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July 29, 2000
No dialogue on autonomy, PM assures J&K delegation
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Saturday assured a delegation from Jammu and Kashmir that the government would not, under any circumstance, reopen dialogue with state Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah on the autonomy issue.
"The prime minister assured us that the autonomy proposal has been rejected by the government and there was no question of holding talks on this issue," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Chaman Lal Gupta told rediff.com after meeting the prime minister.
Gupta led a fifteen-member delegation to meet the prime minister and apprise him of the wishes of the people of Jammu.
"We welcome the decision to hold talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen but we have also appealed to the government to remain vigilant," he said. "The prime minister has asked us to be careful while commenting on the on-going developments in J&K. He told us that the talks with the Hizbul - the only local militant group operating in the valley - would have long reaching implications for the country," Gupta said.
"We have asked that the talks be held within the framework of the Constitution of India," Gupta explained. He hoped that the government would keep the interests of the people of Jammu and Ladakh in mind while holding talks with the Hizbul and other militant groups.
The delegation requested the prime minister to reject the regional autonomy proposal put forward by the state government because it is based on communal lines. It seeks to divide the state into eight regions - six Muslim regions, one Hindu and one Buddhist region. The people of J&K do not want to witness another partition, they told Vajpayee.
Dr Farooq Abdullah has also met the prime minister on Saturday morning. After the meeting, he told newspersons that while he welcomed the government's response to the Hizbul offer, he hoped that the National Conference would also be kept in the picture.
"This is the first step towards holding talks with Islamabad," Dr Abdullah said. He denied that NC leaders were upset with the Union government's for accepting the Hizbul offer.
"I am the president of the NC and I welcome the initiative," Abdullah said.
Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra has said that the government would hold talks with the Hizbul only within the framework of the Constitution of India. "Can the government hold talks outside the framework of the Constitution?" he asked.
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