Interlocutors strike balance among 3 regions, PC to call all party meeting on report12 October 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir today submitted their report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram calling for an employment and economic package, Development Councils for equitable development of all three regions of the State, devolution of powers at grass root level and increasing development activities especially road connectivity. Making no mention of pre-1953 situation, the Interlocutors have reportedly said that some kind of powers in the form of meaningful autonomy for all three regions could be considered provided that there was consensus of Parliament, State Assembly and major political parties but made it clear that such powers should be well within the framework of Constitution. The Interlocutors as mentioned have voiced concern over the successive State Governments for not using the Central funds properly. They have pointed out use of funds in the State at 5941 ratios in Kashmir and Jammu regions. They were of the view that demand for delimitation of Assembly constituencies was genuine and the Assembly had powers to do it with two-third majority. The Interlocutors-Dileep Padgaonkar, a noted journalist, Prof Radha Kumar, an academician and Prof MM Ansari walked in to the office of Home Minister P Chidambaram in the Union capital at 5 pm and submitted their voluminous report to him, which carried some relevant documents submitted by political parties, organisations and individuals. The report also contained a reference to some points in the formulas of both hard-line and moderate Hurriyat Conference leaders-Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and ‘Achievable Nationhood’ of Sajjad Lone besides autonomy of National Conference and self rule of PDP. 'I must say the separatists have missed the bus. They have lost a major opportunity to put forth their view point at the national level’’, Mr Padgaonkar said in a chat with media persons after coming out of the Home Minister’s office after submitting the report to him. His two associates, Prof Radha Kumar and MM Ansari, flanked him. Official sources said the Home Minister was expected to convene an all party meeting on report of the Interlocutors after studying it. Mr Chidambaram is reported to have told the Interlocutors that the Centre would like a ‘wider debate’ on their report and evolve a national consensus before going for implementation part. Sources said the Home Minister is reported to have told the Interlocutors that the report would be put for public domain once it was discussed in the all party meeting. He asked the Interlocutors to give a presentation before the all party meeting, whenever it was called, on their report as well as other observations during one year tenure during which they covered all 22 districts of the State and received over 600 delegations. The Home Ministry as well as the Interlocutors declined to comment on recommendations of the report. Mr Padgaonkar, however, said the recommendations have been formulated keeping in view the aspirations of all three regions of the State. 'Interests of all sections of society have been taken into consideration while finalizing the report’’, he added. Ruling National Conference said it would like the report to be made public before reacting on it while PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhter described recommendations as ‘disappointing’. 'Let the report come first. We will react on recommendations only when they reached us officially’’, Political Advisor to Chief Minister, Devender Rana said. BJP chief spokesperson for J&K and national executive member, Dr Jitendera Singh said the BJP would support the proposal that strengthened relations of J&K with India. 'We reject outrightly the autonomy, self rule and achievable nationhood like proposals, which fanned separatism’’, he said, adding Article 370 had also done harm to Kashmir like Jammu and Ladakh and the BJP was ready for an open debate on it. He asserted that all issues on J&K have been settled after 1994 Parliament Resolution. The BJP wants all problems of refugees to be solved, he added. NPP leader Harshdev Singh said the report should cater to aspirations of all three regions including neglect and deprivation of Jammu, address the issue of delimitation of Assembly constituencies and discrimination with Jammu and equal distribution of funds for all three regions of the State. He added that autonomy was not acceptable to the people. According to sources, the Interlocutors have outlined a political roadmap to resolve the Kashmir issue. The report has reportedly recommended Developmental Councils for all the three regions - Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh - and devolution of powers to the sub-regions. It has also favoured a massive economic and employment package to tackle the huge unemployment in the State and major infrastructure development to provide connectivity and boost tourism. Noting that Central funds hadn’t been properly utilized in Jammu and Kashmir over the years resulting into some districts remaining ‘under developed’, the Interlocutors were understood to have pointed out that funds have been used in the State at the ratio of 5941 for Kashmir and Jammu. They have called for balanced distribution of funds in all three regions of the State to end the feeling of discrimination among the people. They have stressed upon the Centre to provide the State with adequate funds so that hilly and far off areas could be developed. Sources said the Interlocutors have made a mention of a strong demand in Jammu region for delimitation of Assembly constituencies but observed that the demand couldn’t be met with in view of a Resolution adopted by the Legislature freezing fresh delimitation till 2026. They were of the view that only the Legislature had the right for delimitation of Assembly seats provided that a consensus emerged on the issue among various political parties since two-third majority would be required for the purpose. While avoiding the ‘pre-1952 status’ phraseology, the report has mentioned about ensuring ‘meaningful autonomy’ for the State, while preserving its distinct regional and ethnic diversities, it is learnt. However, the report mentioned that the autonomy could be given only if there was a consensus in Parliament, State Assembly and major political parties on the issue. The report has also put on record the perceptions of the hundreds of people the team had interacted with during the past one year and even the views of the separatists, who refused to interact with them, the sources added. The three had met around 600 delegations during the past one year apart from holding three Round Table Conferences (RTCs) and attending three gatherings. ‘’We have suggested a roadmap at the end of the report and it was up to the Government to carry forward the recommendations. The report represents almost all voices of the State,' Mr Padgaonkar said. He added 'we have endeavoured to address all aspects on Kashmir - political, economic, social and cultural.' Though the panel did not meet any prominent separatist leader except former Hurriyat chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari, the report has taken into account both mainstream and off-stream opinions and in particular various inputs from both Hurriyat factions. Padgaonkar told reporters that had the separatists engaged in a dialogue, the document would have been 'far more worthwhile' and rued the fact that they 'missed the bus'. 'Indeed our prime focus in the report is the welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir and it is along this key concept that we have made out recommendations,' he said. 'Let me tell you that questions related to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) to various other legislations that are in force and people have talked to have been mentioned in the report’’, the chief Interlocutor said. The Interlocutors were reported to have recommended phased withdrawal of AFSPA in peaceful areas of the State, release of political prisoners, stone pelters and some other detenues against whom there were no serious charges, sources said. 'We have also had regular consultations with the heads of the police, para military forces, the Army and we have got their side of story. All this has been reflected in our report,' Mr Padgaonkar said in response to a question. It may be mentioned that the Interlocutors had met Northern Command chief Lt Gen KT Parnaik and other senior civil and police officers to know their views on AFSPA, which have also been incorporated in the report. When asked about the absence of separatists voice in the report, Mr Padgaonkar said ' we have taken into account the stated public position of various separatist groups. These have been reflected in our report. Obviously if they had engaged in talks with us, the report would certainly have been far more worthwhile. 'The fact of the matter is that we have tried again and again to engage them and again and again they refused. I believe they have missed the bus.' The Interlocutors had gathered five point formulas of Geelani, Mirwaiz and documents of Sajjad Lone and Yasin Malik and incorporated some of their points in their report as these separatists had refused to meet them. 'I think when it comes into public domain, every one is perfectly free to say what he or she wants about the report,' Mr Padgaonkar said. On the report, he said that the Home Minister told them that the Government would carry forward the process on the recommendations they have made. Mr Padgaonkar said the report was 'as accurate and as comprehensive reflection of the broadest possible spectrum of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir.' He said the mandate given to the panel was to try and trace the contours of a political settlement in the State. 'This is what we have proposed. We have traced those contours and we have made a certain number of recommendations, which were aimed at a permanent political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir. 'In order to buttress the political settlement, we have also made recommendation on other issues directly affecting the people of Jammu and Kashmir regarding its economy, its social infrastructure, and issues pertaining to culture,' he said. Mr Padgaonkar said that panel was an emanation of an all party delegation that visited Jammu and Kashmir in September last year. 'This report will now be shared by the All Party delegation.' He said that the panel had requested the Home Minister that once the report was placed before the All Party delegation, they would like it to be brought into public domain because 'we would like it to be debated across the country and in particular in Jammu and Kashmir. 'We shall be available if our services are required in terms of consultations because we are very keen that this process that has been launched today will be accelerated and that all stake holders in Jammu and Kashmir and nation at large will come together and agree on a consensus that will bring peace, stability and prosperity to people of Jammu and Kashmir,' Mr Padgaonkar said. He said the report was a result of interactions that the panel had with 600 delegations in each of the 22 districts of Jammu and Kashmir. 'This is the outcome of three RTCs, one of women activists, the second of scholars and intellectuals and third of cultural activists. They came from all the three regions of the State and they gave us important insights into the work that we were doing. 'Finally, we also attended three mass meetings and in these meetings we heard ordinary men and women to tell us about what is upper most in their minds,' he said and added the Panel had not taken a day’s extension and submitted its report within the time frame. Ending regional imbalances and uniting Kashmiris by opening more cross-LoC routes, freezing restrictions on the visits and raising number of days of cross-LoC trade were other major factors of the report. The Interlocutors have struck a balance between all three regions of the State while recommending measures to satisfy aspirations of the people, sources said. The Interlocutors have virtually snubbed the BJP saying Article 370 should be kept alive. Their formula on grant of more powers to the State also lied well within the ambit of Article 370. Sources said the Interlocutors were of the opinion that people-to-people contact between two parts of divided Kashmir should be further strengthened by opening more cross-LoC routes in Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu, increase frequency of cross-LoC weekly bus services and number of days of cross-LoC trade on Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakote routes. They have called for either freezing the permit required for cross-LoC visits or making the conditions simple to ensure that people between two parts of divided LoC could meet frequently and trade between the two sides could increase. They have called for providing more facilities to cross-LoC traders including opening of bank branches on either side of the LoC of two routes and doing away with the barter system of trade. Sources said a number of demands including Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for some communities and demand of Hill Councils raised from some districts have also found mention in the report but not in the shape of recommendation. However, the demands of West Pakistan, PoK and other refugees have found favour with the Interlocutors. The Interlocutors have, however, ruled out grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh, demanded by various groups in Leh. They have reportedly called for keeping the State a single entity.