“Our meetings revealed the desire of people to lead a life of dignity”

Eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, who headed the group of three interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday said the thrust of their report was to empower the people of the State, so that they could exercise their civil and political rights in full measure.

The 176-page report was uploaded on the Home Ministry's website on Thursday, seven months after it was submitted to Home Minister P. Chidambaram in October last. Their interactions with people and perusal of voluminous documents revealed the people's desire to lead a life of dignity and honour. The interlocutors, while upholding Article 370(special status to Jammu & Kashmir), favoured further strengthening it.

Talking to The Hindu on the phone from Pune, he said the interlocutors made attempts to find out if the people benefited from Central laws and Articles. “The opinion has been divided and even the Supreme Court's view was divided on it. So, we recommended that a constitutional committee be set up to review all these laws since the clock cannot be turned back.”

In view of the changed security, economic and global environment, it was felt that the State and the administrative machinery should have enough powers to focus on the welfare of the people. The report recommended devolution of power — political and administrative — down to the district and panchayat levels.

The report sought to give voice to the demands made, notably by Kashmiri Pandits, for full rehabilitation in the Valley and also noted the concerns expressed by Sikhs.

“There is a crucial economic component as well. We have found a rich diversity in the State; in fact, it is a mini-India. We favoured free movement of goods and people, opening of all roads leading to other parts of the State and making the Line of Control a mere line on the map,” he said.

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