Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


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.

[Courtesy: The Hindustan Times]



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