Old wine, old bottle: NC’s manifesto talks of Autonomy, Article 370, AFSPA

SRINAGAR: In its manifesto released Wednesday, the National Conference (NC) promises to safeguard Article 370, vows to fight for return of the Autonomy and removal of the AFSPA if it returns to power in J&K.
“Article (370) cannot be tampered with. We will oppose any such attempt, and will press for the reversal of (its) erosion over the years,” the manifesto reads, calling Article 370 as the “foundation of the state’s relation with India.”
Releasing the manifesto before media at the NC’s headquarters here, party’s general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said the political forces within and outside J&K want to create an issue by talking about abrogation of Article 370.
“Nobody can touch it as the Indian parliament had accepted special status of the only Muslim majority state,” Sagar, who was accompanied by senior party leaders, Nasir Aslam Wani, Mian Altaf Ahmad, Mohammad Akbar Lone, said.
“The abrogation will create a problem between New Delhi and Kashmir. Article 370 is a bridge between the two. Collapse of this bridge will affect the relations too. It shall be made permanent provision of Indian Constitution,” he added.
Like the past, the NC has again included in its manifesto the demand for restoration of the state’s Autonomy or pre-1953 position. The demand has been a regular feature of NC’s electioneering in all previous elections.
Autonomy implies restoration of the state’s sovereign character with its own Prime Minister and Sadre-e-Riyasat (Governor); New Delhi would only control the state’s Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communication, and Finance.
The J&K enjoyed an autonomous and special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution till 1953. After the dismissal and arrest of NC’s founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as J&K’s Prime Minister in August 1953, the successive governments in New Delhi systematically eroded the Autonomy.
In 2000, the NC’s formal demand for Autonomy was rejected by Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government in New Delhi with which the NC had an alliance. And 15 years on, the Modi government has made it loud and clear that it’s seriously committed to abrogation of Article 370.
Sagar said, “There is no question of rejecting the Autonomy resolution that was passed by the elected representatives of the people”.
Asked what the party did for Autonomy in six years of its rule, he said, “The ball is in New Delhi’s court”.
“If not today or tomorrow, they will accept the Autonomy resolution and hand it over to us. This is the only option to the Kashmir problem,” he added.
The party also promises to “strive with renewed vigor for building consensus in India over Autonomy.”
“This is the core agenda of the party,” Sagar said.
Seeking withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the NC manifesto says Chief Minister Omar Abdullah “vehemently advocated” for revocation of the draconian law.
“Omar has been consistently and vehemently advocating the revocation of AFSPA, which the NC believes is no longer necessary. With efforts of the CM and the government, near normalcy has returned and the state machinery is geared to deal with any disturbance,” Sagar read from the manifesto.
“The NC will continue its sustained efforts to get this law revoked. Why to create hurdles if the normalcy has returned and when 70 percent express their belief in ‘mainstream’ politics?” he said.
Sagar said “zero tolerance” was the priority of NC led-government.
“In 2010 summer agitation, 17 FIRs were lodged against police and other armed forces,” he said. “We took the cases like that of Zahid Farooq to Supreme Court. This shows our commitment in respecting the human rights and no tolerance policy of the government towards human rights violation.”
Meanwhile, responding to a query about Narendra Modi’s visit coinciding with the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, Sagar said, “There is no role of the present government as Model Code of Conduct is in vogue”.
“There are people to see whether or not it creates any law and order problem,” he said.
He said the BJP and the NC are “a river’s two banks that will never unite”.
Sagar also claimed that no one among the pro-freedom leaders was jailed or stopped from campaigning against elections.
“They are carrying out their boycott campaign,” he added.