MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

P.N. Ganjoo
During October 2011, selective leaks started appearing in the media from the impending report of Kashmir Interlocutors, who had been detailed by the Government of India to go into Kashmir muddle and suggest remedies. I had already sounded an alarm against their leaked, timid suggestions to resurrect the constitutional anachronisms of pre-1953 status for the state of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.The recommendation has been madeto placate the die-hard separatists, who are a tiny section of Kashmiri Sunni Muslims. Now that the report has been placed in public domain by the Government, after havinh held on for nine months, it is time to analyze this “exercise in futility” that the report boils down to.

To start, it should be stated that relations of the state with the Union of India stand defined by the terms of temporary Article 370 of Constitution of India with other covenants and conventions that were subsequently incorporated from time to time, in agreement between the State and Central Governments.They were duly endorsed and supported by the elected state legislature. Article 370 in the existing format confers special powers to the state to insolate itself from some influences of mainline Indian politics and retain its cultural andethnic diversities. As a recognition of Article 370,the state is allowed to have and work on its own Constitution. Moreover it has the discretion to use its own flag which is a unique accommodation of the Constitution of India. Like in the case of Kashmir, the Constitution of India haselaborated special powers and safeguards for other states like Maharashtra,Gujarat,Nagaland, Assam, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunanchal and Goa. India being a responsive democracy, it has taken due pains to protect and safeguard cultural variations of different people from different regions in the country. Is there a real need to tamper with the existing foolproof safety valves available in the constitution of India?

No sane man can appreciate the need to morphthe temporary Article 370 of the constitution into a special provision that causes defacto final separation of the state and the country. Suchmodification will have no buyers either in the country or in the state. That too in this day and age when many artificial borders are breaking down in the quest for progress and quality of life improvements.

The Report of Interlocutors is totally skewed when it suggests that Parliament should have no powers to legislate on the state unless such laws relate to internal and external security and its vital economic concerns pertaining to water resources and energy needs only. National wisdom rather than local prejudices guide better on many occasions.The current political and civil mess in the state is directly attributable to the lack of powers with the Central Government in the present dispensation, which has allowed conditionsin the state to drift. The report has also suggested a flawed proposal that state political executive after consultations with the opposition will recommend three names for appointment as Governor of state to the President of India who may call for more suggestions if needed. In the present day scenarios of coalition politics, it would simply not be workable to obtain unanimity in the appointment of the Governor in such a populist manner.In the case of constitutional failure in the state the Report states that the present arrangement of powers of the governor to keep the state legislature under suspended animation should continue for a period of three months, after which fresh elections will be called for. Such blanket arbitrary powers need not to be continued with the governor of the state. Rather he/she should be equated with other Governors of the country and should have to ask for imposition of President’s rule as in other states, when there is a constitutional crisis.

The Report has suggested that percentage of IAS and IPS officers in the state bureaucracy needs to be reduced gradually in order to meet local aspirations of local officers.The proposal has only cosmetic appeal. Deeper analysis of the proposal will show that it is not grounded on local demand because local bureaucracy is well aware that its chances of growth and progress are wider and brighter once it enters the national domain. Besides its perks and privileges too enhance with flow from the central kitty.

The Report which has suggested continuing the existing nomenclature of Chief Minister and Governor of the state in English though it has no objection to the use of the title of Prime Minister and Sadari-Riasat in Urdu is not only a crass surrender before separatist elements but a ludicrous proposition also. The acquiescence of Interlocutors to such demands of enemies of India is not justifiable as these people are not happy to see India as a vibrant and thriving secular democracy and instead want to change all visages of India and its institutions in the valley to usher in fundamentalist Nizami-Mustaffa. Such covert attempts of surrender before separatists need to be condemned as apopular political option.

The proposal for establishment of Regional Councils for the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakhto devolvelegislative, executive and financial powers is not going to make any major difference because the center ofpolitical, legislative, executive and financial powers will remain centered at Srinagar, which is Kashmiri Muslim centric.This monopoly of Kashmiri Muslims on the politics and administration of the state needs to be diluted by broad and fair sharing of powers,evenly between stake holders from all three Divisions of the state. This urgent step needs broad and liberal agreement forpower sharing by politicians of all hues from all three Divisions as well as those from mainstream national parties. Itwouldbe worthwhile to rotate Chief Ministership of the state between three divisions with an amendment of the state constitution if needed.Distribution of funds and facilities also need to be rationalized on the basis of area, population, level of poverty and backwardness and other social parameters. This will be a radical move that will need liberal vision and spirit of accommodation from politicians at local and national levels.

The proposal to make Return of Kashmiri Pandits a state policy is a hollow mirage without sufficient flesh. The policy of return of the aborigines lacks will and vision of politicians and bureaucratth at state and national level.And therefore has no takers among Kashmiri Pandits unless both state and central government come out with overt and clear proposals and suggestions. This move to succeed has many imperatives which the Government has to sincerely work on andrequires hard decisions. A Kashmir without Kashmiri Pandits is an anomaly for the secular Indian Democracy.

The suggestion that all opportunities for cross-LOC cooperation should be promoted has little relevance until and unless Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Pakistani agencies do not reciprocate with equal liberal attitude. Besides, Pakistan and its agencies have to desist from all covert and overt support to the separatists in the valley.Till then it is a pipe dream, only to cajole people.

The Report that DAA be withdrawn from the state and that AFSPA be diluted is simply not based on ground realities. The security scenario is still fragile and a huge mass of militants is waiting across the Line Of Control to transgress. Even the Ministry of Defense does not agree with such a premature move, floated with a view to make some separatists happy at the cost of national security. The move needs to be resisted.

The Report has not impressed Hurriyat and its reaction has not been positive, asexpected. Though some mainstream political parties seem to be enthused, they are in agreement with only a few provisions of the report, which help them to remain relevant in the state. While some politicians feel that the report onlyaims to improve state-center executive and political relations, PDP feels that some provisions of the report support parts of its self rule formula. The people of Jammu Kashmir for whom the Report is basically meant have shown no enthusiasm. People from three regions had different perceptions and expectations from the much hyped Report. But after its presentation people from all three regions seem to have been disappointed and frustrated because it fell short of their expectations on different counts.

Asolution to the Kashmir imbrogliois not as simplistic as Interlocutors want it to be. Besides some local factors of mis-governance,there is an external dimension to the issue. That is Pakistani abetment and support for the dissidents and separatists of the valley. The Interlocutors needed to remember that it is not only some separatists and Pakistan sympathizers in the valley who make Kashmir civil society. In addition to nationalist Kashmiri Sunni Muslims,Jammu Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits, Ladakhi Budhists and Shias, Sikhs of the state and Gojars, Bakarwals and Dards of the state comprise a much larger segment of society and they are not enamored bythe mirage of Azadi. All of them are interested in social and material welfare of the society. They have on umpteen times exhibited their faith in Indian secular democracy by voting in vast numbers duringlegislative and local elections; Latest being legislative assembly elections of 2008 in which more than 65% of electors voted. There is no confusion in their minds regarding their ultimate goals to achieve as a part of great power house in making that India is.

Unfotunately, Kashmir’s recent political history has been checkered due to some blatant administrative bungling and opportunistic political misadventures. The proposal presented by the Interlocutors professes to correct historical wrongs and mend broken promises. The group has prescribed many remedies in order to restore “broken faith” of Kashmiris in the Indian system of democratic secular governance. The group hints at creation of Constitution Review Committee to suggest more radical changes in the relations between state and central governments. But the Group has failed to understand ground realities,as it thinks that Kashmiri separatists will sign for changes which are short of their stated goals. The suggested changeshavesimply ignored bulk of people living in the state, other than the separatists and hence have no support there either.

(To be continued)

*P.N.Ganjoo was born in a modest Kashmiri family about 7 decades ago, lost his father early and was raised by his honest, hardworking mother. With her efforts he received his education in Srinagar and went on to serve in various Government Departments before retiring as a senior grade KAS officer.

Presently he is working on his varied interests besides being a consulting Director of a software services company.

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