Srinagar: President of the National Conference and Member of Parliament from Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah, said on Sunday that his party had said nothing against J&K’s accession to the Indian Union. “Never have we asked for azadi,” he said in an interview to PTI here.
Abdullah recalled a statement made by former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, who had said in Parliament that other than ‘azadi’, “the sky was the limit” as far as autonomy was concerned.
“Where is that sky?” asked Abdullah.
People of Jammu and Kashmir, he said, were aware of the “agenda of the 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’. At that time, don’t blame me,” he said.
Abdullah said any effort to solve the Kashmir dispute has to include Pakistan. “When I talk about the Kashmir issue, I mean the entire Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This is a political issue that involves Pakistan, as a part of this state is with them,” he said.
Unless Pakistan is taken on board, “whatever we decide with Delhi will not carry any weight”, he said.
“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 that “to the best of his understanding”, granting autonomy would be “the best possible solution”.
“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 said.
Abdullah said that the efforts of the Indian government’s special representative to Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, can only succeed if his report is tabled in the two Houses of Parliament for discussion.
Abdullah also said that New Delhi must explain what it wished to achieve by appointing Sharma as special representative for Kashmir. Sharma’s mandate, he added, was not clear to anybody in Kashmir.
“We are confused about who he is and what his agenda is going to be,” Abdullah said.
Asked why he did not meet Sharma, Abdullah replied, “I thought it is of no use until Delhi makes it clear that he has some powers and whatever he recommends will be taken up in Parliament. That is the only way forward.”
Abdullah also pointed to the failure of earlier such moves. “The past has shown that none of such efforts have been sincere. Does anyone talk about the report prepared by Dileep Padgaonkar and his team of Radha Kumar and MM Ansari?” he asked, referring to the three-member team appointed by the Congress-led UPA government in 2010. In 2012, the team submitted its report, favouring “meaningful autonomy” for Jammu and Kashmir.
“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 said he was sceptical about the success of Sharma’s mission. “I don’t 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 he had 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.
Abdullah also requested Modi to rein in army chief Gen Bipin Rawat.
“Of late, we have seen the army chief making political statements. 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,” he said.