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‘Right time for breakthrough’
By Javed Matjee, Srinagar

Ali Mohammad Sagar represents young aspirants in the ruling National Conference.. Having started his political career as an activist of the Youth Federation in mid-seventies, Sagar is presently holding works portfolio in the Farooq Abdullah administration. He is considered to be the only vibrant contact between people and government in Kashmir. Besides undertaking extensive touring, even of far-flung areas, about 400 people come to meet Sagar every day at his residence and office. Most of people meeting Sagar are job aspirants, whom the minister is unable to help. Sagar admits that people’s expectations from his government are very high but it is feasible to meet these expectations.

In an interview with the MG in his Srinagar office, Ali Mohammad Sagar said that he was hopeful that something positive would come out of the forthcoming meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Asked what is the basis of his optimism, Sagar said that for the first time in the history of the Subcontinent, any Pakistani ruler has shown flexibility over Kashmir. ‘Take recent statements of General Saheb and analyze the change. You will feel that something is going to happen,’ Minister Sagar said. According to him, Prime Minister Vajpayee’s statement to talk about all issues, Indian army chief’s views of give and take, Hurriyet’s decision to stop its anti-government activities and its declared perception about mosque and religious places and the extraordinary coverage given by the Indian media to the Hurriyet Conference and other separatists groups are some of the signs which provide basis to this optimism. The NC leader adds, ‘if you put together this jigsaw, the result would be that this is the right time to expect something positive out of the summit.’

Laddakh was granted the status of hill development council on the death of just four persons while Kashmir has lost 50,000 of its youth. Can this huge sacrifice be ignored?

He said that the proposal for the restoration of autonomy was the best and appropriate option for New Delhi can no longer evade its promises and it has to honour people’s wishes. The instrument of accession, Delhi agreement and article 370 are to be kept under consideration by the centre, he said. He claimed that his party was happy over the developments, which are taking place with regard to the Kashmir issue. He also claimed that all these activities are the outcome of the autonomy resolution adopted by his party in the state legislature. ‘The resolution took the the lid off and a chain of developments followed,’ Sagar asserted. Whatever developments relating to Kashmir take place at the national and international levels, are the result of NC proposal to restore autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Sagar claimed.

Asked about NC fears from a permanent resolution of Kashmir Minister Sagar said that these were mere speculations. ‘In fact if some solution is found, it will be based upon our demand for autonomy and as such we can convince the people that the NC has provided the ground for the resolution of the vexed issue,’ Mr. Sagar said adding that militants and Hurriyet Conference have caused record destruction to Kashmir and its people. According to Sagar, his party was not against Centre’s negotiations with any person or group. Asked about his government’s performance of the past four years, Sagar said that the derailed state has been put back on the tracks.

Asked why the state government failed to put an end to the continuing bloodshed in Kashmir, the NC leader admitted that innocent people were getting killed. However, he termed it as a result of an atmosphere where various agencies do not want restoration of peace and normalcy.

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