Crucial J&K session on autonomy begins today
18 June 2000
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: THE JAMMU and Kashmir legislature tomorrow begins a special session to discuss the report of the committee on autonomy. The report was tabled in the House last year. The ruling National Conference believes greater autonomy is the only solution to the problem of militancy in the state. At a meeting of the NC’s legislature party today, the demand for a return to the pre-1953 position was reiterated. The NC’s autonomy plank hinges on accepting Indian sovereignty over defence, external affairs and communications. Significantly, the BJP and Congress are against greater autonomy, for reasons vastly dissimilar to the Hurriyat’s. The common viewpoint of the two national parties is that the clock cannot be set back. They feel that a situation wherein Jammu and Kashmir gets back its greater autonomous status of 1952 will weaken the country''s bonds with the state. Some call the state autonomy report a document of secession, others simply a ploy by National Conference to “hoodwink” the people. Given its two-thirds majority in the legislative assembly, the NC could be expected to carry the day. But given the hostility of the militants represented by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the political voice of secessionists, such an easy option for the ruling party would not be without its grave pitfalls. The Hurriyat is getting shriller by the day in its opposition to the cause of greater autonomy. The militant groups are determined to stall anything that reinforces India’s sovereignty in Kashmir. Legal and constitutional experts say that greater autonomy to Kashmir would require constitutional amendments that may not be possible immediately. It would require the convening of another session, or the prolonging of the session that opens tomorrow. Also, the Ladakhis are against the autonomy package, or what they describe as “Srinagar rule”. They are to observe a “black week” from tomorrow. The militants, observers here say, would be seeking to flex their muscles diabolically in an effort to overshadow the debate on restoration of greater autonomy. Whatever be the outcome of the session’s debate, the fact is that it has stirred hectic political, media, security, and militant activity in Kashmir. Security forces are on maximum alert and the common man is caught between hope and apprehension.