupied Kashmir or northern parts in the past 53 years. “Farooq Abdullah government will not divide the state but those talking of four divisions may end up dividing the state alongside the Chenab thus parting away parts with Kargil and Ladakh districts”, he warned. 

Recalling the former Prime Minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao’s initiative in 1990, he said the Centre even at that time knew well who were the right people to talk. They did talk to the National Conference because it represented the people of the state. They did not talk to any other party or for that matter Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who was dreaming to become the Chief Minister.

Earlier, the Chairman of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC), Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah gave the historical background of the demand for autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. He said that autonomy sought to have more powerful and stronger relations with the Union of India. Referring to the separate Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah said it was an attempt to restore the disfigured Constitution that would further strengthen the state’s relationship with the Centre.

The motion on the autonomy was moved by the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr P.L. Handoo, on April 8, 2000, along with amendments moved by NC members, Mr Sadi Ali, Mohammad Shafi Bhat and Mr G.M. Bawan. Earlier, the report was placed before the House on April 13, 1999. The Cabinet has already endorsed the recommendations contained in the report of the State Autonomy Committee, which decided that a further discussion on the report be held with the holding of a special session of the assembly. The ministerial committee comprised Mr Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, P.L. Handoo, Mohammad Shafi, A.R. Rather and S.S. Salathia. 

After discussing the report, the Cabinet had also proposed a resolution to endorse the earlier decision to constitute a ministerial committee which would initiate a dialogue with the Government of India on the recommendations of the report. It was also decided that the ministerial committee would visit Delhi and other state capitals to have discussion on the ministerial levels. It was further decided that an all-party meeting would be convened in Srinagar in June 2000 to discuss recommendations of the report.


BJP, Cong members stage walkout
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, June 20 — The BJP and the Congress today staged a walkout from the Legislative Assembly on the first day of the four-day special session discussing state autonomy committee (SAC) report.

Opposing the ruling National Conference move on the autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, opposition members staged the walkout at the beginning of the proceedings of the House today. Two members of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abdul Rehman and Mohammad Sultan Panditpuri also opposed the move, but did not walkout. Today’s proceedings of the House started with the historical background of the state autonomy. The discussion continued for over three hours when the Speaker adjourned the House till tomorrow.

Intervening during the discussions the Speaker, Mr Abdul Ahad Vakil, endorsed the views of some of the opposition members that all parties be involved in the state autonomy. He said the proceedings of the House were smooth and constructive suggestions were made by both sides, the Opposition and the Treasury Benches. “It is a good beginning and the matters can be sorted out through debate”, Mr Abdul Ahad Vakil ruled. At least 10 members, five from the ruling National Conference, including the Chief Minister, two BJP members, two BSP members and a Congress MLA spoke on the subject.

Giving the historical background of the autonomy, the seniormost minister, Mr Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah said: “What we claim is nothing new”, adding that the NC had fought against the Maharaja’s rule. He said amendments were the same as that at the time of Maharaja. He said there was no change since 1947. “We do not want to hurt the highest offices of the country, but our aim is to further strengthen it”, Mr Shah said. He added that “there have been mistakes.... history has given us this chance to rectify the wrongs”. He also referred to various important events of 1950, 1952 and 1954 adding “We could have gone to Pakistan but we did not do so”. He clarified: “I am not a Pakistani. Nobody in the NC is a Pakistani”. The minister, who had been the chairman of the State Autonomy Committee held that the party did not want confrontation.... we want it amicably done”.

The BSP member, Mr Som Nath, criticising the move claimed that while the National Conference had misled the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP had misled the whole country on the whole on the autonomy issue . He alleged that the NC and the BJP, who shared power at the Centre were not sincere in their approach. On the other hand, Bhagat Ram Chand of the same party, vehemently supported the autonomy issue and held that the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Union Home Minister were serious on the issue.

The Congress member, Mr Ashok Sharma, criticised the ruling NC for distortions and political gimmickry, saying that his party was for devolution of power. He asserted that autonomy must be given to the people of the state not to the National Conference. He sought the involvement of representatives of all parties in the autonomy and not only the NC. He also lashed out at the policies of the state government.

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