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Panel to discuss autonomy for J&K

January 17, 2005 17:33 IST

The Centre will set up a committee to hold talks with political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on the issue of autonomy, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced on Monday.

Patil said this after a meeting with National Conference president Omar Abdullah and his father and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

"The National Conference had raised the demand for greater autonomy with me and as well as with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when we visited the state separately," Patil said.

"The logic is clear and simple: If the Centre can talk to those seeking independence and accession to Pakistan, then why leave National Conference's demand, which is within the four walls of the Constitution?"

It can either be a three or a four-member committee, Patil said.

Since the NC had raised the issue, the talks will primarily be with it, but the committee will seek the opinion of other political parties as well, he said.

The committee will submit its conclusion to the Union home ministry for further discussions, Patil added.

N N Vohra, the Centre's interlocutor on Kashmir, is likely to head the panel, while the NC is likely to be represented either by Abdul Rahim Rather or Ali Mohammed Sagar, official sources said.

The J&K assembly had adopted a resolution seeking greater autonomy during the previous NC government's term.

The National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre had turned down the resolution.

However, the NDA later appointed former law minister Arun Jaitley to hold talks with the NC on this issue.

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