February 2000 News

Farooq advocates autonomy, settlement with Pak

2 February 2000
Daily Excelsior

JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah today said a settlement with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and restoration of autonomy in the state would certainly help resolve the militancy problem and normalise the country's relations with its neighbour.

In an interview to UNI, Dr Abdullah, calling for better relations between India and Pakistan, said "somwhow, a settlement should take place with our neighbour so that once and for all this dispute is sorted out and we can get on with our own lives".

The Chief Minister said restoration of autonomy would benefit the country as well as the people of the state. The extent to which autonomy is to be extended could be discussed, he added. He suggested that the Centre should constitute an experts team to discuss the issue. "We have sent the report to them (Centre) and now the document is with them for discussions", he said.

The State Autonomy Committee Report was tabled in the Assembly in April last year. The Cabinet had recently referred it to the Centre. Asked if the people of the state were feeling alienated from the rest of the country, he said , "it is a problem that we had for the past 50 years. I think it is also connected with the war-like situation we are facing. Pakistan has been waging this war in the state for the past ten years or more and that is not allowing rapid development of the state. Industrialisation cannot take place because nobody is ready to put up an industry in a situation like this".

Dr Abdullah said economic and emotional reasons are also responsible for the alienation of the people. More importantly, political unrest between India and our neighbour (Pakistan) is more responsible for the present situation in the state.

The Centre -State relations had suffered a lot over the years which has affected the state's interests, Dr Abdullah said adding that restoration of autonomy to the state was very important to bring back the people of the state to the mainstream.

Advocating the restoration of State Autonomy as well as regional autonomy, he said any region or sub region in the state should not feel that they are being dominated by any one region or community.

Jammu and Kashmir is a mini India, representing three regions of different communities like Ladakh-Buddhists, Jammu-Hindu, Kashmir-Muslims. These three regions have a distinct identity and their different culture and customs. More importantly, we have to fulfill their aspirations of protecting their culture, he said.

In reply to a question whether the restoration of pre-1953 status to the state as recommended by the autonomy committee was reasonable and practicable in the present situation, Dr Abdullah said, when we had spoken to the Union Government, Mr P V Narasimha Rao had said in Parliament that sky is the limit and he spoke as Prime Minister of the country.

The Chief Minister said, "when the sky is the limit, none of us are asking for seccession or Azadi, we are saying that within the Constitution of India, we have to discuss the autonomy for the state.

He said the proxy war waged by Pakistan in the state has created a lot of problems. People are suffering due to militancy. The people who had to migrate from the Valley, are also feeling alienated and the people who are still in the Valley are facing bombs every day. Asked if he thought that erosion of autonomy during the past 50 years was responsible for this alienation, he replied in the affirmative. "My father was in prison for nearly 22 years, and Mrs Indira Gandhi in her virtue, realised that it is not possible to move forward without talking to Sheikh Abdullah. Then the 1975 accord was put forth".

At that time the Centre also promised that further discussions on autonomy would take place, but nothing really happened. Had the misunderstanding between Delhi and Kashmir not developed, what took place in August 1953, would not have had happened and the whole situation would have been totally different.

He advocated the implementation of the Sarkaria Commission recommendations to give the states their due. Terming article 356 of the Constitution as draconian, Dr Abdullah said "it must be deleted as it has been misused in the past by the Centre on several occasions especially with regard to our state. We are totally opposed to this article".

Regarding financial autonomy of the state, the Chief Minister said a financial relationship with Delhi has to be worked out which will be done only when we sit down to discuss the issue.

Regarding the potential of national resources in the state, he said, "we have told the Centre that we have no resources today except water. We cannot cut the forests because these are required for environment protection." "The only resource of the state, the waters of Chenab, Jhelum and Sindh rivers had been given to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty. We have no minerals, no gas and no petrol. We have only water and if we want to build a power project, prior permission has to be taken from Pakistan," he complained.

Dr Abdullah said because of the Indus Water Treaty, the State has suffered, now if we want to build our own power project, the Centre is not ready to give counter guarantee although they are ready to give such guarantee in the case of Cogentrix in Karnataka. They have already done so in the case of Enron in Maharashtra.

He accused the Centre of adopting a discriminatory attitude as despite putting the state in `B' category, it was getting 70 per cent grant and 30 per cent loan, while other states like Himachal Pradesh and those in the North-East were getting 90 per cent grant and 10 per cent loan.

"How could the poor state of Jammu and Kashmir make progress with such discrimination", he asked.

"The state can earn huge money from power projects if the Centre is ready to give us counter guarantee", he added. (UNI)


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