Regional autonomy and self rule in J and K
Dr. P P Singh
Regional Autonomy: National Conference always pleaded and advocated regional autonomy for inter regional relation in Jammu and Kashmir State. Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah who was heading the State even went to the extent of threatening the accession of the state with Union of India if its special status was undermined because the adversaries of Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah accused him of eroding Article 370 of the Constitution by accepting the terms of Kashmir accord on 13th of November 1974. In the Kashmir accorded it was decided that the residual powers of legislation shall remain with the State, however Parliament will continue to have power to make laws relating to the prevention of activities directed towards disclaiming, questioning or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or causing insult to the Indian National Flag, the National Anthem and the Constitution. Regarding devolution of powers, Janata Party and National Conference at that time committed to the principal of devolution of powers. The former has accepted decentralisation as the basis of its political philosophy, while the National Conference adopted five tier internal constitutional setup for devolution of political powers. The idea of democratic decentralisation was given a concrete content and institutional form at the national level by the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee setup by the Govt. of India in 1958, it envisaged three tier administrative setup. At the base was the Panchayat directly elected by the people. The Block Panchayat or Block Samiti was proposed to be a representative body of the people at the block level. Similarly Zila Parishads were to function at the district level comprising representative of the blocks. The State has three regions namely Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. The Kashmiri centric leadership was in favour of autonomy where as Jammu and Ladakh did not support autonomy. This was because of the fact that lack of political set up at the regional level and future to recognise diverse regional aspirations have been the major source of many a complication in the policies of the State. The demand for regional autonomy was repeated following the Praja Parishad agitation for abrogation of article 370. Dr. Shama Prashad Mukherjee, the then leader of Bhartiya Jana Sangh eventually veered round this idea. In his letter to Prime Minister of India Pt J. L Nehru on 17th of February 1953, offered to withdraw Praja Parishad agitation and support Article 370 on the condition that the principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu as a whole and of course also to Ladakh and Kashmir Valley. The movement of Praja Parishad was withdrawn on an assurance from Govt of India as well State Govt. conceding its demand for regional autonomy. On 2nd of July 1953 Prime Minister Pt. J. L Nehru appealed to the people of Jammu to withdraw their agitation as the State Govt. was considering grant to autonomy to its region, particularly to Jammu while framing the Constitution of the State. On the following day the then Dy Prime Minister of the State Bakshi Gulam Mohd. said that Nehru’s announcement reflected the policy of the Sate Govt. He added that Sheikh Abudllah has consented to the proposed scheme of autonomy for the constitutional units of the State to ensure its unity.
The Constituent Assembly of the State accordingly appointed a Subcommittee consisting of D.P Dhar, Mir Qasim and G.L Dogra which recommended substantial measurement of autonomy to each region with power of taxation and legislation. These assurances were not implemented for autonomy to Jammu region rather Jammu autonomy forum proposed federal structure with five tier setup to decentralise political power to the regions, districts, blocks and Panchayats.
Gajendergadkar Commission which discussed the memorandum of Jammu Autonomy Fourm conceded in its report regional autonomy would strengthen Jammu relation with Kashmir. But it did not accept the demand for autonomy mainly on two counts. Firstly it lacked sufficient popular support in Jammu. Secondly it might have adverse reaction in the Valley. A people convention was convened by Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah to further discuss the outer regional relations. After two years of deliberation its Steering Committee submitted its draft constitutional setup of the State which revealed the public opinion of people of Kashmir Valley. Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah stressed need for autonomy to the three regions of the State, it was essential to give a sense of participation and sense of belonging to the people of diverse culture, languages and to ensure their emotional integration. If autonomy is to all the three regions like Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh is not granted then does it mean that accession of State with India is doubtful. Why National Conference is asking for autonomy when State Govt. is working under the provisions of Article 370 of Constitution of India already providing huge extra ordinary facilities to the State which include adequate financial aid and six years terms for Legislative Assembly tenure unlike other states of India.
PDP Self rule: PDP the other regional party and once taken over the reign of the State is a party parallel to National Conference. Its cadres are like that of National Conference and this Peoples Democratic Party is presently headed by its Chief Patron Mufti Mohd. Syeed and Mehbooba Mufti its President PDP in its paper released on 25th October 2008 pleaded and advocated for self rule. M. H Baig a party Ex Dy CM and leading Supreme Court lawyer explained the concept of self rule but the self rule as proposed by the PDP could not be considered in all its detail as the working group constituted by former Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh on 25th May, 2006 was not provided its detailed documents containing various aspects of self rule. The PDP self rule document speaks as
i)Call the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) as Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK)
ii)Self rule document suggests that J and K issue cannot be resolved on the basis of exclusively intra state level initiatives.
iii)It suggests creating a new system of dual currency where the Indian and Pakistan rupees both are made legitimate legal tenders in the geographical areas with the GJAK level initiatives.
iv)It says self rules refers to autonomy from the ‘National State’ of India where as autonomy (NC Autonomy) cannotes relative autonomy from the Govt. of India.
v)Suggests two units of Greater Jammu and Kashmiri (GJAK) doing trade independently with India, Pakistan and other world and the like.
Mufti who has been Union Minister for Home at the Centre has asked for something like joint control of India and Pakistan in its self rule concept over some affairs of J and K which he knows cannot be possible because of 1947 accession with India. Further the self rule concept of PDP MLA Nizamudin Bhatt was rejected on 15th of September 2011, by the J and K speaker Mohd. Akabar Lone which was deletion / amendment of (i) Section 147 (ii) Section 3 and (iii) Section 5 of the J and K Constitution. The section 3 defines the relationship of J and K with Union of India. It says that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is an and shall be an integral part of the Union of India, this indicates that PDP MLA does not believe in J and K Continuation with India as its integral part. Article 1 of Constitution of India says any one who is citizen of India can only be permanent resident of J and K. One has to be citizen of India, then can only be he the State subject of Jammu and Kashmir. Section (6) of J and K Constitution very specifically lays down that (i) every person who is or is deemed to be citizen of India under the provision of Constitution of India shall be a permanent resident of State if on 14th day of May 1954 (a) he was a State subject of class I or class II or (b) having law fully acquired immovable property in the State. So the concept of self rule does not hold good under such provision. Any one who looses the India citizenship looses the right as permanent resident of J and K. Therefore it is in the fitness of things that the idea of self rule is a political move and is far away from the legal provision and J and K constitutional framework.