New Delhi, July 24: Post the seminal Delhi Agreement, a general sense of ennui soon drifted into the Valley, with the people getting the sense that they had become more weak, as Delhi continued to push the envelope and enfeeble Article 370 and even the Delhi Agreement which, in itself, was the first such attempt at paving the way for full integration rather than limited autonomy.
The bottomline was that Sheikh Abdullah signed off on the Delhi Agreement and then realised that his idea of an autonomous, even semi-independent Kashmir, was merely a delusion, an unreachable pie in the sky.
What were the dangers implied in the recommendations of “State Autonomy Committee”? Why did the Union cabinet trash it completely?
· One of the recommendations of the Committee is that Article 370 which has been incorporated as ‘Temporary’ be made ‘Special’ Article.
· The Committee recommended that J&K’s accession with Indian Union be reverted to only three subjects, viz., Defence, External affairs and Communication. In all other matters, the State will remain independent.
· The nomenclature of the ‘governor’ and ‘Chief Minister’ changed to ‘Sadar-i-Riyasat’ and ‘Prime Minister’, respectively.
· The said Sadar-i-Riyasat shall be elected by the State Assembly, making him responsible not to the President of India but to the State Assembly.
· Another recommendation provided for the repeal of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, Election Commission of India, and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
· The Committee had also recommended the deletion of Articles 12 to 35 relating to Fundamental Rights.
· The report had provided for the withdrawal of Central Services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS).
· It provided that Articles 356 and 357 be made non-applicable to the State of J&K.
What would have been the state of affairs in 1989-when Pakistan-sponsored ‘death by a thousand cuts’ militancy had engulfed the whole Kashmir Valley-had the President of India not declared President’s rule in J&K? Furthermore, Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference did not exactly cover itself with glory in the first flush of achieving autonomy in 1950. The following are some facts relevant to today’s examination:
· The September 1951 election to the State Constituent Assembly was conducted under State’s Election Law. The NC got elected all the 75 members rejecting the nomination papers of opposition candidates.
· The Kashmiri leaders have grossly misused powers they got under special status to deprive the people of Jammu and Ladakh (more than 50 percent of the population) of their legitimate rights. These people have lived as second-class citizens for the last 50 years.
· The NC government was lending full support (overtly and covertly) to plans of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to convert Jammu and Ladakh to Muslim-majority provinces. During last two or three years, about 25,000 Muslim families from Kashmir Valley have constructed their houses in Jammu Province, encroaching on government lands.
· After coming to power under Indira-Sheikh accord of 1975, the NC government passed the Resettlement Bill which provides for the return of thousands of families who left J&K for Pakistan in 1947. The Supreme Court has ordered the withholding of the said bill. What would have been the fate of J&K had the jurisdiction of Supreme Court not extended to the State?
· Granting autonomy to J&K has miserably failed to bring the State closer to India as is claimed by the propounders of the idea of ‘Greater Autonomy’. On the contrary, it has become a major factor in converting J&K into a breeding ground for ISI and giving rise to militant Muslim separatism.
· In the 1996 Assembly election the NC obtained less than 15 per cent of the total votes. In those elections people had voted for the restoration of democracy. Moreover, it was not a referendum on greater autonomy as is claimed by NC.
· Barring a few, almost all sections of Kashmiri society have expressed their opposition to NC’s demand for more autonomy. They include people of the Jammu and Ladakh regions, as well as the Gujjars, Shias, Sikhs and Kashmiri Hindus.
· After coming to power in 1975, Sheikh Abdullah had also appointed a similar committee under D.D. Thakur, a senior NC Minister, to review various laws extended to J&K from 1953 to 1975. The D.D. Thakur Committee recommended that all the legislative entries made during that period are in the interest of the people of the State and thus should not be touched. Sheikh Abdullah had accepted the findings of the Committee.
The failed ‘Four-point formula’
In 2006 the world came close to witnessing the forging of what would be known as the ‘four-point formula’ for Kashmir. Negotiated between then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the formula had sought a non-territorial solution for Kashmir. The LoC would become a line on a map that facilitated free and easy travel to Kashmir on both sides; the State would be demilitarised; both parts of the State would receive an agreed quantum of self-rule or ‘azadi’; there would be a “joint mechanism” of representatives from both parts, with no executive powers, to supervise the working of the accord and consult on matters of common interest. The solution included free trade and movement across LoC.
WikiLeaks had revealed a US embassy cable, dated April 21, 2009, where Singh had confirmed this ‘formula’ to a visiting US delegation. Singh told the US delegation that Delhi and Islamabad had made great progress prior to February 2007, when President Musharraf ran into trouble. “We had reached an understanding in back channels,” Singh related, according to the cable. Singh went on to add that India wanted a strong, stable, peaceful, democratic Pakistan and makes no claim on “even an inch” of Pakistani territory.
It is noteworthy that this formula did not incorporate the aspirations of the Kashmiri people-including the Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits, Ladakhis, Sikhs, Christians, the Kashmiri Muslims of all hues including Sunnis, Shias, Gujjars, Bakarwals and Pahadis. After all, the call for ‘azadi’ is primarily among the Sunni Kashmiri-speaking Muslims who inhabit the Valley who continue to reject the very idea of being integrated into the Indian Union. Without this crucial input, the Four-Point Formula obviously could not succeed.
Historian and Kashmir expert, A.G. Noorani, once said as he weighed in on the Singh-Musharraf formula: No Indian government can possibly accept Kashmir’s secession from the Union and survive; no Pakistani government can possibly accept the Line of Control (LoC) as an international boundary and survive; the Kashmiris will not acquiesce to the partition of their State or the persistent denial of self-rule and human rights. The Four-Point Formula seemed to have passed Noorani’s test: It did not spell Kashmir’s secession; did not make the LoC an international boundary; and reunited the State de facto while granting an agreed measure of human rights for east as well as west Kashmir.
There is no difference of opinion with respect to the accession of State with India on two main issues, i.e., the Instrument of Accession and the Delhi Agreement. The rest of the powers, including residual sovereignty, are vested with the State under Article 370. All the Princely States were authorised to frame their own Constitution in their respective Constituent Assemblies. At that time only four States-namely, Saurashtra, Travancore and Cochin, Mysore and J&K-chose this option and set up their own Constituent Assemblies. Three of these States did not frame their Constitution, and only J&K formed its own Constituent Assembly and framed its Constitution, which exists to this day.