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Updated: August 11, 2010 19:21 IST

Prime Minister’s remarks on autonomy evoke mixed reactions

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A Kashmiri protestor writes “Go India, Go Back,” on a road during a protest march in Pampore, Srinagar. File photo
A Kashmiri protestor writes “Go India, Go Back,” on a road during a protest march in Pampore, Srinagar. File photo

The PDP and separatists rejected the proposal, while National Conference and the Pradesh Congress embraced the idea. Many sought a holistic, long-term solution to the issue

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s readiness to discuss autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir evoked mixed reaction today with BJP saying it was opposed to autonomy but would be ready consider “more powers” to the state and National Conference and CPI(M) welcoming the initiative.

PDP, the main opposition in the state, and separatists rejected the proposal saying it will not provide a political solution to the Kashmir problem festering for six decades.

A day after Dr. Singh told an all-party meeting that the Centre was willing to consider autonomy within the ambit of the Constitution, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said “if the autonomy means reversing the process of integration of Kashmir with India, then it is unacceptable to us”.

Senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said there cannot be autonomy within the country but there can be “more powers” to the state once it is decided between the Centre and the state. “That can be discussed”, he told reporters.

However, National Conference President and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said “we welcome the Prime Minister’s initiative on autonomy within the Constitution and I am hopeful that this will bring some peace to the valley”.

As a step forward in this direction, the senior Mr. Abdullah said his party “will begin dialogue with other political parties in the state and work out to bring a consensus on this issue.”

The state Pradesh Congress Chief Saif-ud-din Soz did not directly comment on autonomy but said the Prime Minister’s comments on the situation in the state will definitely produce a much-required “healing touch” in the state.

Mr. Soz said the Prime Minister was very positive in the meeting and his expression of concern for the people of Jammu and Kashmir shows his compassion.

Asked about his views on autonomy, he said “you see I am an ardent believer of dialogue between people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Government. I am sure it will yield a resolution to the political problem.”

Holistic approach sought

PDP, which welcomed the Prime Minister's opening remarks, however, reacted guardedly on the autonomy issue saying Kashmir is not a problem between Centre and the state.

“It has both internal as well as external dimensions which have to be addressed. Devolution of powers can be a part of resolution but cannot be a resolution by itself because we need to sort our relationship with the other Kashmir,” PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said.

She said the problem needs a holistic solution and just devolution of powers from the Centre to the state.

Leader of another national party from the state, Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami of CPI-M said the Prime Minister’s offer to discuss autonomy is a welcome statement.

“But the Prime Minister should himself hold consultations to build a consensus for a larger autonomy and

devolution of power within the state,” he said.

Mr. Tarigami said what the Prime Minister has said at the meeting has definitely a positive message to the people of the state.

“All the participants projected the views and the meeting will surely help reduce the grievances of people of

the state,” he said.

Dissent from separatists

Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Abdul Gani Bhat rejected the autonomy offer saying it was no solution to the problem that is begging for resolution for last six decades.

“Autonomy is an arrangement between Delhi and Srinagar. Kashmiris have tasted autonomy - the autonomy that swallowed the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir's body and soul together.

“I don't think autonomy is acceptable to political genius of Kashmir. We will have to have a solution where no

party - India, Pakistan and people of all the three regions of the state - suffer any sense of defeat,” Mr. Bhat told said.

The Mirwaiz said “we are not seeking autonomy. We are not asking for redefinition of the state and the Centre relations.

Chairman of hardline faction of Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani said “The Prime Minister has spoken many words on Kashmir but neglected the real issue for which Kashmiris have taken to streets.

“I want to make it clear that jobs and economic packages can’t be substitute to the right of self determination of Kashmiris,” he said.

Asked about the autonomy issue, Sajjad Lone, who broke away from Hurriyat and contested last assembly elections, said he favoured holistic approach and not short cuts. “I favour a holistic approach. Short cuts won’t help you. Government should have a long term plan which can mean repealing of laws and withdrawal of security forces and time line for doing it,” he said.

A faction of Panun Kashmir, a Kashmiri Pandit group, flayed the Prime Minister's discussion on autonomy saying “any move by the Central Government that tends to dilute the extent of Indian sovereignty in Kashmir is fraught with dangerous consequences. We do not favour this at all.”

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