Friday, September 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No trifurcation, vows Sonia
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, September 19
Keeping her promise of making a public appearance in Valley, the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, today arrived in Srinagar to address a rally in the heavily guarded Sher-e-Kashmir stadium at Sonawar. Although Ms Gandhi was scheduled to address a rally on September 14, it was rescheduled due to the killing of Minister of State for Law Mushtaq Lone on September 11 and due to firing at the Congress rally in Surankote a day later.

Ms Gandhi became the first national leader to address the public in the valley. Amid tight security, she addressed a gathering of about 1,500 supporters for 20 minutes. Ms Gandhi denounced the BJP and its allies for raising the issue of the state’s trifurcation. She said the Indian Constitution provided room for accommodating the ambitions of all regions. If voted to power in the state, the Congress would solve the Kashmir problem through dialogue and all three regions of Jammu and Kashmir would be called to participate in talks. “Talks will be held unconditionally, exception one — that Jammu and Kashmir will not be divided at any cost.”

Ms Gandhi raised the issue of the Gujarat violence and said the Centre was being controlled by the RSS. “They are responsible for the Gujarat violence. Both the BJP and the NC are worried about securing their respective seats of power. How can we hand over the reins of the state again to a government that has failed to safeguard the basic rights of people in the valley?” she questioned.

Referring to the NC as a “corrupt and an indulgent government”, Ms Gandhi said the BJP and the NC may feign that they have no common goals in Kashmir, but in reality they are one. “Everybody knows the link between Delhi and Srinagar,” she said.

She said though the Congress had announced support to the BJP in its efforts to usher peace in the valley, the government did not make sincere efforts. Starting her speech in an obliging tone, “Main aapka shukriya ada deti hoon,” the Congress President congratulated the people for braving threats and upholding the democratic process. She focused on the crumbling socio-political fabric of the valley, which was once the “pride of India.”

Blaming the rise in militancy on the NC, Ms Gandhi said the NC had shifted the focus away from the basic problems of Kashmir. It was time to question the NC on three accounts: “Why have people’s basic rights of employment, health and hygiene not been secured? Why has militancy grown out of proportion? Why are people living under fear of death?

Reminding the people of her family’s affiliation to the valley, she said, “I can empathise with your suffering because Rajiv ji and Indira ji were also victims of attacks.”

Cautioning the electorate against NC’s promises, Ms Gandhi said, “It is time to heal wounds by writing the history of a prosperous Kashmir. This is the election of your future and of the state’s destiny. The state was prosperous under the Congress rule. Even today we promise we will ensure employment for youth, security for women and weaker sections and basic facilities for all.”

The Congress President added that the party was concerned about development of the state and if brought to power it would rehabilitate the families uprooted during militancy. It would ensure that the Kashmiri migrants returned with dignity and that the state marched towards development.

Present at the rally were the president of Jammu and Kashmir Congress Committee, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, president of the AICC, Ms Ambika Soni, senior Congress leader, Mr Saifuddin Soz, and senior president, Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Peerzada Mohd Syed.

Ms Gandhi will address a rally in Jammu tomorrow.


Cong supporters in masks

A masked woman supporter
A masked woman supporter of the Congress listens to party's President Sonia Gandhi in Srinagar on Thursday. —  Reuters photo

Although the Congress rally addressed by party President Sonia Gandhi was thinly attended today, security officers on duty felt that going by the sensitive security situation in the area, the gathering was fairly good. 

Despite reports of vehicles carrying Congress supporters from Baramula and Kupwara areas being blocked on the way by some elements, many villagers made it to the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium to listen to Ms Gandhi. Interestingly, there were many folk singers in the rally, which also had other supporters busy playing musical instruments and singing songs in the praise of the Congress. 

Although the spirit of supporters was high, the faces of many of them, especially women, were masked to conceal identity.Back

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |