National

Kashmir: Congress leader bats for azadi

The controversial statement of Minister for Health, Sham Lal Sharma, batting for ‘Azadi’ for Kashmir and advocating ‘trifurcation’ of Jammu and Kashmir faces stinging reactions pouring from all the sides. Sharma, at a public meeting at Bani in Jammu region on December 5, had said Kashmir should be granted ‘azadi’ while Jammu should get statehood and Ladakh should be declared a Union Territory.

“The statement made by the minister was being examined thoroughly and action will follow”, said the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on December 8, adding “Due notice has been taken of it at appropriate quarters. Please allow them to examine not only the statement, but its context, after that whatever has to be done will be done”.

It was even reported that Congress had asked Sharma to explain his statement that was in contravention of stated position of the party and government, state being an integral part of the country. However, Jammu and Kashmir unit of Congress on December 14 rallied behind the minister, embroiled in a controversy over his purported remarks. Describing Sharma as a ‘bold voice’ within the state cabinet, JKPCC vice president and spokesperson Mohammed Muzaffar Parray sought to downplay his remarks, saying he had been quoted out of context. “Whatsoever has been attributed to him by various newspapers for having advocated trifurcation of the state isn’t correct as the same has been quoted out of context”.

Terming the statement as ‘unfortunate’, National Conference (NC) on December 8 said that the minister has linked it to the statement of Dr. Mustafa Kamal, MLA Hazratbal. “Dr. Kamal never made any remark or statement challenging the integrity of the state. He was admonished publicly by party president Dr. Farooq Abdullah on December, 5 at Hazratbal for making certain remarks about Congress – NC relationship in the past”, said the party spokesman adding that the party president publicly told Dr. Kamal not to make any statement on historical perspective of relationship between the two parties in the larger interest of smooth functioning of ruling alliance and overall welfare of state. “The content and context of statement by health minister is a matter to be deliberated and discussed by the Congress High Command and NC has refrained from commenting about his controversial speech but linking it with party or its leadership is absolutely unwarranted and uncalled for”.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti has been quoted having said “there is lot of confusion, difference of opinion in the coalition. You need to recall that on one hand, the Chief Minister on the floor of assembly questions the accession, Farooq Sahib describes the state as an integral part of India and talks about bringing back the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Now, Sharma has made this statement. In fact, the coalition has transformed tragedies of Kashmir into circus where anybody can say anything. But we would like to know what’s the take of Congress in New Delhi, what the Prime Minister has to say on this account as whether this is the official line or just a personal opinion. If the Congress government comes out saying that it’s the official line, then we’ll take it seriously and I’ll definitely comment, till then I cannot comment”.

However, former deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma described the statement as ‘personal viewpoint’ whereas CPI (M) MLA M Y Tarigami commenting over the statement said “in the state assembly, resolution against division of state was passed. The resolution, which called for strengthening of unity of the state, clearly stated that whatever be the solution to problem of Jammu and Kashmir, it shouldn’t damage integrity and identity of the state”. “Why should he not be booked under Sedition charges that have been slapped against separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Arundhati Roy for echoing similar views?”, said Dr. Nirmal Singh, former state president of Bharatiya Janata Party, adding “Congress needs to clarify its stand on this account”.

Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, opposed the statement asserting that disintegration of state would never be allowed.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2011 on page no. 15

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