Making commitments and backtracking from them has been an important policy plank of New Delhi towards Jammu and Kashmir. The track record of the central government in the state has been that of a liar and poor promise breaker. On Monday, the union home minister, L.K.Advani, stated that New Delhi would initiate talks with chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, on the issue of special powers for the state. He has been asked to meet K.C.Pant, New Delhi’s interlocutor, as to what kind of powers the state needs so that development and welfare of the people could be attended to in an effective manner.
Home minister made the statement hardly a week after he had ruled out in parliament granting of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. The state under article 370 of Indian Constitution has a special status and enjoys many a special power. It is intriguing to understand as to what special powers the home minister is talking about after having rejected the autonomy resolution adopted by the state legislature. Asking the chief minister to discuss special powers, in the context of the autonomy resolution adopted by the state legislature, seems to be New Delhi’s another political gimmick to hoodwink public opinion in the state.
Neither New Delhi nor the ruling National Conference has ever been sincere towards restoring the autonomy of the state. True, in the wake of political developments that followed signing of controversial instrument of accession by the fugitive Dogra ruler the state was given a special status within the union of Indian. Other than defence, communication and external affairs, the state enjoyed absolute autonomy. As has been made amply clear by the recently published Nehru papers, New Delhi has been insincere towards the autonomy of the state from the first day it had been granted.
The objective behind granting autonomy to the state in fact has to take the wind out of the sails of the UN resolution. With international pressure weakening on the implementation of the United Nations resolutions, New Delhi started eroding state’s autonomy and the process was completed by 1961. Like New Delhi, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference also has not been sincere towards restoring autonomy to the state. The party has all along been using it as a political slogan for remaining in power.
Looking back, after entering into an agreement with New Delhi in 1975 Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah returned to power with the promise of restoring 1953 constitutional position to the state. A committee was constituted to look into the central laws extended to the state after 1953. But the committee never met nor framed any recommendations till Sheikh Abdullah’s death in 1982. Had the National Conference been sincere towards restoration of autonomy, enjoying absolute majority in the state legislature it could have adopted a bill in 1977 itself repealing all laws extended to the state. In fact, the party was always interested in using autonomy restoration as a slogan for assembly election.
In 1996, when assembly elections were held, restoration of pre-1953 constitutional position to the state was the main plank of the National Conference manifesto. There can be no denying that the party immediately constituted a committee to look into the laws extended to the state after 1953 and it also submitted a report. But, again insincerity of the National Conference towards restoring autonomy to the state became evident when, instead of introducing a bill for repealing of the post-1953 central laws extended to the state, it adopted a resolution.
Obviously, New Delhi’s offer to the state government to discuss special powers for the state without restoring pre-1953 constitution would be an exercise in futility. Instead of dissipating its energies, New Delhi needs to look at the Jammu and Kashmir problem in its totality and work out a lasting solution.
Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.