Restoring autonomy only solution, says Farooq
20 June 2000
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, today strongly opposed the division of the State ''on communal lines'' saying it would lead to national disintegration. Pointing out that autonomy was the only solution to the State''s problems, he said it was not aimed at weakening the country but was proposed only to strengthen State''s relations with the Union. Speaking during the discussion on the report of the State Autonomy Committee in the Assembly, he said, ''Farooq Abdullah and the National Conference will never support any division of the State''. Enraged at the remarks of the BJP''s Mr. Bali Bhagat that the NC planned to divide the State into eight parts, the Chief Minister pointing towards the BJP and Congress(I) members said, ''you want to divide the State into four parts''. ''I am talking about converting the existing Line of Control into an International Border but you will make Chenab the International Border and you cannot stop India from disintegrating by doing so,'' he charged. ''For 50 years control of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has not been regained and no State Government has stopped the Centre from doing so,'' he said. ''During the Kargil war you (the Centre) could have liberated PoK and nobody would have stopped you,'' he told the BJP members. Reiterating that autonomy was the only solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, he said the NC would take every section of the population into confidence on the issue. On the charges of discrimination by his Government against the Jammu and Ladakh regions, he said during the seven years of President''s rule in the State Kashmiris were crushed and no one uttered a word. Earlier, the discussion on the resolution moved by the Law Minister, Mr. P. L. Handoo, during the budget session on April 8 was initiated by the Housing Minister, Mr. Mohiuddin Shah. Contrary to expectations there was little resistance barring a symbolic walkout by members of the BJP and the Congress(I) when the Speaker asked Mr. Shah to speak on the issue. During his speech, Mr. Shah dwelt on the historical background of the Kashmir problem, erosion of autonomy and non- fulfillment of promises made by the Centre. Seeking autonomy was not akin to seeking separation from India, he said adding that it was only to restore something snatched from the State''s people. The Food Minister, Mr. Ajay Sadhotra, said the NC under Dr. Farooq Abdullah enjoyed absolute majority in the House. ''The demand for restoration of autonomy is not new. It has been in our poll manifesto since long,'' he said. The Congress(I) Chief Whip, Mr. Ashok Sharma, wanted to know why the NC had ignored the issue for 21 years. Accusing the ruling party of having failed to deliver the goods in the State and attempting to divert the people''s attention, he said it was time to restore peace. The BJP''s Mr. Ashok Khajuria and Mr. Bali Bhagat opposed the resolution saying the ruling National Conference Government had no mandate to demand greater autonomy. Mr. Khajuria said the ruling party was indirectly supporting the plan of Pakistan''s Inter-Services Intelligence to convert the Ladakh and Jammu regions into Muslim-majority areas.