AUTONOMY: Nuts and bolts of operational reality
by Jagmohan[The pros and cons of granting autonomy to Kashmir
or restoring pre-1953 status to it are being discussed widely in the national
Press these days. Often these articles are subjective. The one writer who
has analysed the problem objectively is the learned author of this write-up
which is being reproduced for the benefit of our readers. - Editor]
Those who demand pre-1952/53
status or advocate maximum autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir take care not
to address themselves to concrete questions. They remain conveniently vague
and show little respect to the practical implications of their stand. For
instance, they suppress the fact that, in the absence of full financial
integration with the Union, Jammu and Kashmir would have no resource at
all for development. It is the Union finances that provide the entire funds
for the State's five-year Plans and also for a substantial part of the
non-Plan expenditure. According to the Reserve Bank bulletin (December,
199S; Appendix I & II), per capita Central assistance for 1994-95 was Rs. 3,010 for J&K, as against
Rs. 190 for Bihar, Rs. 305 for Rajasthan
and Rs. 341 for UP. In case of J&K, 90 per cent of this assistance
is in the shape of grants and 10 per cent as loans; while for the four
States mentioned above, it is 30 per cent grants and 70 per cent loans.
Likewise, per capita non-Plan grants for J&K in the same year comes
to Rs. 720 while it is Rs. 72 for Bihar, Rs. 23 for Tamil Nadu, Rs. 81
for Rajasthan and Rs. 23 for UP. All this shows the tremendous gains that
have flowed to the J&K State from the financial link with the Union.
What will happen if this link is now ended? Who will fill in the gap? Will
it not be the United States and the other Western powers? And will it not
place Kashmir virtually in their hands?
Take, likewise, another example - extension of
Article 356 of the Indian Constitution which enables the President of India
to bring the State under his rule. It is often said that this extension
constitutes an encroachment on the State's autonomy. But no one asks a
connected question: If there is a breakdown of the constitutional machinery
in the State or if the State refuses to comply with any direction concerning
Defence, Foreign Affairs or Communications, what will happen in the absence
of President's powers under Article 356? Suppose the Governor has the corresponding
powers; then does it not mean that the President would have to submit to
the decision of the Governor, his own appointee? Again, suppose the Governor
is made Sadar-e-Riyasat, who is elected by the State Assembly, then, would
not granting the final say to the Sadar-e-Riyasat amount to subordinating
the Union to the State? And if the President withdraws his recognition
of the Sadar-e-Riyasat but the State Assembly once again elects the same
person as Sadar-e-Riyasat, will it not cause a constitutional deadlock?
If funds continue to flow to Kashmir from the
Union, as at present, and it is allowed, as is being advocated in certain
quarters, to have an exclusive say on subjects other than Defence, External
Affairs and Communications, it could enact Islamic civil and criminal laws
and even set up Shariat courts, on the same lines as has been done in Pakistan,
and make it virtually a theocratic entity. Would not such a scenario do
violence to the very preamble of our Constitution and also amount to secularism
financing theocracy and that, too, propelled by forces of bigotry and fundamentalism?
The problem of Jammu and Kashmir has not been
insufficiency but surfeit of powers. During 1977- 82, for example, Sheikh
Abdullah established a sort of elective dictatorship in the State. He practically
acted like a monarch of all that he surveyed. No one even checked him from
doing what was, on the face of it, wrong. His recruitment of the erstwhile
die- hard workers of the Plebiscite Front, the Al-Fatah and such other
subversive organisations, in sensitive departments like police, was, obviously,
fraught with grave risks to the security and stability of the State. And
yet, he could go ahead unhindered either by the Governor of the State or
by the Union Government. The Resettlement Act,1982, legislated during Sheikh
Abdullah's regime and formally enacted during Dr. Farooq Abdullah's time,
showed what a vast area of power was available to the State Government.
It is not in the erosion of autonomy but in the
erosion of earnestness and sincerity that the seeds of numerous troubles
of Kashmir are embedded. There are a great many instruments of power that
are available to the State leaders but they have been used less in the
service of the State than in the service of the self.
The crucial questions that need to be asked of
the singers of the autonomy ode are: Do they want more autonomy to enact
a legislation like the one referred to above? In what way is any welfare
work or work of development held up for want of powers? Where is any law
or executive order or judicial pronouncement that has undermined the personality
or identity of Kashmir or altered its sculpture or spiritual landscape?
What will happen in the absence of flow of Union funds? If such funds continue
to flow, how will it be ensured that a secular entity does not feed and
prop up a theocratic one? And how will the challenge of fundamentalist
forces from within be met?
If one shakes off the impact of what is dished
out to the Press and published in abundance, one would discover that the
advocates of more autonomy or of pre-1952/53 position are misleading the
people, planting untenable and unworkable notions on their minds and arousing
false and dangerous hopes. They are, wittingly or unwittingly, strengthening
those forces which have been working, both beneath and above the surface
from 1948 onwards, for securing secession and establishing 'Sheikhdom'
in Kashmir in one form or the other. For what is implied by 'more autonomy'
today will meln 'independence' tomorrow. Such a development would have
serious repercussions and ultimately lead to Balkanisation of India with
all its bloody and tumultuous consequences.
It is, indeed, tragic that to serve their ends
of power quite a few of our leaders are confusing the people, dividing
them and indirectly facilitating the task of those who want to see a torn
and tormented India, an India that is continuously at war with itself.
The Hindustan Times]