Kashmir cannot be put on back burner

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday sought to dispel the impression that New Delhi was running the government in Jammu and Kashmir. “We are not puppets,” he said.

Speaking in the Assembly he differed with the Centre on including “re-opening of schools” as one of the confidence-building measures in the eight-point formula announced by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

“We are not puppets. We take decisions for our people and for their benefit.”

The Chief Minister was reacting to the Opposition charge including by People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, who said on September 30 that the Centre was running the affairs of the State. CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami had also raised the issue in the House.

Dig at G.K. Pillai

Taking a dig at Union Home Secretary G.K. PIllai, Mr. Abdullah said, “I have a grievance. There have been some instances when people have talked more than what is required. The Union Home Secretary should not have spoken about curfew [on July 9].”

Mr. Pillai, in an interview to Doordarshan on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj, announced the lifting of curfew.

By making such statements and disseminating information through the media, “they were undermining the institutions of the State,” the Chief Minister said.

Political issue

Mr. Abdullah said Kashmir was a political issue and needed a political solution. Jammu and Kashmir, he said, had not merged with the Union but acceded to it under an agreement.

Winding up a debate on the crisis in the Valley, Mr. Abdullah said the Kashmir issue could not be resolved by addressing development alone. The issue could not be put on the back burner once again and hoped that the interlocutors to be appointed by the Centre would “initiate a sustained political dialogue” covering all shades of opinion.

‘Between neighbours’

“Kashmir is an issue between two neighbours. It is not an issue about development, employment or ration. Even if we provide all these things to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the issue will remain,” he said.

“New Delhi has accepted Kashmir as an issue. Had that not been the case, why did the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, go to Lahore? Why was Kashmir discussed in Agra and Delhi?”

In the Shimla agreement, both countries had agreed to talk about “all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.

“This is an outstanding issue. If somebody assures me that the Kashmir issue would be resolved with my exit, I will step down. Not only will I quit, I will leave politics forever.”

He said the crisis was not related to governance alone. How long could we see graveyards being filled and how long do “we have to salute the graves of our brave soldiers?”

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