Concerned over the situation in Kashmir, Opposition parties attacked the government over its handling of the affairs related to the state but were divided on the question of granting autonomy to the state. While BJP was strongly against grant of autonomy and even questioned whether the government was going to discuss it, Left parties favoured political and economic package including "broadening of framework of autonomy within the sovereignty of Indian constitution".
Initiating the debate on situation in Jammu and Kashmir which has been witnessing violence for over two months, Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the central government's policies with regard to the state had "not succeeded". He said there was a sense of alienation among people of Kashmir and had "genuine grievances" which need to be addressed through immediate "pro-active" measures.
"I don't want to use to word failed, it is too hard. I don't want to embarrass the government, it is already embarrassed," he said while contending that Kashmir has been "on fire" for a pretty long time. Alleging that the "state is insensitive towards Kashmir", Dasgupta said, "People of Kashmir must get their due. They must be able to feel a part of the country."
Contending that "tension so high" in Kashmir could not be "artificially" created, he said he did not dispute that "strings" of stone-pelters may be pulled from across the border but it could not happen if there were "no genuine grievances" among the people of Kashmir. "I am not ready to accept that every act of protest is an act of hooliganism," Dasgupta said.
He said the "disconnect between the ruled and the rulers" in Jammu and Kashmir is widening, which was unfortunate in a democracy. Referring to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, he said the "young man has been promoted" but the "change of guard does not automatically lead to change of policy".
BJP leader M M Joshi referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement that the government was ready to hold dialogue on political issues and wondered whether this meant discussion on demands for "independence" or "autonomy". He wanted to know what the "genuine grievances" of people of Kashmir were when the central government was giving 11 per cent of resources to a state having only one per cent of national population.
Joshi said it was not true that people of Kashmir had "economic problems" as he had only heard demands for "independence" and "autonomy". Addressing the government, he asked, "Will this be the basis of your dialogue? If you say yes, say it openly. If you say no, say so."
Joshi said the government should tell the people of Kashmir bluntly that demands for "independence or autonomy arenot acceptable." This triggered a strong protest from National Conference member Sharif-ud Shariq, who asserted that his party would not relent till autonomy is granted. He also targeted BJP, saying it had created problems in Kashmir, sparking a clash with the members of the main opposition party who retaliated.
Shariq's party colleague Mehboob Beg also attacked BJP for its strong views on Kashmir. In view of the uproar that disrupted Joshi's speech, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said every member should be allowed to air their views. "This House reflects different perceptions," she said, adding if NC members disagreed with Joshi's views, who was representing BJP, they would get an opportunity to register a counter-point. "The House is discussing a serious issue....This discussion is being watched not only in the country but even abroad," Swaraj said after which normalcy was restored. Referring to government's "quiet dialogue" which was disrupted in December last year, Joshi questioned what it was about and with whom it was being held.
"You did not tell Parliament... Now tell us with whom you were talking. Was it (hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah) Geelani or Hurriyat or LeT," he said addressing the government. On Home Minister P Chidambaram's contention that it was disrupted after one of the interlocutors was shot and injured, Joshi said, "You should have realised then that people there do not want dialogue." Asking the government to unveil roadmap for Kashmir solution, he warned that grant of autonomy would lead to such demands from North East too.
Turning to government's contention that Kashmir issue has external dimensions too, Joshi asked whether the government would involve Pakistan in the dialogue to address currenttrouble in the Valley. He emphasised that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India because "it is a Constitutional fact, it is a historical fact and it is a geographical fact." Joshi also contended that security forces, including local police, were a demoralised lot in Kashmir as they do not want to perform duties in their localities.
The BJP leader said the central government had given Rs 94,000 crore to Jammu and Kashmir over last 60 years but it was not reaching people because of corruption. He said two committees had been set up earlier by the central government to assess developmental needs of the state but nobody knows what happened to their recommendations.