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J&K separatists reject PM’s autonomy offer
SRINAGAR/Jammu, AUG 11 (AFP/IANS/Agencies):
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Published on 12 Aug. 2010 12:02 AM IST
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Separatist leaders in Indian Kashmir Wednesday dismissed overtures from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for greater political autonomy in the region following months of anti-India unrest.
Appealing to Kashmiri Muslims to “give peace a chance,” Singh had said Tuesday that his government would consider any consensus proposal for autonomy as long as it remained “within the ambit” of the constitution.
He also announced the creation of a panel of experts that would draw up a “jobs plan” for Indian Kashmir where rampant unemployment -- especially among young people -- is fuelling the already deep resentment against Indian rule. But senior Kashmir separatists rejected Singh’s initiative.
“Our fight is for independence, not autonomy,” Javed Mir, a former militant commander turned separatist politician, told AFP.
“We will continue our fight for our goal through peaceful protests,” said Mir, who had been among the first Kashmiris to take up arms in 1989 when frustration against Indian rule boiled over into a full-blown insurgency.
Under the terms of its accession to India in 1947 -- after independence from Britain and the sub-continent’s division -- Kashmir was granted a relatively high degree of autonomy, excluding areas like defence and foreign affairs. But those powers have been eroded over the years, and renewed promises of greater autonomy gain little traction in separatist circles.
“Our struggle is not for the restoration of autonomy. It is to seek our right to self-determination,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, an influential moderate separatist and Muslim cleric, told AFP.
“We should be allowed to decide whether we want to remain with India, accede to Pakistan or carve out an independent state,” he said.
Kashmir is divided between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in full and have fought two wars over their territorial dispute.
The Kashmir legislative assembly in 2000 passed a resolution favouring full restoration of the state’s autonomy, but it was rejected by the then Hindu-nationalist government in New Delhi.
Autonomy is the main demand of the ruling National Conference, the state’s biggest pro-India political party. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said Kashmiri opposition to Indian rule ran far deeper than the issue of unemployment.
“The prime minister has failed to accept the ground realities that Kashmiris want freedom from India. Kashmiris are not sacrificing their lives for jobs,” Geelani said.
Violence erupted in the Kashmir Valley following the death on June 11 of a 17-year-old boy struck by a police tear-gas shell.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy formula, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said all political parties must first discuss the proposal for autonomy thoroughly, reports ANI.
“What is autonomy? This has to be discussed thoroughly. The Prime Minister must first table a proposal on Jammu and Kashmir,” said Naidu. “We are for the total integration of Jammu and Kashmir. All political parties must first discuss the Prime Minister’s proposal,” he added.
The Prime Minister in his closing remarks at a meeting of representatives of various political parties from Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday said: “If there is consensus among political parties on autonomy for the State, then it can be considered within the ambit of the Constitution.”
Terror strikes Jammu
A woman was killed and 17 people, including two soldiers, hurt when terrorists ambushed three army vehicles and a civilian bus in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district Wednesday, army sources said.
Terrorists attacked the army vehicles and the bus at Thanna Mandi area’s Dera-ki-Gali, around 8,000 feet above sea level and about 190 km north of Jammu.
“Three army vehicles and a civilian bus came under heavy gunfire from the terrorists hiding in a maize field. Two soldiers were injured,” a senior army officer based in Nagrota, headquarters of the 16 Corps, told IANS.
A woman identified as Kiran Balla from Poonch was killed and several passengers injured in the gunfire, he said, adding that the soldiers did not retaliate.
“On whom could we have fired back. They (terrorists) took cover in the thick maize field,” the officer said.
The maize, standing at more than six feet tall, is hampering search operations, he added.

 
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