Don't turn back the clock in J&K
Sep 08 2010
One of the tragic pointers of Indian history is that more often than not Indians have themselves proved to be their worst enemies. This stands reinforced by what the negative forces in our country did in early 1990.
It should be clear from the analysis of major events connected with Kashmir's post-1947 history that there is an overwhelming need to learn from each and every lapse and evolve a new framework of thought and action. Unfortunately, no one is attending to this need. With regard to the stone-throwing mobs that are now daily appearing on the streets of most urban centres of the Valley, old attitudes rooted in superficiality and "short-termism" are once again at display. So far, about 69 persons have died. But there is no sign of a sustained crackdown on the ringleaders, financers and those who are spraying the virus of militant fanaticism in the Valley.
What is worse, another "appeasement card" is being put forward in the form of a political package and additional autonomy, without bothering to consider that in the long run such a package and such an autonomy could provide stronger muscle to the forces of subversion and separatism in the Valley. Further, no one is showing any inclination to raise certain basic and pertinent questions in this regard.
Are the Kashmiris, like the citizens of the rest of India, not already free under the Constitution of India? Do they not have all the fundamental rights which individuals in modern liberal democracies enjoy? Has their identity, culture, religion or language been undermined in any way by the constitutional arrangements that have been in operation for the last several decades? How would a common Kashmiri be benefited by changing the nomenclature of chief minister to Prime Minister or of governor to Sadar-e-Riyasat, or by ousting the jurisdiction of Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India? What would happen if the so-called pre-1952 position is restored and only defence, foreign affairs and communications are kept within the jurisdiction of the Union Parliament/government and all the remaining items are assigned exclusively to the state legislature/government? How would the state government then meet its requirements of finances which at present are provided by the Union government to the tune of 74 per cent of its needs? Could the "nuts and bolts" of objective reality and the need to have smooth and workable relationship between the state and the Union be dispensed with?
To these and allied questions, no satisfactory answers can be provided by the proponents of autonomy and the "political package". They merely harp on the promises supposed to have been made to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, forgetting that what matters is not the individual but the state government without whose concurrence nothing was done. They take advantage of the widespread ignorance that prevails in the country about the rather complex manner in which constitutional relations between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union have evolved. They hide the fact that Jammu and Kashmir already enjoys, albeit unjustifiably, far more powers than are available to other states of the Union. They also forget that at the time of the 1975 Kashmir Accord, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had made it clear that "the clock could not be put back", and that the "provisions of the Indian Constitution applied to the state of Jammu and Kashmir 'without adaptation or modification' were unalterable".
The only concession made in 1975, in the spirit of bonhomie, by the Government of India was to consider changes in the "adapted and modified" provisions, if a specific proposal in this regard was received from the state government. But neither the government of Sheikh Abdullah nor that of Dr Farooq Abdullah could send any proposal, primarily because the changes earlier made were all necessitated by practical consideration.
The State Autonomy Committee Report (1999), sent to the Union government 24 years after the Kashmir Accord, is nothing but a broad repetition of what was said on behalf of the National Conference in 1975. It ignores the huge volume of water that has since flowed under the bridges of Yamuna and Jhelum, and does not indicate how the changes that are being advocated now would improve the lot of the common man and how the expenditure on the state Five-Year Plans would be met. Nor does it care to explain how certain security and other contingencies would be dealt with? What, for instance, would happen if Article 356 is not applicable and if the state refuses or fails to comply with any requirement of the Union in respect of defence, foreign affairs or communication? Would this not cause an intractable constitutional deadlokck?
The acceptance by the Union government of any of the phoney ideas contained in the aforesaid report would add another blunder to the series of blunders committed in the past, which have so far cost the nation over 50,000 lives, besides several thousand-crores of hard-earned taxpayers' money.
While it is not likely to make even a slight dent in the criticality of the present situation, it could strengthen the forces of disarray in the Valley, give rise to fresh agitations in other regions of the state and become a precedent for separatists in other part of the country to quote and demand. Even otherwise, the unfortunate history of Jammu and Kashmir in the post-1947 period warns us in no uncertain terms that the decision taken under momentary pressures and on short-term considerations have proved disastrous in the long run. Too many infections have already accumulated in the body politics of Jammu and Kashmir. If we do not have the skill or will to drain them out, let us at least not add more to them.
The need of the hour is that we should make a new beginning, educate our brothers and sisters in Kashmir about the true position in respect of their political, social and cultural freedoms and tell them that we as fellow countrymen have already helped them to the tune of `95,000 crores from 1989-90 to 2009-10, and would continue to discharge our obligations in this respect in future to make them a happy and prosperous community of the Union.
Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister