Pre-’53 Status Way Forward For Jammu And Kashmir: Panel2 September 2011
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: The interlocutors appointed by the Centre on Jammu and Kashmir are likely to recommend that the state government be given exclusive jurisdiction over all departments, except defence, foreign affairs and communications, highly placed sources told Hindustan Times. This is very close to the position prevailing in J&K prior to 1953, when the Centre had authority only over these three ministries. The Instrument of Accession, by which the then Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh ceded political control of his state to India on October 26, 1947 and a subsequent agreement signed between New Delhi and Srinagar in 1952, had specifically provided for these and various other safeguards - for example, no law enacted by Parliament would be applicable to J&K unless ratified by the state legislature - to ensure special status and autonomy for Kashmir within the Indian Union. After 1953, however, a series of constitutional amendments and executive orders diluted the state's autonomy and increased the Centre’s authority. The sources added the report, which is being finalised and is expected to be submitted to the Centre by end-September, will propose that the Constitution be amended to reverse these changes and deliver the “constitutional guarantees” that form the bedrock of the “state's relationship with India”. “Unless the accession is brought into focus, no realistic solution is possible to the festering problem,” said the sources, privy to the thinking of the interlocutors - journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former information commissioner MM Ansari - who were appointed in October last year to initiate dialogue with people of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. If the government accepts the recommendations, personnel of the central services (IAS, IPS, etc.) will have to be recalled and replaced by state officials and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the election commission will be considerably diluted. Then, the Centre will have to give up the right to appoint governors. This right will pass to the J&K legislature, which, according to the accession instrument, will recommend names for acceptance by the president. The report will also recommend substantial devolution of powers and autonomy to the three sub-regions - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh - that make up the state. This is in line with what the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, led by Mehbooba Mufti, and to some extent, the ruling National Conference, led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, have also demanded. The Congress, however, opposes any further autonomy to the state. The sources added that the proposed amendments could form the basis of the formula for restoring normalcy in the state and help facilitate dialogue with Pakistan, which has sponsored a bloody insurgency in the state since 1989 in which more than 50,000 people have lost their lives so far.