New debate on Kashmir
SRINAGAR: A new debate has started in Kashmir following the statement of former Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah who says Azad Jammu and Kashmir is part of Pakistan and both parts of Kashmir – in India and Pakistan – should be granted autonomy.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function at his National Conference party headquarters in Srinagar on Saturday, he said: “I want to tell people of India and the entire world that the part of Kashmir that is with Pakistan is part of Pakistan, and the part which is with India belongs to India. It is not going to change even if wars are fought… That part will remain with Pakistan and this part will remain with India, and both Kashmirs should be granted autonomy.” The former chief minister also said that Kashmir cannot survive as an independent state. “We are landlocked. We have China on one side, Pakistan on the other side and India on the third side. All three have atom bombs,” he said adding while the state decided to join India “out of love”, the country “betrayed” the people of Kashmir and did not treat them well.
Stating that people in Kashmir are aware of the “agenda of the BJP and RSS” of abrogating Article 370, Dr Farooq Abdullah warned that such attempts would further aggravate the situation and “everyone will shout for freedom here”. “People of Kashmir are fully aware of the agenda of BJP and RSS of abrogating Article 370. But let me warn you, it will further aggravate the situation.
Nobody will be here for autonomy… Everyone will shout for ‘azadi’ (freedom). At that time do not blame me,” he said here. NC president said that the efforts of the centre’s special representative for Kashmir can move forward only if Dineshwar Sharma’s final report is tabled in the two houses of parliament for discussion. He stressed that New Delhi also needed to explain what it wished to achieve by appointing Sharma as a special representative for talks on Kashmir. Different voices emerging from power corridors had reduced him to a “zero” even before he could start the talks, he said. Abdullah, 80, stressed he had never been against talks, but was “baffled by the lack of clarity” on the Centre’s move.”Even before he (Sharma) was to visit the Valley, there were different voices emerging from New Delhi including that from the minister in PMO (Jitendra Singh) who said Sharma was not an interlocutor,” the ex-chief minister said.
Sharma’s mandate, he added, was not clear to anybody in Kashmir. “So we are confused about what he is and what his agenda is going to be,” the Lok Sabha member said here. Asked why he did not meet Sharma, who was on a four-day visit to the Valley last week, Abdullah replied, “I thought it is of no use until Delhi makes it clear that he has some powers and that whatever he finally recommends will be taken up in Parliament. That is the only way forward.” Abdullah also referred to earlier such moves. “The past has shown that none of such efforts has been sincere. Does anyone talk about the report prepared by Dileep Padgaonkar and his team, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari?”
The Congress-led UPA Government had appointed the three- member team for talks in Kashmir in 2010. In 2012, it submitted its report which favoured “meaningful autonomy” for the state, while preserving its distinct diversities. “Till date, that report has not seen the light of day. It is collecting dust in the home ministry. The best thing would have been to table that report in both the Houses of Parliament,” Abdullah said.
He was also skeptical about the success of Sharma’s mission. “I do not see it progressing unless the Government of India makes its mind clear and gives him that authority (of tabling the report). Otherwise he will be subservient to (National Security Advisor Ajit) Doval,” he said. Abdullah said any effort to solve the Kashmir issue had to include Pakistan. “When I talk about the Kashmir issue, I mean the entire Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This is not only a developmental issue, but also a political issue, and this political issue also involves Pakistan, as a part of this state is with them.”
Unless Pakistan was taken on board, “whatever we decide with Delhi will not carry any weight”, he said referring “The skirmishes between the two countries at the border are only leading to death and destruction. This needs to be stopped,” he said. Abdullah said, “to the best of his understanding”, granting autonomy would be “the best possible solution” as it was within the provisions of the Constitution. “Now there are some problems as far as autonomy is concerned. We have repeatedly said we can discuss (them)…If there is anything in that autonomy report which will not (be of) benefit…We can look into them, either they (the Centre) convince us or we will convince them,” he said. Instead of “just shutting it out”, there should be a discussion, he added.
Abdullah also made it clear that his party had said nothing against accession to the Indian Union. “Never have we asked for azadi,” he said and recalled a statement made by former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, who had once said in Parliament that other than ‘azadi’, the sky was the limit as far as autonomy was concerned. “Where is that sky,” asked Abdullah. Abdullah said he had a number of meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “His speech from the Red Fort on Independence day asking all countrymen to embrace Kashmiris was a nice gesture. However, his team down below has not been translating these words into action,” he said.
The Member of Parliament also requested Modi to rein in army chief Gen Bipin Rawat. “Of late, we have seen the Army chief making political statements and this practice is not good for democracy. I am sure one day the Prime Minister will ask him to focus on our borders and look after the welfare of our Army.”