Election debate turns into blame game over Kashmir resolution

22 April 2009
The Daily Excelsior

Srinagar: A debate organized by Radio Kashmir to bring leaders of various political parties face to face with the electorate and journalists about the election issues virtually turned into a blame game over the failure to resolve Kashmir issue. Radio Kashmir Srinagar had organized a 'Face to Face' programme in which leaders from various political parties were called to answer the questions of the electorate on election issues but the resolution of Kashmir issue dominated the proceedings. National Conference leader Shiekh Mustafa Kamal, who is in fray for the Hazratbal by-poll constituency that is set to go to polls on May 7, said his party was betrayed by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government in year 2000 when it rejected the implementation of State Autonomy Report which had been passed by the State Assembly. 'We had contested the election after receiving assurances that autonomy will be restored to the Jammu and Kashmir State but we were betrayed by the Centre that time,' Kamal said when asked what NC had done in raising the Kashmir issue in the Parliament. He added that his party is committed to raise the issue of resolution of Kashmir problem again and the entire country will face problems if the issue is left unresolved. 'The Centre has been beating around the bush and giving excuses whenever we tried to raise the issue of resolving the Kashmir issue,' Kamal added. Nizamuddin Bhat of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however, asserted that due to the efforts of his party only Kashmir issue came to the forefront at the Centre. 'Mehbooba Mufti pressured the Centre to resolve the issue and because of that she is being seen as an extremist by many,' he said. Abdul Gani Vakil of Congress said the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved in the Parliament alone and all the state parties need to sit down and find a way out. He added his party has always voiced its opposition whenever Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) spoke about abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir State. Tangmarg MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir, who is head of Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) said the political parties are 'fooling people by saying they will solve the Kashmir issue in Parliament.' Muzaffar Shah of Awami National Conference, whose mother Begum Khalida Shah is in fray for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, claimed that no MP from the State has done anything serious for raising the Kashmir issue and cases of human rights violation in the Parliament. While all the five leaders agreed that the Indian democracy is not against peaceful boycotts, Nizamuddin added that 'security concerns should not be made an excuse to curb freedom of expression'. Kamal said NC has been inviting the Hurriyat leaders for talks so that Kashmir issue could be resolved peacefully. Vakil said all regions and parties need to be represented along with the separatist leaders. 'Jammu and Ladakh regions need to be represented also in resolving the Kashmir issue,' he said. Regarding the maintenance of peace during elections, Mir urged people not to resort to stone pelting as it creates security problems. When asked about the big promises made by the parties during election time, especially assurances of providing Governmental jobs to the unemployed, Kamal said the NC-Congress coalition has been busy with elections for the past four months and the Government will 'fulfill all its promises once the code of conduct gets over.'