Wednesday, July 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet rejects J&K autonomy resolution
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 4 — The Union Cabinet today “unanimously” rejected the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly resolution seeking to restore the pre-1953 constitutional position in the state as it felt that “acceptance of the resolution would set the clock back and reverse the natural process of harmonising the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with the integrity of the nation”.

Briefing newspersons about the specially convened meeting of the Cabinet, the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, said the meeting’s view was that “most of the recommendations contained in the report of the State Autonomy Committee seek to reverse the application of constitutional provisions to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which may not only adversely affect the interests of the people of the state but would tantamount to removal of some of the essential safeguards enshrined in our Constitution”.

Mr Advani said that the decision was guided principally by an apprehension that such a resolution could “set in motion certain trends that may not be conducive to the country’s unity”.

The Home Minister pointed out that the Cabinet was of the view that the issue of restoring the constitutional situation in Jammu and Kashmir to its pre-1953 position had been discussed in detail by the former Chief Minister, late Sheikh Abdullah, with the former Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1974-75.

It is noteworthy that the agreement signed after these negotiations had affirmed that “provisions of the Constitution of India already applied to the state of Jammu and Kashmir without adaptation or modification are unalterable”, the Home Minister said adding that the Cabinet, therefore, decided to reject the Assembly resolution.

“The government is of the firm conviction that national integration and devolution of powers to states must go together”, the Home Minister said adding that “suitable steps will be taken to ensure harmonious Centre-state relations in the light of the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission...”

Mr Advani said that the government was commited to the promotion of federal harmony by ensuring a partnership of the Centre and states as laid down in the National Democratic Alliance’s agenda and reaffirmed that the Centre would continue in its endeavour to evolve a broad consensus on the implementation of steps for wide-ranging devolution of powers to the states that leads to efficiency in administration, acceleration in development and the fullest realisation of the creative potential of all sections of our people.

Urging the people and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to join hands in the endeavour to address the real problems of insurgency and cross-border terrorism on the one hand and of ensuring accelerated development on the other, Mr Advani said the Centre would continue to provide all possible assistance for attaining these objectives.

Earlier before the Cabinet meeting, the state Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, had a brief meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

While Mr Advani told newspersons that the Prime Minister briefed the Cabinet about his meeting with Dr Abdullah, details of the meetings could not be ascertained.

Agencies add: Home Minister L.K. Advani reiterated that no talks would be held with Pakistan unless it stopped aiding and abetting cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Home Minister however said the Centre was prepared to hold talks with anybody in the state within the framework of the constitution.

Replying to a question whether the government would go ahead with the intended talks with the Hurriyat, Mr Advani said so far there had been no official formal proposal for talks with them (the Hurriyat).

He said Parliament had adopted a resolution on Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and all parliamentary parties were committed to that.

Mr Farooq Abdullah termed as “unfortunate” and hasty the Centre’s decision rejecting the proposal for greater autonomy for the state but scotched speculations that his National Conference would retaliate by withdrawing from the ruling National Democratic Alliance.

“The decision of the Union Cabinet to reject the autonomy resolution passed by the state assembly is unfortunate but that does not mean end of the road for us,” Mr Abdullah said in his reaction on the development.

Asked whether his party would snap ties with the NDA, the Chief Minister told PTI that the question did not arise.

“Granting of autonomy and being a part of the ruling alliance at the Centre are two different issues and they should not be co-related,” he said.

The decision to reject the autonomy resolution was taken by the Union Cabinet and there was hardly anything for the state to do, he said.

“We will carry out a mass awareness programme and educate the people and political leaders about the resolution passed by the state assembly,” Mr Abdullah, who arrived today from a tour to South India, said.

Mr Abdullah had said yesterday at Bangalore that the autonomy issue would not die down even if Parliament rejected it.

Defending Mr Abdullah, Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said in Guwahati there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional if debates were held in the state assemblies and Parliament over the granting of autonomy and power to the states.

Meanwhile, in Chennai the AIADMK demanded dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and imposition of President’s rule in the state, following the passage of a “condemnable resolution” on autonomy.

In a statement AIADMK general secretary Jayalalitha said if the Centre did not act against the Farooq Abdullah government, the demand for “autonomy would spread like wild fire and lead to the country’s fragmentation.”

She accused the BJP-led government of adopting a “free-for-all” approach towards questions concerning the country’s integrity.

The Congress today deplored the gross inconsistency of conduct on the part of the government on the issue and said the Centre cannot escape responsibility.

Congress spokesperson Ajit Jogi said the decision has exposed the flip flop attitude of the Vajpayee government. A completely unsustainable and untenable resolution was adopted by an integral constituent of the NDA which continued to be a member of the A B Vajpayee government, he said, adding that the Prime Minister and Home Minister had stated that the resolution could be considered and discussed by Parliament.


Decision unfortunate: NC
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, July 4 — The ruling National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir is “shocked” at the decision of the Union Cabinet which rejected the autonomy resolution “without taking the party into confidence”. The resolution on autonomy was passed by the State legislature after a week-long discussion here last month.

However, the party leaders have resolved to continue the “endeavour to see that the people of the state achieve what they have said in the resolution”, a senior leader of the party told The Tribune here this afternoon.

“It is unfortunate that the Central Cabinet has summarily decided against holding meaningful talks on the autonomy resolution”, Mr Abdul Ahad Vakil, Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly told The Tribune. He was a member of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC) before his election as the Speaker of the Assembly early last year and was one of the nine members of the Autonomy Committee to have framed the report of the SAC.

The former Chairman of the Committee, Dr Karan Singh, had also resigned while the senior-most minister in the Farooq Abdullah government, Mr Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, was appointed as the new chairman of the SAC.

Mr Vakil said that “in spite of the adverse decision of the Central Cabinet on the autonomy resolution, its constitutional, moral, political and legal existence is intact”. He added that this was an article of faith with the people of the state. “It is the confidence among people that is more effective and powerful weapon to keep the country together”, Mr Vakil commented. He added that the resolution was an example to “build the confidence of the people of the state and India, which otherwise had suffered irreparable loss.”

Reacting to the decision of the Central Cabinet, the Speaker said that though it “should not affect” the NC’s relations with the Centre, but “they (Cabinet) decided without talking to us”. He added that things were not being “decided arbitrarily and in such a manner”. Things are decided across the table and “not on the basis of sentiments, especially on constitutional issues.” He added that there was still scope for the “endeavour” to work for the fulfillment of the promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and added that the Centre “has to convince us or we convince them”. He said that such sensitive issues were “not being implemented by force”.

In his comments on the resolution passed by the state assembly, Mr Vakil said that the autonomy resolution was an “honest attempt to put the constitutional and legal relationship with India on the right track” and “undo the distortions perpetuated on the autonomy of the state”.

The state unit of the CPM has also described the Union Cabinet’s decision as “unfortunate”. In his statement, Mr M.Y. Tarigami, MLA and general secretary, state unit of the CPM, said that the “options for debate on this issue should have been kept open”. He added that such a decision “may lead to further confrontation between the Union Government and the state” which will prove harmful for the unity of the country and the democratic urges of the people of the state.

The common man is keeping his fingers crossed on the outcome of the rejection of the resolution by the Central Government. The issue had raised high hopes over the “restoration of peace” in trouble-torn Kashmir, which has been witness to the armed struggle over the past one decade. This being the main plank of the National Conference election campaign in 1996, was a much talked-about issue in the valley. The observers here are watching the situation keenly as the decision of the National Conference is yet to come.

Agencies add: The Jammu and Kashmir Public Works Minister, Mr Ali Mohammad Sagar, on Tuesday termed the Union Cabinet’s decision as “unfortunate” and “unwise” and reflective of the RSS, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal’s opposition to it.

“It is not a wise decision,” he said, adding that it was an outcome of the RSS, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal’s opposition to the autonomy to the state.

Alleging that the Cabinet had not applied its mind to the 200-page autonomy report, he said, “let them do whatever they want, we will do what we think is proper.”

“We have not asked for anything new. We want restoration of autonomy which has been eroded since 1953 and within the Constitution of the country,” Mr Sagar said.

Accusing the Centre of not being sincere in the resolution of the Kashmir problem, he wondered what it would offer to the Hurriyat Conference which was demanding independence and implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir.

The vice-president of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ms Mehbooba Mufti, termed the autonomy resolution as a “drama” as both the Centre and state governments were not serious about it.

“I am not surprised by the Centre’s move,” she said, adding, “the people of the state know that the NDA government at the Centre headed by the BJP, which has opposed Article 370 from the beginning will not grant autonomy to the state.”


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