Retain special status for Kashmir: working group
3 February 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Jammu: A crucial meeting of a key working group on Jammu and Kashmir deliberating the question of centre-state relations Saturday gave concrete shape to a number of proposals including retaining the special status for the border state.The proposals were made in the light of suggestions for self-rule and autonomy put forth by the state's political parties including the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition National Conference (NC).The working group, headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, Sageer Ahmad, deliberated the key question of Jammu and Kashmir's relationship with New Delhi.This is one of the five groups that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had constituted at the end of the second roundtable conference on Kashmir in Srinagar in May last year. The four other groups were set up on confidence building measures, strengthening of relations across Line of Control (LoC), good governance and economy and development of the state.The proposals seek to preserve the existing special status of Jammu and Kashmir in the light of the instrument of accession that the last Dogra king of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, signed in October 1947, extending the Indian sovereignty over the state.'As far as accession is concerned, we all were unanimous that it is final. Questions about it cannot be raised, because it is a legal and constitutional provision,' Muzzaffar Hussain Baig of the PDP told the media after the meeting.Heated arguments were exchanged on what kind of relationship the state should have with the central government. While the Congress, PDP and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) argued that there was a need to have the relationship strengthened through more powers to the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jammu State Morcha were opposed to it, sources within the group said. State BJP chief Ashok Khajuria and Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz had an animated discussion on the issue of Article 370, which grants the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP leader said that, 'scrapping of this article alone can ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir.'