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The BBC's Jill McGivering in Delhi
"Politicians in Jammu and Kashmir have expressed disappointment"
 real 28k

Indian Home Minister, LK Advani
"National integration and devolution of power... must go together"
 real 28k

Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembley, AA Vakil
"We are not demanding something outside the constitutional framework"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Anger over Kashmir decision
Marine commandos on Wullur Lake
Unlikely that autonomy would have ended violence in Kashmir
Kashmiri political groups have criticised a decision by the Indian cabinet to reject a demand for greater autonomy in the state.

The cabinet turned down a controversial proposal which would have seen the state of Jammu and Kashmir return to its pre-1953 status, when it had its own constitution, flag and prime minister.

The main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, has said the decision reflected India's colonial attitude towards the state.



It is going to perpetuate an atmosphere of mistrust

Kashmir speaker Abdul Ahad Vakil
Kashmir's ruling National Conference party has also reacted strongly, describing the move as a major setback to the process of rebuilding trust between Delhi and the Kashmiri people.

"It is going to perpetuate an atmosphere of mistrust and allow the forces of violence and fanaticism to thrive," party leader and assembly speaker, Abdul Ahad Vakil, said.

The National Conference has argued that autonomy was the best way to end the separatist insurgency in the state.

Cabinet meeting

India's Home Minister told journalists that the government was committed to devolving powers to the state.

But to accept the autonomy resolution would have been "to turn the clock back", he said.

Home Minister LK Advani
LK Advani: Open mind on the issue
Mr Advani admitted that a major factor in the decision was concern that other states too would start to demand the same rights.

The BBC's Delhi correspondent says the cabinet decision means the issue will not now be debated in parliament.

The autonomy resolution had been hotly debated in the Kashmir assembly, leading to strong criticism from India's main political parties.

Pressure

The criticism forced the Indian Government to debate the issue, despite public statements that the demand would be considered.


It is a call for another partition

BJP leader Narendra Modi
Soon after his return from a visit to Europe, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said he would consider the autonomy demand.

Mr Advani, too, told the BBC during a visit to London that the government had an "open mind" on the issue.

But Mr Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongly opposed the resolution, saying it would pave the way for the eventual secession of Kashmir from India.

"The resolution... poses a clear threat to the country's unity," BJP general secretary Narendra Modi told the Times of India in an interview published on Tuesday.

"It is a call for another partition," he added.

The main opposition Congress party also voiced its protest.

Under the terms of Kashmir's pre-1953 status, the state had control over all its affairs with the exception of finance, defence and communications.

The autonomy proposal was seen as unlikely to end the violence in Kashmir - with the main alliance of separatist groups rejecting it as a possible solution to the problem.

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | South Asia
India to consider Kashmir autonomy
26 Jun 00 | South Asia
Kashmir votes for autonomy
22 Jun 00 | South Asia
Kashmir debate rages on
15 Jul 99 | South Asia
Flashpoint Kashmir: Special Report
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