JK assembly passes autonomy resolution
26 June 2000
MUZAMIL JALEEL & NAZIR MASOODI
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly today passed a resolution for the restoration of autonomy to the state and demanded that the union and the state government ''take positive and effective steps for its implementation''. The resolution has come at the end of a six-day special session convened to discuss the recommendations made by the nine-member State Autonomy Committee (SAC), which was framed to ''examine the question of restoration of autonomy'' to Jammu and Kashmir. The resolution was adopted today through a voice-vote. Only 16 legislators of the 87-member house voted against the resolution. Among those who supported the National Conference-sponsored motion were opposition CPI(M) legislator M.Y. Tarigami and BSP member R.C. Bhagat. Seeking support for the resolution on the final day of the session today, Chief minister Farooq Abdullah claimed restoration of autonomy was not only imperative to address the aspirations of the people of the state, but also a step forward to normalise relations between India and Pakistan. Abdullah said his party has been voted to power only on the autonomy plank. ''We did not get votes on promises of new roads, electricity or water to people. We were voted to power only on the autonomy plank,'' he said and added that those who had come out to vote for the party had put their lives on stake. He claimed that Delhi had put a condition of proving popular support for restoration of autonomy. ''And we had fulfilled it by getting two-third majority,'' he said. Reacting to the allegations that the NC is becoming anti-national by demanding autonomy, he said, ''If we are still being seen as Pakistanis, then India should say khuda hafiz (good bye)''. NC legislators, he said, were being killed for being Indians. ''We are Indian. If Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah would have gone the Jinnah way, I might have become prime minister of Pakistan which I can never become in India,'' he said and added that they opted for India because of its secular credentials. In a tacit warning to the national leadership not to sabotage their autonomy demand, Abdullah said even Jinnah did not favour Pakistan but the leadership then had pushed him to resort in that direction. ''Don''t push us to the wall,'' he said. Lashing out against criticism that autonomy to the state will lead to India''s disintegration, Abdullah said these fears were unfounded. The country had suggested the same formula to Sri Lanka for resolving the Tamil problem. ''If they can give likewise advice to Sri Lanka, why will it not work within India,'' he said. Abdullah even blamed New Delhi for the Kashmir problem. ''This problem was not our creation. It was, in fact, created by Delhi who made the promise of plebiscite in the UN,'' he said. ''And now they are throwing the blame on us.'' Calling the resolution for restoration of autonomy a measure to set right the wrongs of history, he said, ''Laws can be changed. The arms of the clock can be taken back and forward as well,'' he said. Seeking an argument against autonomy from the opposition, Abdullah claimed if they could convince him, he would even drop his demand. ''Either convince us or let us convince you,'' he said. ''We don''t want to fight. But come and settle the issue''. Taking strong note of a statement by Union minister Arun Shourie, Abdullah said Kashmiris are not beggars. ''Those 70,000 dead were not beggars. They sacrificed their lives for dignity and honour,'' he said. ''And if we are beggars, who made us that? If our genuine rights would have been granted in the last 50 years, we would have been even in a position to give alms to others,'' Abdullah said and recited a couplet: ''Aay tayir-e la hotee, Us rizq sai mout achchee, jis rizq sai aatee ho parvaz main kotahee (It is better to die of starvation than accept bread with humilation). Earlier Law Minister P.L. Handoo said there were around 22 soveriegn countries the world over which have followed a federal system without disintegrating. ''Our Instrument of Accession with the Indian Union provides us powers to legislate in affairs other than defence, foreign affairs and communications and we want that to be restored,'' he said. ''We don''t want to be a municipal committee, town area committee or a corporation, we want our unbriddled power to legislate to be restored.'' Addressing BJP legislators, he asked them to go back to the history of ancient India. ''We don''t demand anything new. What were janapadas?'' he asked adding they were federal units of India then.