PC asks Cong to prepare document on J&K issue3 February 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today called upon the Pradesh Congress to prepare a comprehensive document proposing a set of solution to address the problem of Jammu and Kashmir to help the Centre Government prepare a roadmap to resolve the long pending problem. His suggestion to the Congress leadership came after his separate meetings with two factions of the Congress for over two and a half hours at the State Guest house this evening. The groups headed by PCC (I) chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad preferred to meet separately even to the Union Home Minister after sloganeering by some Azad loyalists outside the meeting venue when some of them were initially prevented an entry inside. Later, Mr Chidambaram asked all party leaders to come inside. All Congress Ministers in the coalition Government, two MPs, all MLAs, MLCs, PCC (I) office bearers up to the districts heads and chiefs of frontal organizations met the Union Home Minister in two groups-one headed by Prof Soz and other by Azad loyalists including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and Udhampur MP Choudhary Lal Singh. A senior Minister in the Government and a veteran Congress leader told the Excelsior on the condition of anonymity after the meeting that the Union Home Minister didn't rule out granting 'some concessions' in the form of 'more powers' to the State as a part of solution to the Kashmir problem. However, PC categorically stated that any solution to the problem would be based on consensus, he added. The Union Home Minister had an hour long dinner meeting with Governor N N Vohra tonight at Raj Bhawan, where he would have a night halt. He will have a breakfast meeting with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tomorrow morning followed by a security review meeting after which he along with Mr Abdullah would fly to Kishtwar to review situation of five districts. The Home Minister would return to New Delhi tomorrow afternoon. Mr Chidambaram was reported to have been apprised by the Governor of his detailed assessment of the situation in the State on all fronts including security scenario, law and order, infiltration attempts on the border and political. Mr Vohra also apprised the Union Home Minister about assessment of the people's feelings in different parts of the State given to him by the Interlocutors during their monthly visits. Official sources said Mr Chidambaram wanted to get his own party's view point, which neither had any document nor a clear stand on solution to J&K problem with leaders of all three regions speaking in different tones. He was reported to have asked the party leaders to prepare a comprehensive document suggesting the measures the Centre could take to address the complex problem. He dropped enough hints that a unique problem like Kashmir would require a unique solution. His tomorrow's meeting would be aimed at taking a view on phased or partial withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and troop cut. Union Home Secretary G K Pillai has already stated that the Centre was considering 25 per cent troop cut in the State. While ruling National Conference had prepared a document proposing autonomy to the State, the opposition PDP has its detailed self-rule formula. The BJP is opposed to both documents and wants abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India. Mr Chidambaram wanted the State unit of the Congress to prepare their document based on aspirations of all three regions and proposing a solution to Kashmir problem keeping in mind the interests of all sections of people. He is reported to have said that the document should be widely circulated and submitted to the Interlocutors as well. The Home Minister was of the view that situation has improved in the State considerably after last year's summer unrest in the Kashmir Valley. The Centre with the help of the State Government was engaged in initiating a series of measures to ensure that last year like unrest is not repeated this summer. On their part, there was a virtual consensus among both factions of the Congress that Regional Councils should be granted to all three regions of the State to end discrimination, return to pre-1953 situation was not acceptable and there were reservations about Rehabilitation Policy for the militants in Pakistan and PoK though the policy has been approved by the Union Home Ministry. The Home Minister listened to the Congress leaders and said the Government would act in a way that regional aspirations of all three regions are met. Sources said Chidambaram is in the process of evolving a 'broad response' to the political aspects of the Kashmir issue and has asked the State Congress to be 'innovative'. 'Chidambaram is in the process of organising a broad response to the political aspects of the Kashmir situation. He wants a broad response to the situation in J and K' which was in focus during a closed-door meeting he held with top State party leaders, sources said. 'The most important thing Chidambaram said to us is to be innovative in future to the extent possible. We have to be innovative and move forward,' party sources said. On regional aspirations, Chidambaram said that 'the unity of the State is of paramount importance. Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu will have to go together'. 'Aspirations of the different regions have to be accommodated. Keeping these aspects in view, we can be innovative in the days to come,' sources said adding that within these parameters, many things have to come. Sources said the Centre-appointed interlocutors on Kashmir have submitted their reports to the Centre on their J&K visits and Chidambaram discussed the issues with various political parties besides reviewing the security situation of Jammu Kashmir. 'He appointed interlocutors who gave reports. Now he is in the process of organising a broad response to the political aspects of Kashmir situation,' they said. They added that the Home Minister 'will know the political aspects of Kashmir issue. If there is a political change in J&K, the Home Minister wants to know the voices, wishes and aspirations on the political front of Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu regions from leaders here.' The Union Home Minister is taking keen interest in the state, he said adding, 'he (Chidambaram) had paid five visits to Kashmir during past two years. He also undertook four to five visits to Jammu as well'. Chidambaram is reported to have advised the Congress to allow elections to the Panchayats and later decide on the issue of 73rd amendment. The JKPCC leadership raised the issue of incorporating 73rd Amendment granting Constitutional status to Panchayati Raj Institutions into the state Act with Chidambaram. They said Chidambaram called for allowing the election to be held by the State Government. He said the issue of 73rd Amendment should be discussed later. PCC (I) chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, who accompanied Mr Chidambaram from New Delhi, didn't raise the demand of rotational Chief Ministership in the State himself but some of his supporters did take up the matter. On his part, Prof Soz, who left the venue about half an hour earlier as he had to catch Rajdhani Express for New Delhi, told waiting reporters outside that the issue of rotational Chief Minister after three years of the NC-Congress Government would be decided by AICC (I) chief Sonia Gandhi. Prof Soz said situation has improved in the State despite Sopore incident in which two sisters were killed. He said it was for the Centre to take a decision on withdrawal of Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and a cut in troops. He denied that there were any differences within the Congress saying 'you saw entire Congress leadership at its Muthi rally on January 30. We all are united'. Veteran Congress leader Mangat Ram Sharma, who belonged to Soz camp, however, said he talked about rotational Chief Ministership after three years. 'We will keep up the pressure on our demand', he added. Noting that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is not the 'panacea of all diseases', State Congress tonight said if the Government of India and the Army feel convinced that it can be removed from some areas, then it can be done. 'Militancy has gone down (in J and K). If the Government of India and General (Army) are convinced that in certain areas it (AFSPA) can be removed, it can be done,' Soz said. 'AFSPA is not the panacea of all diseases. If Government of India feels that in some areas it can be removed, it can be removed. What is so difficult about it,' Soz said. He said the 'General (Army) knows where the deployment should be done. General knows better'. 'Wherever the General feels and GoI feels it can be revoked where militancy has gone down, there is no doubt about that it will be done. It is not for me to decide over it. It is for the GoI to decide over it and see what are the areas from where it can be removed,' he said. Senior Congress leaders of both the factions said Mr Chidambaram, who arrived here this afternoon on a two days visit, had to meet both factions separately as most of the chairs in the Guest House had been occupied by the Ministers, legislators and other office bearers belonging to Soz group. The Azad loyalists then decided to meet the Union Minister after his meeting with Soz group. Though 30 to 35 senior leaders only were scheduled to meet Mr Chidambaram, the number swelled to well over 90 as both factions had brought in their supporters. Some Congress leaders left the spot after not finding their names in the list while others started shouting slogans inviting attention of the visiting Minister and other leaders inside. All such leaders including Vinod Sharma, Vinod Mishra and Aijaz Amin, started shouting slogans in favour of Sonia Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad outside blaming Soz for deleting their names. Later, they were called inside on the intervention of PC. Even inside the venue of meeting, some Congress leaders didn't refrain from making charges against each other. Leaders of both the factions, who comprised Ministers, MLAs, MLCs, MPs and senior office bearers, even didn't speak to each other at the venue of the meeting. 'Both the groups sat separately, met the Home Minister separately and returned separately', sources said. Sources said the Union Minister called upon the party leaders to assert themselves in the Government and the Cabinet and reach out to the people. His reaction reportedly came after complaints by some senior leaders that the Cabinet Ministers were not exerting pressure on the Government and have lost touch with the masses. He advised the Ministers to meet a day before the Cabinet to take up the issues in the meeting. 'Whenever I visit Tamil Nadu, I go to Coimbatore and meet the people of my constituency', Mr Chidambaram is reported to have told the State Congress leaders in an advisory to them to keep contact with the people. He was reported to have given an impression to the party leadership that some Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) could be taken by the Centre to further improve situation in the Valley and ensure that last year like unrest is not repeated this year. He told the party leadership that the Interlocutors have also proposed a number of CBMs and he would discuss some of them with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tomorrow. The Congress leaders stressed for holding Panchayat elections in the State for devolution of powers. Some of the party leaders called for implementation of both 73rd and 74th amendments before elections to the Local Bodies. They called for elected heads to block and district levels. Some other Congress leaders favour early election to Panchayats. Choudhary Lal Singh, MP from Udhampur, who is affiliated to Azad group said he along with other party leaders have made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir would remain united and can't be separated under any circumstances. This aspect should be kept in mind by the Centre while working out any solution to Kashmir problem, he said. Mr Singh said he didn't favour any cut in troops as this could lead to killing of people in his Doda-Udhampur constituency as had been done by the militants earlier. 'If the Government wants to rehabilitate the militants, who were ready to surrender and shun the path of violence, we have no objection', he added. Tomorrow morning, Mr Chidambaram will have breakfast meeting with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah from 8 am to 8.45 am. The meeting will be followed by a high level security review from 8.45 am to 9.45 am. The security review meeting will be joined by top brass of police, civil administration and other agencies besides Additional Director IB Rajiv Kapoor, DG CRPF K Vijay Kumar and Joint Secretary (Home) K Sikandan. Later, Mr Chidambaram and Mr Abdullah will fly to Kishtwar for a security review of five districts including Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Udhampur and Reasi. Earlier, the Union Home Minister was received at the Airport by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Rural Development and Law & Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar and other senior Ministers, MLAs and officers.