Thursday, July 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centre seeks fresh proposals
Farooq meets Mulayam on autonomy
Tribune News Service
and PTI

NEW DELHI, July 19 (PTI) — The Centre has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Government to submit fresh proposals on the autonomy issue even as Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah today said that the Vajpayee government should soon set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to assess the quantum of autonomy for the state.

“Abdullah has been asked to come up with fresh proposals that this is how we would like (that this is how we would like re-arrangement of powers between the Centre and state,” Home Minister L.K. Advani told Star News.

However, Dr Abdullah said the Centre should announce formation of a GoM as soon as such a forum alone could help assess the quantum of autonomy needed for his state.

To muster consensus on the autonomy issue outside the NDA Government, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah today met the Samajwadi Party (SP) President, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, here.

Although leaders of the National Conference (NC) and the SP did not say what transpired between them during the breakfast meeting, party sources said Mr Yadav though favoured greater devolution of powers to states opposed “outrightly” implementation of the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in its present form.

Dr Abdullah, who was accompanied by the members of Group of Ministers of the state constituted by him to discuss the issue further, tried to impress upon Mr Yadav the need for a consensus on the issue and an “open and thorough” discussion on the resolution.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister also told Mr Yadav that the autonomy resolution was not aimed at weakening the country but to strengthen the relationship between the state and the Centre.

The Samajwadi Party General Secretary, Mr Amar Singh, also attended the meeting, which lasted for 45 minutes.

The meeting between the two leaders assumes significance as Mr Yadav had strongly criticised the autonomy resolution on June 26 saying that its implementation will lead to division of the country with similar demands coming from other parts of the country.

Today’s meeting was part of Dr Abdullah’s effort to evolve a consensus on the issue.

The state Chief Minister yesterday called on the Congress President Mrs Sonia Gandhi on the issue and also held one-to-one meeting with Union Home Minister L. K. Advani at his residence.

State Urban Development Minister G.M. Shah, Law Minister P.L. Handoo, Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, Education Minister Mohammed Shafi and former Industries Minister Bodh Raj Bali were present during the meeting with Mr Yadav.

Meanwhile, Dr Abdullah met Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar at his residence and briefed him on the issue.

He is also scheduled to meet CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

Meanwhile, terming the autonomy report as fraud on the people of state, the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party has demanded trifurcation of state with statehood to both Jammu and Kashmir regions and UT status to Ladakh.

Raising this demand while talking to reporters here, party’s president Prof Bhim Singh said that coordination committee of Jammu leaders would meet on July 22 in Jammu to finalise the charter for statehood and the future line of action. He said that BJP and NC leaders had been kept out of the committee meeting. This is the first time that the JKNPP has raised the demand for statehood to Jammu and threatened an agitation on the issue.

Alleging that people of Jammu province had been discriminated against in the past five decades by the ‘Kashmiri rulers’, Mr Singh said that “bogey of autonomy raised by the Farooq Abdullah government and surrender of BJP rulers at the Centre had convinced four million citizens of Jammu region of the need of launching a struggle for their rights. “We cannot continue to face discrimination,” he asserted.

He said that while grant of statehood would help redress the grievances of the people of Jammu region, the Kashmiris would also get an opportunity to share the fruits of democracy which they have been denied for five decades in the name of “autonomy and azadi”.

Mr Singh said that the Jammu region, though both bigger in size and larger in population than Kashmir, had received only 17 per cent of the development funds in the past 50 years.

He accused the BJP of double-standards on autonomy issue. “What was the need to talk to Farooq again when the autonomy resolution had been rejected by the Cabinet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thakur Randhir Singh, former Minister and president of the Jammu and Kashmir Nationalist Party, today ridiculed the National Conference demand for autonomy, describing the resolution as “anti-national.”

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