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Kashmir interlocutors submit report, focus on development

Wednesday October 12, 2011 07:51:58 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Advocating "meaningful autonomy" and speedy development, the three interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir submitted their report to Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday, a year after they were appointed to draw a roadmap to peace, sources said.

The interlocutors -- journalist Dileep Padgoankar, academic Radha Kumar and former civil servant M.M. Ansari -- are learnt to have also recommended the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act from the state that has seen a bruising insurgency for over two decades.

"The minister has told us he would now take the report forward," Padgaonkar told reporters after presenting the report.

The report, sources said, has recommended developmental councils for all the three regions - Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh - and devolution of powers to the sub-regions.

It also recommends a massive economic package to tackle the huge unemployment in the state and major infrastructure development to provide connectivity and boost tourism, officials in the know said.

While avoiding the "pre-1952 status" phraseology, the report speaks about ensuring "meaningful autonomy" for the state, while preserving its distinct regional and ethnic diversities, it is learnt.

The report has also put on record the perceptions of the hundreds of people the team had interacted with during the past one year and even the views of the separatists, who refused to interact with them, the sources added.

The trio was appointed Oct 13 last year, when the Kashmir situation had turned grim following street protests and the killing of more than 100 youth.

A year on, there was apprehension in Jammu, one of the three main regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Residents in the region felt the report could be "one sided and against the interests of Jammu".

"In their last press conference in Srinagar the interlocutors said clearly they would be addressing the aspirations of the people within the framework of the country's constitution," said professor Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher in Srinagar.

Jammu's main demand is for an increase in the number of legislative assembly seats. The region has 37 seats in the house of 87, the Valley has 46, while Ladakh has four seats.

The separatists say the interlocutors' report is immaterial and what really matters is a permanent settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

Abdul Gani Bhat, spokesperson and former chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, told IANS in Srinagar that what mattered was the permanent settlement of the dispute on Kashmir.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani called the appointment of the interlocutors another gimmick by New Delhi to push the dispute under the carpet.







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