Autonomy key to resolve Kashmir issue: Omar Farooq
16 August 2001
The News International
NEW DELHI: The only Kashmiri minister in India''s coalition government, Omar Farooq, said on Thursday that autonomy was crucial to bringing peace to the troubled region.''I have won elections on the issue of autonomy. I cannot go back on it ... We are not asking for independence or secession. We are only asking for something which is already enshrined in the Constitution,'' Farooq told a press conference here.He also insisted that the federal government should include his own National Conference party - a coalition member - in talks with Kashmiri political or guerrilla groups, like the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.''If you are talking to the Hurriyat, why not talk to us? Their views go way beyond the Constitution. We are only asking for something which is already there in the Constitution,'' he said.Last year, Kashmir''s state legislature passed a resolution calling for complete autonomy, except in the areas of finance, defence and communications.Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, who is also the junior minister''s father, was the main force behind the resolution.The demand was rejected outright by Prime Minister AtalBehari Vajpayee''s cabinet - dominated by the Hindu nationalist BJP party - which argued that it was the first step towards Kashmir secession from India.