PM’s Panel Echoes NC On Autonomy For J&K

23 December 2009
The Indian Express

New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Working Group on the Centre’s relationship with Jammu and Kashmir has recommended that the Centre could consider a National Conference proposal on autonomy for J&K to the pre-1953 position. It also said that it should be left to the people of J&K to decide how long should Article 370, which guarantees special status to the state, should continue in its present form, when to make it permanent or abrogate. “The matter being 60 years old should be settled once for all,” Justice (retired) S Saghir Ahmad, who heads the group, said in his report submitted today to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah by his Secretary Ajit Kumar. When contacted, Omar Abdullah said Justice Ahmad’s report substantiates his party’s demand for autonomy, especially as it comes nine years after the state legislature passed with two-third majority a resolution for grant of autonomy. “It reinforces the importance of our demand,” he said. “I briefly read the report and we will give a proper reaction soon.” The report has come at a time when the Centre has initiated a quiet dialogue with a section of separatists to address the Kashmir issue. This is a summary of some of the recommendations of the group: • Article 370: It is for the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to decide how long to continue Article 370 in its present form and when to make it permanent of abrogate. The matter being 60 years old, should be settled once for all. • Demand for autonomy by National Conference: The question of ‘Autonomy’ and its demand can be examined in the light of the ‘Kashmir Accord’ or in some other manner or on the basis of some other formula as the present Prime Minister may deem fit and appropriate so as to restore the ‘Autonomy’ to the extent possible. The question of appointment of the Governor and dismissal of the popular government by the Governor may be considered and resolved. • PDP demand of self-rule: M H Beig on behalf of PDP explained orally the concept of “Self Rule” but the “Self Rule” as proposed by the PDP could not be considered in all its detail as the document containing the various aspects of the “Self Rule” were not provided to the Working Group as promised by PDP during the course of the proceedings. • Term of Legislative Assembly of the State: Any change in the term of the Assembly will require political consensus among the various political parties in the state and it can be effected only through a Constitutional amendment. • Representation-Reservation for Scheduled Tribe and Women in the Assembly: On this issue, the national pattern may be a good guide subject to political consensus. • Abolition of State Legislative Council: The present position may be maintained. • Armed Forces Special Powers Act: A group of Central government and state government officers and people’s representatives may be constituted which will review the application of the Act to various parts of the state regularly to explore the possibility whether the Act can be withdrawn from any part of the state.