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YAWN! We have heard it before – Cong promises AFSPA relook, interlocutors

Congress


Srinagar, Apr 2: Though it did not bother to even look at the report of three interlocutors chosen by it on Kashmir, the Congress party, as a perfect example of selling old wine in a new bottle, has once again promised that if voted to power, it will appoint interlocutors for the valley.

If that was not (boring) enough, the grand old party also has promised to have a relook at the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) currently operating in Kashmir.

 

The Indian National Congress on Tuesday said that the party will appoint three new interlocutors for Kashmir if it was voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

“Congress promises to find such a solution through patient dialogue and talks with all stakeholders in the state. Congress promises the people of J&K talks without pre-conditions. We will appoint three interlocutors drawn from civil society to facilitate such talks,” reads the party’s election manifesto released on Tuesday.

“Congress has long held the view that dialogue is the only way to understand the aspirations of the people of the three regions to find an honourable solution to their issues. We will take the path.”

Following the massive unrest in the Valley in 2010, the Manmohan Singh government appointed a group of interlocutors comprising veteran journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, former Information Commissioner M M Ansari and academician Radha Kumar.

After a year of deliberations and discussions with all stakeholders, the group submitted its report to the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram in October 2011 and made several recommendations. None of these were eventually acted upon by the Central government.

After losing power, Chidambaram, in December last year, “regretted” not acting on the report.

In its manifesto, the Congress says that Jammu and Kashmir and its problems deserve a “large-hearted” approach that will eschew muscular militarism and legalistic formulations and look for an innovative federal solution.

“We also acknowledge the unique history of the State and the unique circumstances under which the State acceded to India that led to the inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution of India. Nothing will be done or allowed to change the Constitutional position,” read the manifesto.

It said that the party will adopt a two-pronged approach: firstly, uncompromising firmness on the border and ending infiltration; and secondly, absolute fairness in dealing with the demands of the people and winning their hearts and minds.

The Congress has also promised to reduce the presence of the Army and CAPFs in the Kashmir Valley, and entrust more responsibility to the Jammu and Kashmir police for maintaining law and order.
It said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in J&K will be reviewed and suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights.

“We are deeply concerned about the cases of discrimination and harassment of students, traders and others belonging to Jammu & Kashmir in the rest of India and we will ensure their safety and their right to study or do business,” read the manifesto.

The party also promised that “free and fair” elections to the state legislature assembly will be held immediately.