Three former PMs against dividing J&K
1 July 2000
New Delhi: Three former Prime Ministers today favoured devolution of power but strongly opposed any move to divide Jammu and Kashmir on the lines of religion, ethnicity or language. While Mr. I. K. Gujral suggested that the 1975 Indira Gandhi- Sheikh Abdullah accord be made the basis of efforts to find a solution, Mr. V. P. Singh opposed any unilateral move on Jammu and Kashmir and favoured a negotiated settlement that would be binding on all concerned parties, and Mr. S. Chandra Shekhar criticised the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for saying the Government would consider the issue of autonomy. Mr. Gujral and Mr. Singh were the main speakers at a panel discussion on ''Peaceful solution to Jammu and Kashmir problem,'' organised by the Mahashaya Bhagwan Dass Sarvodaya Trust here, while Mr. Chandra Shekhar delivered the inaugural address at a seminar on national security. Warning that the statements of Mr. A. B. Vajpayee and Mr. L. K. Advani on the Centre discussing the autonomy issue would encourage similar demands in other States, Mr. Chandra Shekhar said the two leaders should have clearly stated that such issues were not negotiable. Without naming the ruling National Democratic Alliance, he said partners in a coalition should speak in one voice on important issues. Words such as accountability, transparency and the right to information might sound impressive but could not be applied to matters on national security, he added. Making out a strong case for treating the present situation in the wake of autonomy resolution in Jammu and Kashmir as ''our internal affair'', Mr. Gujral emphasised that the people of Kashmir were as much part of Indian democracy as anyone else. Emphasising that Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was a guarantee of finality of accession of the State, Mr. Gujral criticised the parties who have been ''expediency oriented'' towards it. While favouring devolution of power to the State, he cautioned that it should be accompanied by safeguards for the people. ''Some institutions like the Supreme Court and the Election Commission are safeguards of the people. We have to see that nobody transgresses these institutions.'' Deriding self-proclaimed experts who carry solutions to any problem in their pockets, Mr. V. P. Singh favoured ''earnest, wide and broad-based dialogue'' to find a solution to the problem.