The slogans of autonomy
Representational pic

The slogans of autonomy

In Oct 1947 Maharaja of Kashmir’s accession to India limited Jurisdiction of the Central Government to three subjects namely: Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication.

In Oct 1947 Maharaja of Kashmir's accession to India limited Jurisdiction of the Central Government to three subjects namely: Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication. Its acceptance by Lord Mount Batten Viceroy on the recommendation of the Union Government sealed the special status of the state which has been further elaborated in the Delhi Agreement between the State leadership headed by Sheri Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, PM of the state and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, PM of India. The Delhi agreement in 1952 was duly approved by the Indian Parliament and  the State Constituent Assembly. Having scored a firm and unassailable constitutional position, it is still a mystery as to why Late Sheikh Sahib chose to come open against the Central Government on some other issues. While the agitation of  Praja Parishad and some pricks by central government infuriated the late leader and gave in to his emotionalism over real politics against the saner advice of his trusted colleagues like Beg Sahib and Maulana Masoodi who were of the considered view that any battle in future could be fought within the system and not outside. This resulted in the dismissal of the Prime Minister and his long incarnation. The government of India expressed its commitment to Delhi Agreement of 1952 by issuing Constitutional order under Article 370/35A which was duly incorporated in the State Constitution adopted in 1957. Till 1964, only financial integration of limited level and administrative integration under All India Services Act was carried out under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

 The misplacement or theft of the Holy Relic at Hazratbal in 1963 provided upheaval to the suppressed sentiments of the people which ultimately resulted in change of the government and installation of G.M. Sadiq as Chief Minister. With Congress party at the helm and National Conference with the deposed Prime Minister Bakhshi Sahib/ Shamsuddin. With the changeover, full onslaught  on the State Autonomy was carried out with PM designated as CM- Sadri Riyasat elected replaced by Governor as nominee of the President of India and number of changes in the  state constitution by the state legislature of the state.

The Indira Gandhi/Abdullah Accord in 1975 allowed state government to review Central Laws with the specific condition  not to change the nomenclature and procedure of CM, Sadri Riyasat , abolition of legistative Council and various laws related to internal security without approval of Government of India. In spite of two high level committees, one led by late D.D. Thakur, the reports to review any state laws remained in the debris of Secretariat record. The Accord in fact fortified the status quo of 1964/1975 and the state autonomy remained a hollow slogan. This is further amplified by rejection of the state Autonomy Resolution of the State Legislature in 1998 by the Central Government. It is another story as to why the NC government led by Dr. Farooq Abdullah didn't leave the NDA government though Omar Abdullah was handy with the resignation as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Farooq Abdullah has to content with assurance of Arun Jaitely being an emissary  of Vajpayee Government in the same manner he was duped. "Sky is the limit" assurance of PM Narasimha Rao.

During the election of 1996 and 2002, I did speak once or twice about political slogan of Autonomy but after seeing the real politics of the party, had to limit my utterances to Sadak, Bijli, Pani….etc. Then for election of 2008, the Election manifesto was drafted which I co-authored along with Rather sahib and Mr. Vijay Bakaya . This repeated the demand of restoration of Autonomy as per Delhi agreement. However we were conscience of our limitations on this account and advocated decentralised power to the three parts of the state by introducing the concept of single line Administration at the district level. This was kept in view of the success story of the system for Ladakh and Kargil regions which I had authored as Chief  secretary in 1992-1993 known as Ladakh Hill Autonomous Council.

The 2008 Election Manifesto was described as the best document by Farooq Sahib and Omar Abdullah when it was presented. To our dismay, the manifesto was not even touched not to speak about its implementation,during the turbulent tenure of Omar Abdullah. It was possibly because that any follow up action on the solemn pledge would attract more forceful rejection by Congress Government and cause more humiliation than 1998. In this context, I would like to mention an event in 1978 during my visit to Delhi to hold a meeting with Shri Nirmal Mukherjee ICS, Cabinet Secretary under the Janata Government. Shri Mukherjee was earlier Chief Secretary of the State during the last years of G.M. Sadiq when I worked with him in the General Administration Department. In discussion, I enquired his working in the political set up at the centre which comprised heterogeneous parties. To this and to my surprise when Mr. Mukherjee handed me brochure which was election manifesto of the Janata Party. He told me under the instructions of PM  Morarji Desia, he was holding series of meetings with the secretaries of the Government of india for action plan in the manifesto. I wish our political leadership in the state had ever followed this in the best interest  of state.  

Dr. Farooq Abdullah has few days back announced that introduction of Regional Autonomy within 30 days of formation of his Government. He has stated that the proposal has already been prepared. In this context, it is worthwhile to mention that BJP and some other parties have been advocating concept of Regional Council for Jammu partly to thwart State Autonomy and partly to assuage feelings of neglect of Jammuites by Kashmiri hegemony. This concept has not been accepted by  NC and other section of the society as it would sow seeds of trifurcation of the state.

Under the proposed Regional autonomy, divisional level, political set up with counsellors as mini MLA's, chief executive as mini CM and regional council as  mini Legislature charged with developmental agenda to start with will lead to parallel executive and legislative set up at the divisional level. The Hill Council based on development strategies has already led widening scope of administrative matters of state level and even Chief Council Leh refusing to unfurl state flag and instead hoisted National Flag with local Council flag. It appears that Dr. Farooq Sahib either disgusted and disappointed with the slogan of state Autonomy has shifted to Regional autonomy without any consideration to its ultimate trifurcation of the state. May be the pending writ petition before The Supreme Court about Article 370/35-A have unnerved the mainstream stake holders. 

Very shortly, we will hear a parallel slogan of Autonomy at Local Self panchayat level as the boycott by the NC/PDP has provided other stake holders with promising greenery to build strong institutions at the grass root level. With all autonomy slogans going around  would ultimately lead to parallel legislative and executive set up. What will be the fate of mainstream, out stream and other fringe streams for the future of the state very easy to understand. All round democratic Rajwars!

It is high time to cool down tempers and evolve a pragmatic and attainable goal consistent with our cherish history of egalitarian principles of "Uswai Hasna" of  Beloved  Prophet (SAW).   

(Sheikh Ghulam Rasool is former Chief Secretary J&K Government.)

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