Autonomy not at India''s cost: Farooq
20 June 2000
Srinagar: The historic special session of the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature to discuss the report of the nine-member State Autonomy Committee (SAC) began here on Tuesday with a vow by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah to preserve the state as a single entity. Dr Abdullah also promised that the ruling National Conference would not take any step that would help those interested in India''s disintegration as a nation. The Chief Minister said that if the State was divided on communal lines, no one could stop it from breaking up from India. The discussions started amidst an air of expectancy among the ruling party and a spirit of natural defiance among the Opposition members. As expected, the proceedings began with protests by the Opposition parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members first walked out of the Assembly, followed by the Congress members who returned shortly. The discussions on autonomy started with the speech of one of the seniormost members of the ruling National Conference (NC), Mr Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Shah, who had chaired the Autonomy committee after the resignation of Dr Karan Singh. Mr Shah, who is also a senior minister in the State government, gave a historic perspective of the State vis-a-vis autonomy, starting right from the time of accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India. He expressed the opinion that autonomy was the need of the hour and that it would not disturb the sovereignty of the country but, instead, make the bindings stronger. The debate from the Opposition began with Ashok Sharma (Congress) saying that ''none of the three regions (Jammu, Kashmir or Ladakh) favoured greater autonomy to the state at this time''. He said that the demand for greater autonomy was just a political stunt of the National conference, aimed at serving its (National Conference''s) ''vested interests'' and alleged that the ''National Conference and Bharatiya Janta Party are hand in glove on this issue of autonomy''.