House Divided On Autonomy For J&K26 August 2010
New Delhi: Raised tempers and emotional speeches marked a discussion on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the Lok Sabha on Thursday with the Opposition parties expressing concern at the happenings in the Valley and the government's handling of it, but there were clear divisions over granting of autonomy. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was strongly against grant of autonomy and “azadi,' the Left parties favoured a political and economic package including “broadening of the framework of autonomy within the sovereignty of the Indian Constitution.' However, it was Union Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah who stole the show by reiterating that Kashmiris – including from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir and the areas with China now – wanted to be with India. “Those demanding independence do not realise the consequences of their demand,” he said, while making a passionate appeal for winning over the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris. Autonomy, Dr. Abdullah said, was the need of the hour and would strengthen the Indian federal system. “Soon all States will demand autonomy and this will be a healthy way to strengthen the Centre.” Be blunt: Joshi Rejecting the demand for more autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, Murli Manohar Joshi (BJP) said the government should bluntly tell the people of Kashmir that demands for “independence or autonomy are not acceptable.” This evoked a strong protest from the NC's Sharif-ud Shariq, who asserted that his party would not relent until autonomy was granted. He accused the BJP of creating problems in Kashmir, leading to a clash with members of that party. Mr. Shariq was supported by NC colleague Mirza Mehboob Beg, who said his party was committed to autonomy. Intervening, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said Kashmir was a “sensitive and serious” matter and every member should be allowed to air his or her views. Dr. Joshi referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement that the government was ready to hold dialogue on political issues and wondered whether this meant a discussion on demands for “independence” or “autonomy.” Sense of alienation Initiating the debate, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the Centre's policies with regard to the State had “not succeeded.” There was a sense of alienation among the people of Kashmir who had “genuine grievances” which needed to be addressed through immediate “proactive” measures, he said.