I Never Questioned Accession: Omar22 June 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said he had never questioned the accession of the State to the Union of India. 'I have never said accession of Jammu and Kashmir to rest of India is not permanent. In my speech in the State Assembly in October last year, I only pointed out the difference between accession and merger,' Omar told reporters here. Omar during a passionate speech in the Assembly at the peak of summer unrest had said the problem in Jammu and Kashmir was unique and needed a political solution. He also said that while other princely States had merged in India at the time of partition, Jammu and Kashmir had only acceded and not merged with the Union. Omar was responding to a question about the recent war of words between National Conference leader Sheikh Mustafa Kamal and senior Congress leader Makhan Lal Fotedar on the issue of accession. Fotedar had apparently criticised Omar for his remarks saying the Chief Minister was not even born when his grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had accepted the accession. Asked if relations with alliance partner Congress were strained, the Chief Minister replied in the negative saying ties between the two parties are very strong. 'In fact, this has been the smoothest functioning coalition Government in the State. There is not a single issue on which we have not been able to resolve differences within the Cabinet,' he said. Responding to another question, Omar said the local Congress leaders cannot criticise his Government as they hold key portfolios. 'If they point fingers at this Government, they will be blaming themselves as well,' he added. Omar expressed hope that the Kashmir issue will figure in the Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan tomorrow. 'I am heartened that India and Pakistan dialogue is continuing. We hope that Kashmir does find a mention during the talks as part of comprehensive dialogue and not as one-off,' Omar said. He said he does not expect a solution to the Kashmir issue to come from tomorrow’s meeting but expressed hope that the engagement with Pakistan will continue. There were apprehensions that the peace talks could be derailed in the wake of killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and revelations made by LeT operative David Headley during the trial of the Mumbai attack co-accused Tahawwur Rana, the Chief Minister said. Omar, however, said the day is not far when a solution will be found to the Kashmir issue. 'If we continue the political dialogue with Pakistan (on Kashmir), the day is not far that we will be able to resolve the issue,' he said. Omar said election is not the solution to the Kashmir issue. 'It (Kashmir issue) cannot be resolved through Panchayat polls and I am the first one to admit that the Kashmir problem should be addressed politically,' the Chief Minister said. On the internal initiatives for resolution of the Kashmir issue, he said the Centre has appointed Interlocutors who are interacting with a cross section of the society. 'We are keeping the window of opportunity open for widening the dialogue. Barring a key separatist leader, others have not come forward yet. It is not a permanently open window. It will close some time,' Omar said on the refusal of separatists to engage with the Interlocutors. The Chief Minister said separatists should engage with the Interlocutors as they did with Kashmir Committee led by Ram Jethmalani. 'If they can meet with Jethmalani-led committee, which can give nothing except hollow words, why can’t they meet the Interlocutors who have no red lines on their recommendations they make,' he asked. Responding to a question about setting up of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as promised by him during the 2008 election campaign, Omar said he still believed such a step would be the biggest Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan. 'India and Pakistan will have to agree on setting up the Commission and I hope they will talk (during the scheduled meeting tomorrow) about it too,' he said. On the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the State, the Chief Minister said the Government should be able to move forward on the issue by year-end. 'The two committees formed to look into the areas where AFSPA could be revoked have not submitted their reports yet,' Omar said. In response to another question on the stand of his party National Conference on restoration of autonomy to the State, he said he was not authorised to speak on the issue as he was no longer the NC chief. 'I am here in the capacity of Chief Minister and not authorised to speak on this issue. Only National Conference President (Farooq Abdullah) or party spokesman can answer this question,' Omar said. He, however, said if the party (NC) forwarded a proposal on the subject to the State Government, it will be considered and forwarded to the Centre. The Chief Minister said all necessary arrangements have been put in place to ensure peaceful Amarnath yatra scheduled to commence on June 29. 'We have made all necessary arrangements to ensure peaceful pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine,' he said. Omar said there was no specific input about any militant threat to pilgrims during the annual yatra. 'Nothing has been brought to my notice by any of the security agencies so far,' he said. He pointed out that representatives of all security agencies were present in the meetings chaired by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram yesterday and no such report was given. However, Omar said the State Government is fully prepared to foil any attempt to disrupt the yatra. 'Exchange of words between a senior NC leader and a couple of Congress leaders is highly unfortunate and they were totally uncalled for. As far as the NC leader is concerned he was speaking in his own capacity and not on behalf of the party. The NC-Cong coalition is functioning smoothly and I believe in the recent times this is the best coalition that the State has had,' the Chief Minister said. Omar said barring the killing of civilians by militants all the parameters related with militancy are well within the control. He, however, said that Government and the security agencies are not going to be complacent and they would ensure that nobody is given a chance to foment any trouble in the Kashmir valley. 'There were 23 killings at the hands of militants this year while as this figure was 22 for the last year. Other than this, all the militancy related parameters are well within our control and this makes me happy. However, this does not mean that we will sit back and be complacent. There is no scope for complacency and he have to maintain our vigil all along,' he said. Omar said that the Government would fully empower the Panchayats and the doubts raised by some people in this regard would be put to rest at the earliest. He said that decision is yet to be taken whether the elections for civic bodies would be held on party basis or non-party basis. 'People raised doubts about the sincerity of Government in holding the Panchayat elections. Once the elections were held then there was talk about the empowerment of these Panchayats. I have been saying that there would be devolution of powers to the Panchayats. At the same time the powers of MLAs and MLCs would not be tampered with and they too should not be worried,' Omar said. He said that a committee headed by Chief Secretary Madhav Lal has been set up to look into the broader perspective of giving more powers to Panchayats. He added that the committee would submit its report by next week. He complimented the various agencies involved with the successful holding of the Panchayat elections in the State. Responding to a question about the formation of Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the Chief Minister said that for such Commission it is important that people on both sides of Line of Control are involved. He said India and Pakistan also have a role to play in this and they should cooperate in this respect. Omar said that the Government has engaged a consultant who will work on the losses suffered by the State on account of water resources. He said compensation cannot be thought off unless the report of the total losses is compiled. 'We never had a figure about the losses suffered on account of usage of water resources for the various power projects. It is due to this reason that we have hired services of a consultant. Once the report is complete we would submit the same to the Union Government so that we are compensated. Right now the projected losses stand between Rs 10,000 crores to Rs 80,000 crores,' the Chief Minister said. Omar said the Government would carry forward with its plan of making Power Development Corporation as a listed company. He said the power projects being taken under the joint venture should be handed over to the State once the lease period is over. Referring to the alleged involvement of some of the legislators and party leaders in anti-social activities, the Chief Minister said that he would be the last person to shield any such person. He said that people should avoid making job requests during their interaction with him at the 'Awami Mulakat'. Omar said that National Conference has the highest number of Panches and Sarpanches in Kashmir valley followed by PDP and Congress. He said he has no exact number in this respect adding that even if he has the same he would not divulge details since the same would be opposed and taken advantage of by his political opponents. Defending the UPA Government for postponing the monsoon session of Parliament, Omar Abdullah said deciding the schedule was the prerogative of the Centre. 'It is the prerogative of the Government. They might have their own issues (for postponing the monsoon session),' Omar said. To a question, he said the UPA Government was ready for discussion on all issues but the opposition had to allow smooth functioning of Parliament for debates to take place. 'It was the opposition which stalled Parliament during the winter session. Let them allow the Zero Hour and Question Hour, all issues be it 2G scam, Commonwealth Games scam or Lok Pal can be discussed,' he said. Omar's National Conference is an ally of the Congress-led UPA and his father Farooq Abdullah is a Cabinet Minister in the Manmohan Singh Government. Refusing to allow broadcast of news on local cable channel, Omar said the ban will continue. The ban on broadcast of news from these channels will continue, Omar said. Telecast of news on the cable channel was imposed last year by the authorities for allegedly inciting people. Omar said ban will continue as Government will not take any chance. When a reporter said that a senior Congress Minister Taj Mohiuddin has threatened to resign if the ban on local cable channels for telecast news was not lifted, Omar said I will talk to him (Taj). ‘‘I do not want to lose a good Minister, I will talk to him,’’ he said.