Thursday, April 12, 2012

Interlocutors Rejects Autonomy Selfrule Azadi

The much-awaited report of Dileep Padgaonkar-headed panel of interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir contains nothing to soothe the Valley-based political majors—National Conference, PDP, Hurriyat Conference—as it has outrightly rejected the options of autonomy, self-rule and Azadi. Three-member committee, comprising journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Prof Radha Kumar and former Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari, that deliberated on contentious political issues with regard to J&K for full year between October 2010 and October 2011, does not seem to have accommodated key aspirations of either the ruling National Conference or the opposition PDP. Separatist Hurriyat Conference, which did not interact with the committee set up by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, has been equally disappointed.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s National Conference is unlikely to rejoice over the committee’s final report as its key slogan of greater autonomy has been completely rejected. Almost consistent with the Indira-Abdullah Accord of 1975, the committee has instead proposed "case-by-case review" of the central laws applied in J&K in the last 60 years.

Asserting that a pure and simple return to the pre-1953 situation would create a dangerous constitutional vacuum in the relationship between the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir, the report has recommended "case-by-case review of all Central laws and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to the State" since 1952.

It has proposed setting up of a Constitutional Committee that would review the applicability of Central statutes extended to Jammu and Kashmir after the July 1952 Delhi Agreement. The review process — once ratified by Parliament and the State legislature — would eventually end the extension by Presidential order of further Central laws to the State.

One of the key recommendations of the report is that Parliament will make no new laws applicable to Jammu and Kashmir unless these relate to the country’s internal and external security and its vital economic interest. In the report, the Interlocutors have suggested that eminent jurist should head the Constitutional Committee and it should have members from the State and the rest of the country, who inspire confidence in all stakeholders.

The Committee will bear in mind the dual character of Jammu and Kashmir — as a constituent of the Indian Union and as a State enjoying special status in the Union under Article 370 of the Constitution while determining whether and to what extent the Central Acts and Articles have abridged the State Government’s powers to cater to the welfare of its people.

"The Constitutional Committee should be future-oriented and it should conduct its review solely on the basis of the powers the State needs to address the political, economic, social and cultural interests, concerns, grievances and aspirations of the people in all the three regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, and all the sub-regions", the report said, adding "the Committee will also need to reflect on the quantum of legislative, financial and administrative powers that the State Government should delegate to the three regions at all levels of governance".

The report said that the recommendations of Constitutional Committee must be reached through consensus so that they are acceptable to all stakeholders represented in the State Assembly and Parliament. The next step would be for the President, in exercise of the powers conferred by Clauses (1) and (3) of Article 370, to issue an order incorporating the recommendations. This will have to be ratified by a Bill in both Houses of Parliament and by each House in the State Legislature by a margin of not less than two-thirds majority. It will then be presented to the President for assent.

"Once this process is over, Clauses (1) and (3) of Article 370 will cease to be operative and no orders will be made by the President under these clauses from the date of the final order," the report further said.

However, the group members believed that many of the Central laws made applicable to the State over the past six decades "should not give rise to any strong objections" as these were "fairly innocuous laws that have been beneficial to the State and its people."

Mentioning that search for a solution in J&K should not be made contingent on India-Pakistan talks, the report said, "if the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir are willing to enter into a settlement, the door can always be kept open for Pakistan to join". The key objective, it added, was to make the Line of Control irrelevant. "It should become a symbol of concord and cooperation", the report further said.

A hassle-free movement of people, goods and services across the LoC and the International Border must be swiftly ensured leading to institutionalised cooperation between the two parts of the former princely State. Another recommendation pertains to taking all appropriate measures to consider J&K as a bridge between South and Central Asia.

About harmonization of relations across the LoC, the report noted that no permanent solution can be achieved unless it applies to those parts of the former princely State that are now under Pakistani administration. "Any attempt at harmonization of Centre-State relations and devolution of powers at the regional, district and panchayat/municipality levels across the LoC, therefore, will necessitate wide-ranging constitutional change in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. If agreed, such harmonization will permit the development of joint institutions across the LoC for development, resource generation and other common matters," the report said while recommending that these issues should be discussed with the representatives on the other side of the LoC.

The group has suggested promotion of Track II interactions for a resolution on both sides of the LoC. It has suggested resumption of Government of India-Hurriyat dialogue at the earliest opportunity and stressed that Pakistan and Pakistani-administered areas should be encouraged to enter into dialogue on the recommendations to be fine-tuned by the Constitutional Committee and the points that emerge from the GoI-Hurriyat dialogue.

The other recommendations relate to replacement of word "Temporary" from the heading of Article 370 with the word "Special" as has been used for other States under Article 371, appointment of the Governor from a list of names prepared by the State Government in consultation with opposition parties, holding of fresh election within three months if Article 356 is used.

Three Regional Councils, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, should be created with Ladakh no longer a division of Kashmir. The proportion of officers from the All India Services should be gradually reduced in favour of officers from the State civil service.

The report noted that the roadmap leading to political, economic and cultural freedoms depend on the credibility of the dialogue process, implementation of key Confidence Building Measures and building a consensus among stakeholders. The CBMs suggested included speeding up of reforms related to human rights and rule of law, amendment of the Public Safety Act, and review of the Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It also called for a Judicial Commission to look into the unmarked graves, with emphasis on identification of missing/ disappeared persons.

In order to ensure better implementation of the CBMs, the group has recommended the establishment of an empowered group to monitor them.

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