SRINAGAR OCT 30: Once again discussion regarding autonomy of J&K is under debate at national level. Quite surprisingly those at the helm of affairs in New Delhi have characterized any demand for more autonomy to J&K as ‘encouraging national disintegration.’ What are the facts? The history reveals that under special and unique circumstances J&K acceded to India under the guarantees provided by the Constitution of India.
It is the Constituent Assembly of India which incorporated Article 370 in the Constitution of India providing constitutional basis for relationship of J&K with the Union. Autonomy guaranteed under this constitutional provision i.e. Article 370 is the core of relationship between State and the Center.
However, unfortunately Government of India, which initially recognized this special status for J&K, couldn’t maintain this position. After 1953, steadily the process of centralization and erosion of autonomy began. Article 370 was subverted and misused to eliminate most aspects of the autonomy.
The constitution application to J&K order of 1954 took off subjects in the Union list out of the purview of the state legislature and not just those mentioned in the instrument of accession.
There were 43 constitution (application to J&K) orders extending the scope of central intervention and laws which were not envisaged either at the time of adoption of Article 370 or the Delhi Agreement of 1952.
The extent of misuse of Article 370 to encroach upon state’s powers can be seen from one of the presidential orders which was issued in 1986 by extending to the state Article 249 of the Constriction of India in order to empower Parliament to legislate on a matter in the state list on the strength of a Rajya Sabha resolution. “Concurrence” to this was given by the Center’s own appointee, the then Governor. This sort of overriding the state’s list can’t be done with regard to other states.
The reality is that from special status our state has been deprived of the rights and powers which other states enjoy. The process of scuttling the spirit of Article 370 has only encouraged those elements who wanted to undermine J&K’s relation with the Union.
The deep rooted and the massive alienation resulting in unprecedented unrest is in reality the outcome of the process of erosion of autonomy and denial of democracy to the people of J&K.
The dialogue process can be meaningful only when this political issue is addressed aiming at protecting rights of the people.
Autonomy, which is the core of the issue, has to be restored and people of the state assured that there distinct identity can’t be weakened in any form, whatsoever, in future. Denial of restoration of Article 370 and fiddling with Article 35A of the Constitution is unacceptable.
The distinct aspirations and interests of different regions and sub-regions have to be safeguarded through the process of constitutional guarantees. Whatever the circumstances, the unity of the state can’t be compromised. Designs of divisive and disruptive forces in any camouflage have to be defeated.