Must consider past pledges to J&K: Chidambaram
In the first such indicator of concessions Delhi is mulling, Home Minister P Chidambaram said it was time to act on promises made to the people of Kashmir more than half a century ago. Samar Halarnkar and Indrajit Hazra report. Full interview with Chidambaramindia Updated: Sep 19, 2010 01:26 IST
In the first such indicator of concessions Delhi is mulling, Home Minister P Chidambaram said it was time to act on promises made to the people of Kashmir more than half a century ago.
"Over the years, several promises have been made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and we should act on those promises," Chidambaram (65) told Hindustan Times. “Based on the agreements and accords of 1952, 1975, and 1986, we must address these promises.”
Though he did not elaborate on what “promises” might be considered in evolving a package for Kashmir, where 101 people have been killed in 100 days of unrest, Chidambaram stressed a plebiscite was not up for consideration.
"The plebiscite is history. Much has changed since,” he said. “We have to look at things as they are now, not rake up the past, if we are to move ahead.”
Chidambaram indicated that Delhi would consider more autonomy for Kashmir. “The content of the demand for autonomy is a matter for dialogue and discussion,” he said.
Chidambaram said he had previously been in “closed-door dialogue” with separatist leaders but declined to say what he discussed. The meetings stopped after moderate All Party Hurriyat Conference leader Fazal Ul Haq Qureshi was shot dead in December 2009.
Chidambaram is part of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and controls all paramilitary forces in the Valley. What he says in an indicator of how the government is thinking, but in the past his views have been in conflict with his cabinet colleagues.
Chidambaram said the Kashmir problem was essentially political. “In the absence of a solution, it has given rise to serious security concerns,” he said.
As India grapples with some of the most widespread unrest ever seen in its only Muslim-majority state — 61 per cent of the population is Muslim — the minister acknowledged Kashmir was seeing “a qualitatively different kind of protest”.
"Certainly today’s protesters are a very different group of young men, women and, in some cases, children,” he said. “We do need to recognise this. The protests are certainly more widespread and there is significant alienation.”
Referring to the separatist demand for demilitarization, Chidambaram said there was “substantial demilitarisation” last year. About 10,000 paramilitary troops and 30,000 army troops were moved out of the Valley, he said.