Sunday, July 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No compromise on autonomy: NC

SRINAGAR, July 15 (UNI) — The National Conference today declared that the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature will not be compromised or left midway.

Announcing this at a news conference after the inconclusive working committee meeting here this afternoon, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.L. Handoo said his party was bound by the resolution adopted by the state legislative assembly and council.

“There will be no compromise on party principles and nothing below autonomy is acceptable to us,” he declared.

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah will be going to Delhi on Monday alone to hold dialogue with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on the issue. Mr Handoo said the only agenda of the meeting will be the autonomy resolution.

He said the working committee will meet again after the Chief Minister returns from Delhi.

Mr Handoo said the rank and file of the National Conference was ready for any struggle to achieve its goal of autonomy. He did not divulge what kind of struggle they would launch but added that it could be in “any form”.

Asked if the Centre was buying time on the issue, Mr Handoo said everything would be done “quickly and with speed” and there would be no question of allowing it to die down.

Was the offer from the prime minister meant to defuse the immediate crisis? The Law Minister said: “We will be for speedy implementation of our resolution on autonomy. We have been invited by the Centre, but there will be only one agenda: how to implement the resolution.

“Though I am hopeful that something good will emerge from the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister, one can draw a conclusion on the very first day of the meeting from the quality of discussion.”

To a question, he said if the resolution was rejected by the Centre, then “I, as minister of Parliamentary Affairs, will go to Assembly again with it (resolution) and seek advice.”

Mr Handoo said: “Our demand is totally different from other states because of our special status.”

Asked what “minimum and maximum” his party was willing to accept, he said: “There will be no give and take and no line below autonomy”.

What forced the party’s friends in the NDA to endorse the Union Cabinet decision on autonomy? Mr Handoo said: “compulsion”.

The minister was asked if the party planned to snap ties with the NDA since most BJP and other leaders had described Dr Farooq Abdullah as anti-national and a threat to the nation. He said “all these things will be discussed when the working committee meets next.”

About the criticism by BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu Mr Handoo said: “He does not know Kashmir history and we hardly bother about his statements.”

Asked how the Centre came up with the dialogue offer after the Union Cabinet outrightly rejected the resolution, he said: “They must have realised their mistake in rejecting it in the most unfortunate manner.”

Mr Handoo said there was definitely some pressure to reject the autonomy resolution as the Cabinet committee meeting slated for July 8 was advanced to July 4.

About today’s working committee meeting, Mr Handoo said only 13 members could speak and it was decided to meet again after the return of Dr Abdullah from Delhi.

In reply to a question, he said there difinitely was a change in the mood of the working committee members today following the offer by the Prime Minister.

Sources said some speakers were of the view that the National Conference should sever ties with the National Democratic Alliance following rejection of the autonomy resolution seeking to restrict the Centre to defence, external relations and communication.

However, others were in favour of continuing the alliance with the NDA so that the challenge of militancy could be effectively faced.

A few members were of the opinion that Union Minister of State for Industries and Commerce Omar Abdullah should resign from the Cabinet since the NDA has outrightly rejected the resolution without making any effort to hold talks with the state government.

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