WG recommendations evoke reaction on expected lines

24 December 2009
The Daily Excelsior

JAMMU-SRINAGAR: Recommendations of the Working Group on ‘Centre-State Relations’ today evoked reaction on expected lines with ruling National Conference claiming that their stand on autonomy has been vindicated, the PDP regretting silence of the Group on some major issues while Jammu based NPP and BJP outrightly rejecting the report. The Congress too supported the concept of autonomy. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who was member of the Group, described the report as a ‘good beginning’ but said the Centre was required to go beyond to end bloodshed and miseries of the people of the State. 'The Group is silent on re-negotiating the use of State’s water resources by the Centre', she said. On observation of Justice (Retired) Sagheer Ahmed headed Group’s observation that PDP’s self rule documents be considered when submitted to the Centre, Ms Mufti said the PDP has already submitted the document to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. She said the PDP wants the Centre to address external dimensions of Kashmir issue and self rule is the best way to do it. Finance Minister and veteran NC leader Abdul Rahim Rather, who had made a detailed presentation on autonomy to the Working Group as its member, said the Group has endorsed the NC’s view point on autonomy and virtually rejected PDP’s self rule. 'Had the PDP read NC’s autonomy report in detail, there would have been no need for them to prepare self rule document. The Group has also pointed out that self rule was more or less related to autonomy', Mr Rather pointed out and said the people should judge the report and give their response. On Article 370, he said it was already a permanent feature and no one can abrogate it since it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly. Mr Rather noted that the Working Group has also endorsed the NC’s stand for an elected Governor. PCC (I) president and Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, who had represented Congress in the Group welcomed the report saying he has been supportive of autonomy to J&K within framework of the country’s Constitution. 'As a Congress person, I argues with BJP leader Arun Jaitley (a member of the Group) that Article 370 of the Constitution can’t be abrogated. We stand for autonomy for the State', he added. BJP president Ashok Khajuria said the Working Group report has totally ignored sentiments of the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions. Demand of Jammu based MLAs seeking increase in number of Assembly seats, setting up of Delimitation Commission and reducing the term of Assembly to five years at par with other Assemblies of the country have been ignored, he regretted. Despite having less population and area, Kashmir has 46 Assembly seats while Jammu has only 37, Mr Khajuria pointed out and regretted that the Group has ignored demand of the people of Ladakh for Union Territory status. NPP chairman Prof Bhim Singh while rejecting the recommendations of the Group described it as 'anti-people, outdated, stinking and rubbished, managed at the behest of National Conference to justify its election manifesto.' The JKNPP core group headed by its chairman alleged that the report in the first instance should have been presented to the PMO as this Group was appointed by the Prime Minister with clear terms and conditions that it shall prepare a report on the Centre- State relations after having a detailed and in-depth discussion with the representatives of different political parties. The Group constituted in 2005 did not meet since September 2007 inspite of the repeated requests by the members. The Group ignored the representation of JKNPP for reorganisation of J&K State through amendment of Article 370, Mr Singh said. The Group had no jurisdiction to talk about Delimitation by holding the view point of the NC and Congress on the number of Assembly members. The matter is sub-judice in the apex court and Commission has tried to commit contempt of the court. Sheikh-Indira accord had brought the autonomy issue to an end. Sheikh Abdullah gladly accepted the job of Chief Ministership and now the issues of CM’ship, Governor and relevant provisions of the Constitution of India was a close chapter, he added. Rural Development Minister and NC leader, Ali Mohammad Sagar also welcomed the report saying while he was happy that autonomy has been considered by the Working Group, his National Conference will not be averse to any better solution to Kashmir issue. 'Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have said in the past that the Government at Centre at a particular time might have rejected the autonomy but it is the only solution. The NC has no objections if there is a better solution to Kashmir issue,' he added. CPI(M) State secretary M Y Tarigami said his party has all along been advocating restoration of eroded autonomy to the State but expressed dissatisfaction at the way the report was submitted to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah without elaborate debate within the group. Tarigami, who was the member of the Working Group, said the discussions between members of the group on their respective proposals have been left half way. 'It was discussed and decided when we met last time to have threadbare discussions on proposals put forth by the members of the group. Then only some consensus could have been evolved, which could have formed the basis for any recommendations submitted to the Chief Minister,' Tarigami said. He said it was astonishing that the convenor of the Working Group has rendered the earlier discussions inconclusive and submitted his report to the Chief Minister in a hurry. NC MP and prominent party leader Dr Mehboob Beg wondered that the PDP even didn’t produce documents to the Working Group in support of its demand for self rule. 'Our political stand has been vindicated with the Group support grant of autonomy to the State. It indicated that we projected our stand forcefully while PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig only delivered speech', he said. However, NPP Legislature Party leader and former Minister, Harshdev Singh, another important member of the Group said the report was fit to be consigned to dustbin. It needs to be trashed, he asserted. 'The report is nothing but a manifesto of the NC. All important issues of Jammu like setting up of Delimitation Commission, increase in number of Assembly seats of Jammu, reducing term of Assembly to five years, issues of border and Pakistan refugees etc have all been ignored. This is ridiculous', Mr Singh said, adding the NPP will oppose the report tooth and nail. He wanted to know that how the Group can recommend restoration of autonomy when majority of members (of the Group) had opposed it. Independent MLA from Bishnah, Ashwani Sharma, also a member of the Group, rubbished the report describing it as a ‘serious conspiracy’ against Jammu region. 'We strongly oppose the Group’s recommendations for restoration of autonomy. We will never allow this to happen', he said regretting that Jammu’s demand for Delimitation Commission and issue of refugees have been totally ignored by the Group. THe Working Group’s assertion that there was no discrimination with Jammu region was a part of conspiracy, he asserted. PDP chief spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said while there were no concrete suggestions in the report, restoration of autonomy to the State cannot be a solution to Kashmir issue. 'Autonomy was in force in full quantum in 1953 but it could not resolve Kashmir issue. The external dimension of the issue has also to be addressed and that is where our country has to engage with Pakistan,' he added.