Vajpayee invites Farooq for ''further dialogue''
11 July 2000
Srinagar: The autonomy issue was reopened today with the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, inviting the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, for ''further dialogue'', saying the rejection of autonomy was not ''outright''. Mr. Vajpayee, who arrived here to participate in the last rites of Begum Akbar Jehan, wife of late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who passed away here this morning, also visited the famous Hazratbal shrine for the first time. The meeting of the National Conference working committee, which was to be resumed this evening, has been postponed till July 15 in view of the demise of Begum Jehan, mother of Dr. Abdullah. Accompanied by the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani, and the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, Mr. Vajpayee told mediapersons outside the Hazratbal shrine that they prayed for the peace, prosperity and development of the State. ''Not an outright rejection'' ''I have invited Dr. Abdullah to Delhi for further dialogue (on autonomy),'' he said, adding that Union Cabinet had not rejected the autonomy resolution outright but ''it was not accepted''. So, there was scope for discussion. When asked what would be the basis for such a dialogue, he did not elaborate. Mr. Vajpayee also refused to cite the reasons for the rejection of the resolution. Dr. Abdullah confirmed that he had been invited for talks by the Prime Minister. ''I am otherwise going to Delhi to receive the B.C. Roy Award on July 14 and will come back to attend the fourth-day ceremony of my mother.'' He added that on July 15 he would again visit Delhi for the proposed talks but would first convene the National Conference working committee meeting to deliberate the autonomy issue. When asked what was the significance of Mr. Vajpayee''s unscheduled visit to Hazratbal, Dr. Abdullah said, ''It has a great religious and political history and this visit was also religious and political.'' Earlier, Mr. Vajpayee landed at the Srinagar airport and drove straight to Dr. Abdullah''s residence and laid a wreath on the body of Begum Akbar Jehan. Mr. Advani and Mr. Fernandes, besides the Governor, Mr. G.C. Saxena, who was in Delhi and flew with Mr. Vajpayee, also laid wreaths. The Prime Minister, after a brief halt at the Raj Bhavan, visited the banks of the Dal Lake where Begum Jehan was buried by the side of her late husband, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. She was buried with the full state honours and the Government announced a State holiday today. The Begum''s death has been widely mourned. Her sons Mr. Tariq Abdullah, Dr. Mustafa Kamal (a State Minister), daughter Prof. Suraya Mattoo, son-in-law and former Chief Minister, Mr. G.M. Shah, were also present.