February 2000 News

Union Minister blasts J&K's demand for greater autonomy

17 February 2000
Indian Express

NEW DELHI: The ruling Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and state unit of BJP appear to be heading for a showdown with senior state BJP leader and Union Minister Chaman Lal Gupta blasting the demand for greater autonomy made by the Chief Minister and terming it as a "sure recipe for secession."

"The demand will have a snowball effect and will encourage fissiparious elements to step up their activities aimed at breaking away from the union," Gupta told PTI. He asserted that the demand for autonomy did not enjoy popular support as besides Jammu and Leh regions, several ethnic and sectional groups like Gujjars, Kashmiri Pandits and members of the Shia community and Punjabi speaking areas of the valley were vehemently opposed to this idea. Besides, he said, the demand was also not viable economically as the state's total revenue earnings was Rs 600 crore whereas the salary bill alone amounts to Rs 2,400 crore.

Gupta claimed that the state already enjoyed "unfettered powers" under Article 370 which a small coterie used to the disadvantage of people of Jammu and Leh regions. Gupta said despite sweeping powers under the Article, the State Government has failed to stop migration of 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. Describing Abdullah's demand as "diversionary tactics", he said that instead of raising such irrelevant issues, the State Government should concentrate on providing relief to the families of 35,000 people killed in the terrorist violence, rebuild schools and villages and restore people's confidence. He also dismissed the demand for holding dialogue with the Hurriyat leaders and said this can be held only if they pledge their loyalty to the Constitution of India.

"There is no point in having talks with those who do not believe that the state was part and parcel of the country,", he said. He alleged that constituents of Hurriyat were supporting militancy and encouraging secessionist activities.


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