Thursday, June 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Farooq favours national debate
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, June 21 — The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, today said that autonomy was a “matter of having better relations with the entire nation” for which thorough debates and discussions were necessary. He cautioned against the “designs of the enemy” across the border, without identifying anyone.

The Chief Minister was intervening in the discussions on autonomy in the state Legislative Assembly on the second day today, Pacifying the situation arising out of the heated exchange of arguments by opposition members of the BJP and Congress. He said autonomy was a way for further development of the state.

“I can pass this resolution even now because we have an absolute majority in the House. But Farooq Abdullah wants a discussion and debate not only here but in the rest of India”, the Chief Minister said while intervening on points raised by opposition members. “We are more Indians than you”, he told the Congress and BJP members who were raising slogans while objecting to the points raised by Mr T. Namgyal (NC) a minister representing the Nobra constituency of the Ladakh region.

Asserting that debate was necessary to arrive at a solution, the Chief Minister ridiculed the BJP members’ claim as they would talk to “those who want to take Kashmir to Pakistan”. In this connection he also referred to the recent statement of the APHC chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani that it was “ready for talks” with the government.

Earlier, the Finance Minister, Mr Abdul Rahim Rather, one of the five members of the ministerial committee on the State Autonomy Report, dismissed the propaganda against autonomy as motivated and irresponsible. He said Kashmiris were asking for the restoration of autonomy which would be consistent with the Instrument of Accession, Presidential Order of 1950 and Delhi Agreement of 1952. He lashed out at those who are saying that NC demand was to sabotage Centre’s proposed dialogue with the Hurriyat. He said the National Conference had been making this demand since 1977 and it had figured in every election manifesto thereafter, in 1994 when the Hurriyat was not even born, Dr Farooq Abdullah while addressing a meeting of NC working committee had informed the members that he had told the central leaders that the restoration of autonomy was the only solution. Mr Rather dismissed the propaganda against autonomy as motivated and irresponsible.

“We want the restoration of autonomy which is consistent with the Instrument of Accession and Delhi Agreement of 1952”, Mr Rather said. He added that his party stood by the commitments laid down by the party leaders and the Constitution.

The minister said it was in this context that the former Prime Minister, Mr Narasimha Rao, had in 1995 said that “sky is the limit” for autonomy. Not only that, the National Conference did not agree to fight the 1996 Lok Sabha election without Centre’s assurance on autonomy and it was “ony after clear commitment of the Centre that we fought assembly elections in 1996” and romped home with a two thirds majority, specifically on the issue of the restoration of autonomy. The party got 15 seats in Jammu and three out of four in the Ladakh region, apart from 44 out of 46 in Kashmir, which indicated a clear mandate for autonomy for all three regions, he claimed.

In his 80-minute speech in the House, the Finance Minister, while referring to the reaction from various quarters that the autonomy to the state was bound to open a pandora’s box for similar claims from other states, said that both on facts and law, the State of Jammu and Kashmir “has no parallel in the Union of India”. Quoting exclusively from various documents, the minister said no other state in the country had settled the terms and conditions for its joining the Union through negotiation. 

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