The Congress on Saturday distanced itself from former Union Minister P Chidambaram’s statement on Jammu and Kashmir, calling it the “opinion of an individual”, PTI reported. Chidambaram had said that the government must examine the demand of Kashmiri people seeking autonomy.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters in New Delhi that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and “will always remain so unquestionably”. “The opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the Indian National Congress,” Surjewala said later. “In our democracy, individuals are entitled to their opinion.”

Chidambaram had earlier said that the state will remain a part of India but will have “larger powers as promised under Article 370 of the Constitution”. He had also described the appointment of an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir as a “diversionary tactic”.

About the Kashmir unrest, Surjewala said the Congress always believed dialogue would help restore normalcy, “but it can only be within the framework of our Constitution”.

He added that the Congress had constituted a policy-planning group under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and it will visit Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Kargil and Ladakh, between November 10 and 12.