Kashmir can''t be gifted to Pak.: Farooq
29 August 2001
Our Special Correspondent
BANGALORE: The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abdullah, said on Wednesday that Kashmir could not be handed over to Pakistan merely to win the friendship of that country . He was addressing a large gathering at the 75th birthday celebrations of the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde, at the Bangalore Palace Grounds here. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Chandra Shekhar, and the Chief Minister, Mr. S. M. Krishna, apart from Union ministers, former ministers, Members of Parliament, former Chief Ministers, and leading film personalities attended the programme. Dr. Abdullah said talks between the Prime Minister, Mr. A. B. Vajpayee, and the President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, were welcome. ''We want friendship, but not at the cost of Kashmir,'' he said and added: ''I make it clear that Kashmir will not go anywhere and will remain an integral part of India''. Calling for steps to resolve the differences between Hindus and Muslims, he said that if these were allowed to continue, the country would disintegrate over a period of time. A national leader: Dr. Abdullah expressed sentiments similar to those expressed earlier by the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chandra Shekhar, and said political leaders such as Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde should strive to strengthen the country. Mr. Hegde had the capacity to bring the various sections of the people together, he added. Mr. Chandra Shekhar, who inaugurated the birthday celebrations, called upon Mr. Hegde to make efforts to unify the factions of the Janata Dal and promote the Third Front. ''We have worked together, and I am aware of Mr. Hegde''s capacity.'' The former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader, Mr. Sharad Pawar, said Mr. Hegde had the strength to be a national leader. The economic trends made it imperative for leaders like Mr. Hegde to come to the forefront. Mr. Krishna said south India shot into the limelight when Mr. Hegde took over chief ministership in Karnataka in 1983. Whether it be more autonomy for the States, polarisation of political forces or the implementation of the panchayat raj system, Mr. Hegde''s campaign stood out. The issues that he brought to the fore remained relevant even today. ''Give more powers to States'': In his reply to the felicitations, Mr. Hegde said a second look at federalism enshrined in the Constitution was needed. The powers of the States should be commensurate with their status and their responsibilities and the Centre should be prevented from becoming all powerful. ''I argued in favour of such measures resulting in the then government constituting the Sarkaria Commission. The recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission are yet to be implemented.'' Mr. Hegde said there should be a debate on finding ways to prevent criminalisation of politics. Of late, no decent person could contest an election even at the panchayat level. Most of the seats in Parliament and the legislatures were occupied by criminals and anti-social elements. Others who spoke on the occasion were the Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr. Sharad Yadav, the Union Minister of State for Social Justice, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, the former Union Ministers, Mr. C. K. Jaffer Sharief and Mr. Ram Jethmalani, the senior journalists, Mr. Cho Ramaswamy and Mr. M. J. Akbar.