Has NC Given Up On Autonomy?

13 December 2015
Rising Kashmir
Mir Basit Hussain

Srinagar: National Conference (NC), now on more than one occasion, has made it clear that status quo on Kashmir is the only solution to the vexed issue. On the 110th birth anniversary of NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah recently, NC President and three-time chief minister, Farooq Abdullah reiterated his stand that Pakistan should keep Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) while India should hold on to Jammu Kashmir. He went a step further saying that both New Delhi and Islamabad should give 'autonomy to either sides of Kashmir'. When Abdullah was the chief minister of the State in 1996, the State assembly had passed the autonomy resolution presented by NC. However, the BJP-led NDA government at New Delhi, of which NC was a partner had straightway rejected the resolution. On whether NC had finally shelved its autonomy demand, political pundits in Kashmir have mixed feelings with some saying that this has been NC's 'hidden' stand on the issue for quite some time now. Others say NC might be getting feelers that something was coming up on the issue and they wanted to take credit by making noise beforehand. Head of the Department of Law of the Central University of Kashmir (CUK), Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain said, 'Kashmir isn't a birthday cake that anyone will decide to cut and distribute, it's an inhabited land and once a land is inhabited, its people are the main arbitrators who ultimately decide their fate.' He said NC that has stayed in power for a long time might have 'smelt' something on the political front related to Kashmir issue and by talking about it they wanted to give an impression that it was due to their efforts that the problem had been solved. Hussain said he felt that NC leadership had got a whiff that something might happen soon between India and Pakistan and they wanted to take credit just like Mufti Muhammad Sayeed did with the Muzaffarabad road. He said Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj recently visited Pakistan, and NC, that has been in power for long might have smelt that something was coming up and Farooq Abdullah had started talking in order to take credit. 'NC's document on autonomy doesn't provide a final solution and doesn't mention anything about the other Kashmir,' Hussain said. He said the decision regarding an inhabited land is taken by the inhabitants, not just anyone. Head of the University of Kashmir's Institute of Kashmir Studies, Prof. Gull Wani said what Farooq Abdullah said was realism. 'This is actually the hidden position of NC on the matter for a long time now and they hadn't made it public because it won't be received well,' Wani said. 'As far as giving autonomy to both parts is concerned, it is a part of the larger settlement, which can be done through backchannel talks, something what the former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri has also written about, some change without disturbing the status quo.' He said Farooq Abdullah had not actually talk about autonomy but spoke about what real politics. 'NC's stand on autonomy is the 1952 Delhi Agreement, what we call greater autonomy,' Wani said. 'However, they didn't do anything about it because no one asked them or questioned them, not even separatists.' He said NC's document on State autonomy doesn't talk about the Pakistani side and given the context of politics between New Delhi and Islamabad right now, expectations needed to be toned down. 'India's policy right now is a 'start and stop' thing and they start a process and stop it immediately like they did in Ufa, Russia, during the NSA talks, and the DGMO meetings and in France, both PMs met for 90 seconds, which is not the way two countries engage,' Wani said. 'Politics is all about context and in such a context, nothing is possible as there has been no development either on the Srinagar-Delhi front or on the Delhi-Islamabad front.' Meanwhile, NC veterans said their President had given an option and they were open to any suggestion, which could bring peace in the region. Talking to Rising Kashmir, NC General Secretary, Ali Mohammad Sagar said, 'What Farooq sahab said is an idea, which has been floated earlier also as NC wants autonomy for both sides of Kashmir.' He said the Line of Control (LoC) should to be made irrelevant and people from both sides allowed free movement. 'This is our stand, our option, our solution to the problem,' he said. 'At the same time, we are open to better solutions, if any.'