Autonomy must, it determines ties with India, says Farooq

Warns election-time rhetoric may have serious implications

Arun Joshi
Tribune News Service
Jammu, April 4

National Conference president and  five-time CM Farooq Abdullah  today termed the high-pitched exchange  between the BJP and PDP over the ‘deadline’ for abrogation of Article 35A and that of the secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India as mere “election-time rhetoric”.

Firmly maintaining that Delhi should start talking to J&K on restoration of autonomy,  as agreed under Article 370, and the state’s accession to the country in 1947, he asked those  calling for secession of the state, “If not India, where do we go, Pakistan or China? Or we become independent.”

He was reflecting on  the PDP president and former CM Mehbooba Mufti’s threat that “2020 would be the deadline for separation of the state from India”  in response to BJP national president Amit Shah’s declaration that Article 35A would  be removed by 2020.

“This election-time rhetoric has vitiated the atmosphere and it could have serious implications in the times to come. Elections may be won or lost, but the dignity of the discourse should be maintained,” he told The Tribune in an interview.

“Autonomy granted to J&K is the inalienable right of the state as ensured in the terms of accession of the state. The autonomy determines the relationship. It cannot be compromised,” he maintained. Article 35A grants exclusive rights to permanent residents of J&K on immovable property, jobs and  scholarships.

The NC leader asserted that the Article, that accords special status to the state,  was negotiated  to respect the

“Muslim majority character  and diversity of the state.” This, he said, was owing to the negotiations that his father Sheikh Abdullah had held with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. 

“The terms were very clear: Jammu and Kashmir will have  full sovereignty over all matters,  barring foreign affairs, defence and communications. The only way to keep Kashmir in the Indian Union is that the Centre should start talking of autonomy (for J&K),” he emphasised.

The former CM, who has seen many elections and ups and downs vis-à-vis Delhi and Kashmir, recalled: "It was a  temporary Article till plebiscite was  held  to enable the people of the state to choose between India and Pakistan.”

When reminded the whole thing was superseded by the Sheikh Abdullah-Indira Gandhi accord in 1975 when the former disbanded the Plebiscite Front and accepted chief ministership, he said his father had  written to 

Indira, saying that "the accord is the first step towards restoration of the pre-1953 autonomous status.”

When pointed out that he had rejected the restoration of the titles of Sadr-e-Riyasat (Head of State) and Prime Minister (as head of government) in December 1995 when PV Narasimha Rao was PM, he replied :“ We wanted full autonomy, not just the titles. And that is precisely what (his son and also a former CM) Omar Abdullah has been insisting on."

‘Why close the highway?’

Srinagar: The Jammu-Kashmir highway was not closed even during the Kargil war when intelligence reports suggested suicide attackers were at large, former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said a day after the government decided to block the road lifeline for two days a week. "What is happening for god's sake. Are you trying to make Kashmir a colony of the British?" an anguished Abdullah asked, terming the decision as interference with the citizens' fundamental rights. PTI

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