Poonch says no to azadi; accession final, seeks Council18 December 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: The Interlocutors today got a loud and clear message from border district of Poonch that there were no takers for the demand of 'azadi' (independence) and trifurcation of the State and the people were unanimously of the view that accession of Jammu and Kashmir with rest of India is final and irrevocable. They wanted parts of the State occupied by Pakistan to be liberated by India. The people, cutting across party affiliations, lamented discrimination meted out to the district on account of development by successive State Governments. The third Interlocutor, Prof Radha Kumar, who didn't reach here yesterday along with Chief Interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar and former Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari, arrived here this afternoon and will fly to Poonch or Rajouri tomorrow morning to join her two associates. In Jammu, she met a delegation of West Pakistan refugees led by Labha Ram Gandhi and listened to their demands. Majority of delegations, which met Mr Padgaonkar and Mr Ansari during the day today in Poonch town, strongly rejected the concept of either 'azadi' or trifurcation of the State, as mooted from some quarters in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh and called for keeping the State as a single unit. They were of the view that accession of the State with India is final and can't be challenged. 'Development is the only issue here. The Poonch district especially has been badly neglected and ignored by the successive State Governments. It is high time that the Interlocutors propose a Hill Council for Rajouri and Poonch on the pattern of Leh and Kargil for balanced development of the State', most of the deputations belonging to political parties, social, religious and other organizations said in their inter-action with the Interlocutors. Some of the delegations went to the extent of demanding that the Centre should mark district wise funds for the State so that every district gets its due share. In a brief informal chat with the reporters after meeting over two dozen delegations in the border district, Mr Padgaonkar said the views here (in Poonch) were totally different from Kashmir. 'The people here clamored for development. They feel their district has been neglected. They want us to project their demand both before the Central ad well as the State Governments. We will do this. We will project their cause. In fact, we are here to listen to the people, their demands, grievances, problems etc and take up them with the concerned quarters', he said. Asserting that the exercise being conducted by the Interlocutors for political settlement of the problem was not 'Kashmir centric', Mr Padgaonkar said they would take the views of all three regions on board while making recommendations and suggestions to the Union Home Ministry. 'We will take people of all three region on board. Our visit to remote districts is aimed on that direction. We have visited Leh, Kargil, Baramulla and Kupwara besides capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar. We are visiting another border district of Rajouri tomorrow and remote districts of Kashmir in next few days', the Chief Interlocutor said, adding they want to listen to all regions, districts and communities before reaching a conclusion. He said the view in Poonch was that the people want to live with India and some of them were even in favour of liberation of the parts of this State held by Pakistan. However, he added, development is main agenda of the people of Poonch. He added that some of the delegations also stressed for a Hill Council for Rajouri and Poonch districts. A number of people pointed out that refugees of 1965 and 1971 wars have been given nothing though refugees of Kashmir, settled in Jammu, have been extended a lot of facilities including jobs. The refugees, who met the Interlocutors, demanded that they should be given the facilities at par with Kashmiri migrants. Significantly, several delegations also raised the demand for grant of a separate Hill Council to Poonch and Rajouri districts at par with Leh and Kargil to meet their aspirations and ensure development of the neglected border districts. The Interlocutors will have night halt in Poonch and will leave for border district of Rajouri tomorrow. They will spent the night in Rajouri tomorrow and return to Jammu on December 20. They will leave for Srinagar on December 21 and will be back to New Delhi on December 23. They will submit their report to the Union Home Ministry for finalizing 'broad contours' towards a political solution. A delegation of senior citizens and intellectuals comprising over a dozen civilians including Dr Bashir Ahmed, K K Kapoor, Barkat Singh Azad, Prof Masharraf Hussain Shah, Dr Subash Raina, Choudhary Shamim, Mohammad Abbad and Mahroof Khan among others said it was for the first time that a Central team has come to listen to the problems of the people of Poonch. Earlier, such delegations were confined to Jammu and Srinagar, they lamented. 'The people of Poonch neither demand azadi nor trifurcation and were of the view that accession of the State was final. Rajouri and Poonch districts have been neglected in development by all Governments and it is high time that adequate attention is paid to them', they said. They said the refugees of 1947, 1965 and 1971 have risen from 4 lakh to 12 lakh but still they were without rights and have been completely ignored by the Government. They called upon the Interlocutors to get the refugees treated at par with Kashmiri migrants. NC MLA from Poonch Aijaz Jan opposed the demands for trifurcation or bifurcation of the State and asserted that the previous Governments have done discrimination with Poonch. He pointed out that National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah has already made it clear that accession of the State with India is final and irrevocable. BJP leaders including Satish Sasan, Sunil Gupta, and Arun Kandhari met the Interlocutors and condemned Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's remarks on accession of the State. They opposed the demand of 'azadi' and called for equal distribution of funds among Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Senior Congress leader and MLA Surankote Choudhary Aslam joined by party leaders-Taj Mir, Ashiq Hussain and Janak Singh too were of the view that accession of J&K with India was complete and rejected the demand for trifurcation. They raised the issue for early completion of Mughal road and wanted that adequate funds be allotted to Poonch for development. A Bar delegation including Sanjay Raina, Anuj Kapoor, Iftiyar Bazmi, Mohammad Zamaan and Mohammad Abbas among others met the Interlocutors and voiced their concern over virtual non-implementation of Right to Information Act (RTI). They called for district wise allotment of funds to remove discrimination with Rajouri and Poonch districts and setting up of the Hill Council. A Pahari delegation comprising Lokesh Sharma, Ravinder Bittu, Kamaljit Singh, Tarlochan Singh and Shabir Ahmed lauded the Interlocutors for recommending Scheduled Tribe status to the Paharis. NPP delegation comprising party MLC Syed Rafiq Shah, Kuldeep Raj Soodan, Zorawar Singh Shahbaaz and Mahroof Khan alleged discrimination with Jammu region in general and Poonch in particular. They called for equal distribution of funds to the districts and said the majority of people in J&K want to live with India. Sources said over two dozen delegations of various other political parties, social religious and other organizations also called on the Interlocutors and apprised them of their view point.