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June 22, 2000
Bhim Singh flays autonomy bill
Amberish K Dewanji in New Delhi
Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh flayed the demand for greater autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir and instead asked that Article 370 of the Constitution be abolished immediately.
"Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's demand for autonomy at the pre-1953 level is a threat to the unity and integrity of India and must be opposed," said Singh at a press conference in New Delhi today.
The Panthers Party chief also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of being hand in glove with the National Conference in the latter's demand for greater autonomy. "Today the BJP is making a lot of noise about the demand but for one year when the report was first prepared, the BJP kept quiet. Why?" he asked.
Singh claimed that the BJP was willing to let the NC raise the demand for autonomy in the hope that it would create a communal divide in the country. "The BJP gameplan is to create communal tension so that it can implement its Hindutva agenda. And they are being assisted by Abdullah," he said.
Singh insisted that there was no agreement ever between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, as claimed by Farooq Abdullah. "There was a proposal that was never signed because Abdullah was arrested. So what agreement is Farooq talking about?" asked Singh.
Declaring that the clock could not be turned back, he said if one had to go back, then he demanded a return to the pre-1947 situation. "Let the Dogra monarchy return as it was in 1947," he said.
He pointed out that in 1952, the then Jammu and Kashmir assembly had abolished the monarchy, an act that was signed by the then maharaja, Karan Singh. Bhim Singh questioned the right of assembly, which had 60 of its 75 members nominated by Sheikh Abdullah, to abolish the monarchy.
Singh warned that as per the National Conference-prepared autonomy report, the Indian Constitution would not apply to the state. "This autonomy report is a volcano that will destroy India's integrity," he thundered.
He alleged that both the NC and the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference were hand in glove and had the same agenda: the secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India. "The Hurriyat wants talks involving Pakistan while the NC is seeking more autonomy, a move that can only divide Kashmir and lead to its eventual secession," he said.
"The autonomy report states that fundamental rights will not apply, that freedom of the press and minorities will not exist, and that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court will not apply to Jammu and Kashmir," he pointed out.
He also added that the autonomy report said that the Comptroller and Auditor General will not have any role in Kashmir. "This government is constantly seeking funds from New Delhi but it does not want to be accountable for how it spends them," he said.
Singh said that all politicians in Jammu and Kashmir were corrupt. "Hurriyat leader Syed Shah Geelani has a mansion worth Rs 5 million. How did he make so much money since his stated profession is a school teacher," asked Bhim Singh.
Singh also flayed the media for ignoring the corruption and hidden agenda of Kashmiri parties and highlighting the autonomy debate.
He said the only way out was to abolish Article 370 of the Constitution.
Incidentally, Singh was a keen supporter for retaining Article 370 earlier. Explaining his change of stance, he said, "I have changed my position because in the last 10 years I have seen the effects of Article 370," he said.
Singh, who was in jail for a few years, said that he had spoken with many Kashmiri youth in jail and was surprised to learn from them that they too were keen to see Article 370 abrogated.
"Article 370 has kept the Kashmiris away from India. It is responsible for the death of 30,000 Kashmiri youth either at the hands of militants or security forces since it limits the rights of the Kashmiris," he claimed. However, he was unable to explain how Article 370 limited Kashmiris rights.
He warned that if the centre failed to take appropriate action, he would resort to drastic measures. "I am the descendent of Zorawar Singh (the famous general who captured most of what comprises present-day Kashmir) and I am not afraid to take up the gun for India's unity," he declared.
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