Parties differ on free movement across LoC
19 February 2005
Our Staff Correspondent
New Delhi: An interaction between Kashmiri migrants and political leaders turned into a virtual debate on the proposed bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad with the latter sticking to the stand taken by their parties. While the National Conference was conspicuous by its absence at the interaction, Congress was represented by a Minister from the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson, V.K. Malhotra, said allowing the movement of people from across the Line of Control without passport would increase infiltration. The Jammu and Kashmir Minister and Congress leader, Taj Mohiuddin, was of the opinion that free movement would make people on both sides realise the realities and hence help in ending infiltration. 'Infiltration is there but crossing over difficult terrain is a deterrent,' Mr. Malhotra said, adding that the BJP was in favour of improving relations with Pakistan but did not favour movement without a valid passport as it would provide free access to 'all kinds of people.' Contrary to this, Mr. Mohiuddin said terrorism would not increase because those who had to come would cross over anyway. 'We have always said that the entire Kashmir is an integral part of India, so why do we need a passport? It is Pakistan itself that agreed to the sovereignty of Kashmir to India when it signed the Indus Water Treaty. Either Kashmir is disputed or that Treaty stands disputed,' Mr. Mohiuddin said. Within six months, the situation across the border will be clear to people on both the sides. Mr. Mohiuddin criticised the concept of bringing Kashmiri migrants back to the Valley to be settled in separate 'security zones' as mooted by the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. He said they should be brought back with 'honour and respect'. 'We don't want them to live like Jews. They are a part of Kashmiri society and culture and therefore it is the responsibility of every individual in the Valley to ensure their return and safety.' Thupstan Chhewang, Lok Sabha MP from Ladakh, felt that the respective governments did not give serious thought to the problems of migrants and they were discriminated against. 'Any solution worked out should be acceptable to the people of the three divisions in the State and importantly, Kashmiri Pandits should have a say,' Mr. Thupstan said. Inaugurating the interaction, M.K. Kaw, president of the All India Kashmiri Samaj, said the Kashmiri migrants needed political space to function.