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For Most Kashmiris, 'Azaadi' Means Autonomy: Chidambaram

Former Home Minister P Chidambaram said the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma to hold talks in Kashmir doesn't indicate a change of heart or approach by the Centre in its policy but that it will continue to hold on to its "muscular policy and military solution".

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Updated:October 28, 2017, 10:29 PM IST
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For Most Kashmiris, 'Azaadi' Means Autonomy: Chidambaram
File photo of Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram. (PTI photo)
New Delhi: Former Home Minister P Chidambaram has said the "azadi" demand by Kashmiris meant that people want autonomy and it should be seriously examined.

"My interactions with J&K led to the conclusion then when they asked for 'azaadi', most of them, not all, but an overwhelming majority wanted autonomy. Therefore, I think we should seriously examine that question," said Chidambaram.

The Congress leader said it is perfectly within the Constitution of India. "J&K will remain an integral part of India but it will have larger powers as promised under Article 370," Chidambaram said.

He also said the appointment of an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir was a diversionary tactic by the NDA government.

He said the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma to hold talks in Kashmir doesn't indicate a change of heart or approach by the Centre in its policy but that it will continue to hold on to its "muscular policy and military solution".

Chidambaram said he was worried about what was happening in the valley. He said the government's Kashmir policy was "misguided" and that had deteriorated the situation in the state.

"The situation in Kashmir is worse than at any time before, and certainly worse than what it was in 2011. All the good work done between 2011 and say up to even the middle of 2015 after the NDA came to power... all that has been wiped out in the last two years," he added.

Chidambaram had in July 2016 advocated greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, saying India should restore the "grand bargain" under which Kashmir had acceded by granting a large degree of autonomy to it. He had warned that otherwise the country will have to pay a "heavy price".

Reacting sharply, the BJP said, it was not surprising to see Chidambaram make such comments given his leader supported those who gave slogan of "Bharat tere tukde honge", an apparent reference to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi backing those who protested the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar in the JNU row.

"Shocking that PC bats for separatists & 'azadi' but then not surprising given that their leader supported 'Bharat tere tukde honge' naara!" Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani tweeted.

"Shameful given that PC spoke in Gujarat, the birthplace of Sardar Patel; a man who dedicated his life for the unity & prosperity of India," she added.

In Srinagar, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav Madhav alleged that the Kashmiri people and the whole country "are bearing the brunt of the mistakes" that were committed by Chidambaram and the Congress government.

"We do not need this advice. The present government would seek advice from well-wishers of J-K and would act definitely in future. We do not need advice from Chidambaram," Madhav, the BJP's pointsman for Jammu and Kashmir, said.

- With inputs from agencies
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