M A I N   N E W S

Centre to set up panel on J&K autonomy
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
The Centre today announced the setting up of a three-member committee to hold talks with political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on the issue of autonomy for which a resolution was passed by the state Assembly during the reign of the National Conference government.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced the setting up of the committee after a 45-minute- long meeting with National Conference President Omar Abdullah and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.

“The National Conference had raised the demand for greater autonomy with me and as well as with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when we visited the state separately,” Mr Patil told newspersons after the meeting.

“The logic is clear and simple that if the Centre can talk to those seeking independence and accession to Pakistan, then why leave the National Conference’s demand which is within the scope of the Constitution,” Mr Patil said, adding that he had spoken to the Prime Minister about the formation of the committee.

“It can either be a three or a four -member committee,” Mr Patil said without giving the name as to who would be heading the committee.

Home Ministry sources, however, said that Centre’s interlocutor on Kashmir N. N. Vohra could head the committee.

The Home Minister said though the committee would primarily hold talks with National Conference as this party had raised the demand for the same, it would also seek the opinion of other political parties as well.

The committee would submit its conclusion on the issue to the Home Ministry for further discussions, Mr Patil said.

Asked whether the pre-1953 status would be looked into by the proposed committee, Mr Patil said “these are finer points and I will not like to comment on it.”

Mr Omar Abdullah expressed happiness over the formation of the committee and said “it will help the Centre in understanding that autonomy will help change the situation in a big way in the state.”

It may be recalled that the National Conference, which was heading the previous government in Jammu and Kashmir, had passed a resolution seeking greater autonomy for the state, which was turned down by the then NDA government at the Centre.

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