We broke our promises made to Kashmiris: Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Senior Congress leader and former Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said the genesis of the current Kashmir unrest lies in “broken promises and broken faith”, and that both the state and central governments were mishandling the present situation.

“I think the approach (towards Kashmir issue) was wrong. We ignored the grand bargain under which Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. I think we broke our promises, we broke the faith of the people of Kashmir, and we paid the price for it for 40-45 years,” Chidambaram said in an interview to India Today television.

He said that state and central governments were still mishandling the situation.

“We did mishandle it. The governments in Kashmir and at the Centre are mishandling it. Seven million people of Kashmir have an identity, a culture,” he said.

Chidambaram stressed that Kashmir required a unique political solution and he, as the then Home Minister, made an attempt towards it.

“We corrected ourselves in 2010. We revamped the standard operation procedures, we sent an all party delegation, we appointed interlocutors. But again we failed to follow it up,” he said.

He said that as Home Minister, he made a “small beginning” by moving out troops but was not backed by either the “political leadership” or “defence establishment”.

“When I was the Home Minister, 10,000 troops were moved out. That was the beginning, a small beginning which wasn’t followed up again, because the defence establishment was totally opposed to what we proposed,” Chidambaram told the channel.

“We proposed that defence forces and bulk of paramilitary forces must be moved to the borders, must be taken away from cities. We proposed that AFSPA be repealed, and if not repealed must be amended. We proposed that the basic responsibility of maintaining law and order should be given to the Kashmir police and to the paramilitary forces.

“But the defence forces were totally opposed to this proposal and I must confess that we were unwilling to overrule the defence’s point of view,” he added.

He said that the opinion within the government over handling of Kashmir situation “was sharply divided”.

“For example there was hardly any support to my proposal to repeal or amend the AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act). I can’t take names, but the political leadership is unwilling to overrule the defence establishment,” he said.

“I was able to convince the CRPF and BSF Director Generals and other senior officers and they told me plainly that they could do their jobs just as well without the AFSPA but I could not convince the defence establishment and the political leadership,” Chidambaram added.

He said that the gradual shifting of security responsibility “from the civilian police to paramilitary and from paramilitary to defence”, was something that ought not to have happened.

He said that as Home Minister he found that the person calling the shots in Jammu and Kashmir “was the GOC (General Officer Commanding), more than the Chief Minister, more than the DG”.

–IANS

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