J&K Assembly passes autonomy resolution amid protest

SRINAGAR, JUNE 26. In a historic move, the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly today adopted by voice vote a resolution accepting the report of the State Autonomy Committee (SAC), recommending greater autonomy to the State. The entire Opposition staged a walkout. The Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, expressing confidence that it would be implemented stressed on a nationwide debate on the issue.

On the last day of the special session convened on June 19 to discuss the report of the SAC, which recommended sweeping changes in Centre-State relations, the substitute resolution moved by the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr. P. L. Handoo, was passed amid opposition from members of the Congress(I), the BJP and the Panthers Party.

Moving the resolution, Mr. Handoo said, ``I propose to move the following as a substitute motion for the two motions moved on April 8, along with the amendments proposed by Mr. Sadiq Ali, Mr. Mohammad Shafi Bhat and Mr. G. M. Bawan (all National Conference MLAs).'' ``This House having discussed the report of the SAC, tabled on April 13, 1999, records its approval of the same and its acceptance of the recommendations made'' and ``demands that the Centre and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir take positive and effective steps for implementing the same''.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Abdullah reiterated the appeal to the people of the nation to see the demand for greater autonomy in the right perspective. ``This (special session) was a good beginning towards achieving what we promised our people in 1996,'' he said adding that no one, including the National Conference, was ready to take up the challenge of the elections then. ``But, we were assured by the people in New Delhi on autonomy so we jumped into the elections at the risk of not only our lives but the lives of lakhs of people.''

``Those who made sacrifices did so to keep up the honour of the tricolour in the Valley,'' he said.

Taking strong exception to the Union Minister, Mr. Arun Shourie's statement that the NC was begging for autonomy, Dr. Abdullah said, ``it is not a question of begging but the restoration of rights''.

He also took a dig at the national media, which he said was misleading the nation on autonomy through ``malicious editorials and by not reporting the issue in the right perspective''. ``The Hindu is the only paper which had written positively in this direction and deserves appreciation'' he said.

On the implementation of the SAC report, he said, ``I am confident, otherwise I would not have brought in the resolution.''

Blaming the Centre for its follies in the State, Dr. Abdullah said it was Jawaharlal Nehru who had taken the case to the United Nations saying, ``the final authority on the accession will be the people of the State'', though the late Sheikh Abdullah authorised him (Nehru) to take a final decision.

Dr. Abdullah repeatedly said ``we do not want Pakistan. We are Indians and want something within the Constitution.'' Pointing to the BJP members, he said ``you can never make India a Hindu Rashtra. It is a secular country and will remain so.''

Earlier, the Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Sheikh Abdur Rehman, supported the autonomy demand but said ``it should be based on sincerity and should help in decentralisation of power to the grassroot level''.

`Discussion after PM's return'

NEW DELHI, JUNE 26. The Union Cabinet will discuss the autonomy resolution adopted by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly today after the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, returns from his two-nation tour.

Asked to comment on the autonomy resolution adopted by the State Assembly today, the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, said the Cabinet would take a decision on it.


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