Omar`s no to resignation, hopes for AFSPA removal

Omar Abdullah ruled out his resignation and hoped AFSPA would be removed soon.

Last Updated: Sep 19, 2010, 23:55 PM IST

Srinagar: On the eve of an all-party
delegation visit to Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah
on Sunday ruled out his resignation and hoped the controversial
AFSPA would be removed from the entire state for which people
should create a conducive atmosphere of peace.

Removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) would
be the first confidence building measure for the people of
Kashmir by the Centre to demonstrate its sincerity and it
could build on it to take further steps in future to resolve
the problem, he said.

"I am not the one who shows his back when problems are
there. I am a fighter and will overcome this crisis for the
people who have voted me to power. Inshallah we will overcome
this soon," he told a news agency in an interview.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q. An all-party delegation is scheduled to arrive in
Srinagar. What are your expectations and how do you react to
some sections who insist that you quit for normalcy to return?

A: I am not the one who shows his back when problems are
there. I am a fighter and will overcome this crisis for the
people who have voted me to power. Inshallah we will overcome
this soon.

Now let us understand who is making demands for my
resignation -- some frustrated political elements who failed
to make to the government in 2008 elections. Even the
separatists -- be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani or the Mirwaiz
have no issues with my government and are articulating an
ideology which they have been practising for last two decades.

The all-party delegation is arriving here tomorrow and I
as the Chief Minister can only assure on behalf of my
government that all those who are sincere about finding a
solution to the present crises will be facilitated to talk to
the delegation and I urge all those who have got the invite to
use this opportunity to express their views to the visiting
team so that the entire political spectrum of the country
develops understanding of the issue and help in its resolution
by evolving a consensus.

I hope they meet all sections of people -- be it
mainstream or separatist outfits. I also want to make an
appeal to all those other than the invitees as well who want
to meet the delegation should get in touch with the district
authorities who will facilitate.

Q: How does one explain these passionate cries for
azaadi? Many keen observers say the situation has reached a
point of no return. How does one politically resolve and calm
tempers?

A: I do not agree with the point that the situation has
reached a point of no return. We have inherited a problem and
steps are being taken to build confidence and steps will be
taken -- as my endeavour is only to take Kashmir forward. It
has been a difficult time but my government`s firm resolve is
to address concerns of all the stakeholders. I am confident
that the all-party delegation will help the state and the
Union government in paving the way forward.

Q: There is a feeling that the Abdullah family does not
want to let go of political power?

A: This is an allegation which has no basis because the
history of Kashmir will bear testimony that the Abdullahs
have always sacrificed power and personal comfort for the
welfare of the people of the state but all the same have never
misguided its people for personal gains and have instead
always voiced the truth, however, bitter it may be.

In the process of standing for truth, the Abdullahs and
the National Conference has suffered but they have never
compromised with either their ideology or the people of the
state for any petty political gains.

Q: There have been over 100 deaths since the beginning of
June. Are you worried about this?

A: Of course I am sad at the turn of events and I don`t
want mindless loss of lives. Till June things were normal and
everybody was appreciative of my government, its delivery and
sincerity. Today everyone is trying to find faults.

But the perpetuators of these protests must understand
that they should not use the youth and children as their
shields and provoke them to indulge in arson and targeting of
army convoys, public property, and security camps which leads
to confrontation with the security forces and then unfortunate
incidents of deaths. Death anyway saddens everybody and my
heart bleeds for those who have lost their kin.

We do give space for peaceful protests but those who
undertake to keep them peaceful indulge in mindless rhetoric
thus instigating the people who then indulge in arson which is
always followed by unfortunate tragedies. We are taking all
the measures to prevent loss of life and exercising maximum
restraint but those who take law into their own hands must
realise that it is the government`s primary responsibility to
protect the lives and properties of the peace-loving silent
majority.

Q: Do you agree that the AFSPA should be repealed or at
least diluted?

A: Revocation of AFSPA from certain areas is a demand
that we have been raising even when we were in opposition and
I have flagged the issue from the day one after I became the
Chief Minister and the Union Government is seized of the
matter.

I am sure that we all together will create an atmosphere
where AFSPA is not only removed from few places but from the
entire state. However, for that to happen, peace loving people
of the state have to come forward and create conducive
atmosphere.

It will be the first confidence building measure for the
people of Kashmir if something is done. It will also
demonstrate sincerity on the part of the Central government
that it wants to build on this measure and take further steps
in the future.

Q: You have been accused of not reaching out to the
people of the state. Many accuse you of spending more time in
Delhi.

A: That is hardly true. I have been in Delhi just a
couple of times in last few months. This is a clear
diversionary tactic. My going to Delhi has no bearing on what
is happening here. This is a perception being created by
certain vested interests to tarnish my image.

I am focused on my job at hand and the very fact that I
have reached out to every nook and corner of the state in the
last 18 months and been with the people is a testimony of my
reach out.

I am totally accessible to anyone and everyone. I may not
be accessible to the media as much as I should be because I do
not believe in running my administration through PR exercises
and instead believe that the work done on the ground will
speak for me with my people who have voted me to power.

However, now at times I feel some politicians who may not
reach out to the people but cosy up to the mediapersons can
do a lot of damage to a politician who prefers to work
silently for his people.

Q: What do you expect from the all-party initiative?
A: Kashmir has seen lot of bloodshed and destruction in
last two decades. This should not carry on further.
Differences have to be brought to the table and there must be
an understanding of all issues.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia
Gandhi and Home Minister P Chidambaram are sincere about
finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue and have
voiced their deep concern for the people of the state on
numerous occasions and have emphasised the need to instill
confidence in people and there is a seriousness of purpose in
their words and I am sure the all-party delegation, after due
deliberations, will strengthen their hands and help in
evolving a consensus whereby succour and relief will come to
the people of the state.

The alienation of people from the process needs to be
removed and the trust deficit that has crept in over the last
many decades needs to be bridged. But for that it is important
we rise above our stated positions and party lines and work
together.

That is a heartfelt message.

PTI