Former Union Home Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday said the appointment of an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir was a "diversionary" tactic and felt the "azadi" demand meant people want autonomy which should be seriously examined.
He said the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma to hold talks in Kashmir doesn't indicate a change of heart or approach by the Centre in its policy but that it will continue to hold on to its "muscular policy and military solution".
Chidambaram said he was worried about what was happening in the Valley as there was a deep ferment there.
"The appointment of the interlocutor should not lead us to think that there is a change of heart of the government. I don't believe that there is a change of heart or change of approach. I still believe that they will continue to hold on to the muscular policy and military solution," the Congress leader said.
Chidambaram said the appointment of Sharma to open talks with all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir was a "diversionary move" to appease a section that was asking why the government was not holding talks in the troubled state.
He said Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh had clarified that Sharma was not an interlocutor and Army chief General Bipin Rawat had stressed that the move won't have any impact on military operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
"I think those two voices reflect the real view of the government," he said.
Speaking at an event in Mumbai, Chidambaram said when people in Kashmir ask for "azadi" most of them want autonomy.
"Therefore, I think we should seriously examine the autonomy demand. It is very much within the Constitution. Jammu and Kashmir will remain an integral part of India with some amount of autonomy."
Chidambaram said he was not convinced that Sharma "has any mandate to hold meaningful talks with all sections of the society".
He said the government's Kashmir policy was "misguided" and that had deteriorated the situation in the state.
"The situation in Kashmir is worse than at any time before, and certainly worse than what it was in 2011. All the good work done between 2011 and say up to even the middle of 2015 after the NDA came to power... all that has been wiped out in the last two years."
Kashmir problem a Congress legacy, says government
Meanwhile, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that “the position Congress has taken with regard to 'azadi' or autonomy to be given to J&K goes directly contrary to India's national interest”.
"It was a flawed policy of Congress right since 1947 which is responsible for the Kashmir problem. Kashmir problem is a Congress legacy. Instead of learning from its past mistakes, Congress wants to precipitate a crisis further for this country," Jaitley said.
"10 years of the UPA government was a wasted opportunity on J&K, not a single initiative worked; you had terrorism on top. We have succeeded in squeezing the funds of the terrorists, mass protests of stone throwers are by and large over," he added.
Serious issue whether statement that has come from a prominent Cong leader is Congress' official stand or not? Should clarify immediately:FM— ANI (@ANI) October 28, 2017
Union Minister Smriti Irani also has lambasted the Congress and questioned its intention to solve the Kashmir issue.
“I think it is quite shocking and disgusting that P Chidambaram today speaks about breaking the Union of India into pieces and supports those who actually murdered our security forces just so that they can play havoc with law and order situation in J&K,” she said.
“Though I am not surprised because Mr Chidambaram reflects the Congress mentality,” she added.
The Union minister also chided Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for backing few JNU students who had last year raised anti-India slogans.
“Rahul Gandhi is known to have supported those people who had given the statement 'Bharat Tere Tukde honge' in JNU crisis,” she said, wondering 'what message Congress is trying to give?'