April 2019 News

Congress Vows To Appoint 3 Interlocutors For Kashmir Talks

2 April 2019
Greater Kashmir
Shabir Ibn Yusuf

Srinagar: The Congress party Tuesday released its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, assuring that it would review the armed forces special powers Act (AFSPA) and the disturbed areas Act (DAA) in Jammu and Kashmir and also lessen the footprints of central forces in the state. 'The Congress promises to review the deployment of armed forces in J&K, move more troops to the borders to stop infiltration completely reduce the presence of the army and CAFPs (central armed forces personnel) in the Kashmir Valley, and entrust more responsibility to the Jammu and Kashmir police for maintaining law and order,' the poll document reads, adding: 'The armed forces (special powers) Act (AFSPA) and the disturbed areas Act (DAA) in J&K will be reviewed. Suitable changes will be made in the text of these laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights'. The party says in the document that nobody will be allowed to change the constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir. 'Congress has been witness to developments in Jammu and Kashmir since the instrument of accession (IoI) was signed on 26 October 1947. The party affirms that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir is part of India. We also acknowledge the unique history of the state and the unique circumstances under which the state acceded to India and led to the inclusion of Article 370 in the constitution of India,' the manifesto reads. 'Nothing will be done or allowed to change the constitutional position (sic)'. The party has advocated dialogue and said that interlocutors will be appointed for the purpose. 'Congress has long held the view that dialogue is the only way to understand the aspirations of the people of the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir and find an honorable solution to their issues. We will take that path,' the manifesto reads. 'The Congress promises to the people of J&K talks without pre-conditions. We will appoint three interlocutors drawn from civil society to facilitate such talks'. The party said it would adopt a two-pronged approach: 'uncompromising firmness on the border and ending infiltration, and absolute fairness in dealing with the demands of the people and winning their hearts and minds'. The manifesto said that 'building a union of states i.e. India is a project of inclusiveness. Jammu and Kashmir and its problems deserve a large-hearted approach that will eschew muscular militarism and legalistic formulations and look for an innovative federal solution,' the document reads. 'Congress promises to find such a solution through patient dialogue and talks with all stakeholders in the state'. The party said it would 'renew' the initiatives taken by the UPA government including 'uddan', 'himayat' and 'umeed' to impart training in skills and create economic opportunities for the youths of J&K. 'Free and fair elections to the state legislative assembly should be held immediately,' the party said in the manifesto. 'The party is also deeply concerned about the cases of discrimination and harassment of students, traders and others from Jammu and Kashmir in rest of India. We will ensure their safety and their right to study or do business,' the document reads. Meanwhile, alleging that the BJP government had spread hate and divisiveness in its five-year rule, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said: 'Their (the BJP) record in J&K is in front of you. Terror casualties are mounting...There will be a major focus on national and internal security'. He also promised that his party will work towards uniting India by bringing people together. The BJP hit out at the Congress on the proposed amendments in the AFSPA, with finance minister Arun Jaitley saying it 'compromised national security'. The Congress earlier wanted martyr status for soldiers, now they want cases against them, the Union minister said, and alleged that 'those who laid their lives for the nation, the Congress wants them to be prosecuted at the behest of relatives of militants'. Jaitley alleged that though the party had set up a drafting committee, it appears that some important points related to J&K were drafted by Rahul Gandhi's friends in 'tukde tukde' gang, a reference to the Congress president's visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University where a section of students were protesting and allegedly raised anti-India slogans.