The ruling National Conference on Monday vehemently opposed the division of the State, rejecting the demand for Union Territory status to Ladakh and statehood for Jammu.

Senior NC leader and Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar told a party convention here: “We [NC] will never allow the division of the State. Those making such demands should know that it is not possible as the people of all the three regions have made sacrifices for the unity of the State.”

Referring to the stand taken by NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mr. Sagar said “the great leader gave everything for ensuring the unity of the State.”

The NC had representation in all three regions and it was because of its policy that people backed “our party in all regions.”

He urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to initiate Nagaland-type talks with militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir. “New Delhi held talks with the gun-wielding youth of Nagaland, there should be no problem in doing the same in Kashmir,” he said.

Mr. Sagar claimed that the NC had started the process by persuading five top Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commanders for talks in July 2000. “Unfortunately, the process could not be taken forward,” he said.

Reiterating the NC’s demand for greater autonomy, he said the then BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government committed a mistake by rejecting the proposal. “What is the difference now? The same thing has been recommended by a Working Group set up by none other than the Prime Minister. Its recommendations have made some people uncomfortable but that will not change the reality.”

He appealed to Dr. Singh to take immediate steps for implementing the recommendations made by Justice Saghir Ahmad.

“Best solution”

“We believe autonomy is the best solution to the vexed Kashmir issue. It should be granted so that peace could prevail in all three regions of the State.”

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