J&K interlocutors for review of Central laws
Jammu, May 24
Touching upon various subjects, particularly Centre-state relations, the interlocutors —mandated to open dialogue with various sections of society in October 2010 after a four-month spell of violence on the streets of Kashmir —said in their report: “The State’s distinctive status guaranteed by Article 370 must be upheld. Its “erosion” over the decades must be re-appraised to vest it with such powers as the State needs to promote the welfare of the people on its own terms.”
The Tribune had reported that the report would be made public today, seven-and-a half months after it was submitted to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. Among the major recommendations of the report is that the nomenclatures in English of the Governor and the Chief Minister should continue as at present. “Equivalent nomenclatures in Urdu may be used while referring to the two offices in Urdu and exclusion of Ladakh region from Kashmir division,” it says. This meant that they were not going to restore the title of Prime Minister for the Chief Minister and ‘sadar-e-riyasat’ for the Governor
The panel suggests that the Governor’s appointment should be made after due consultations between the government and Opposition parties and he should neither have the powers to dismiss the government nor to dissolve the Assembly.
The Centre’s interlocutors -- Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari had submitted their report ‘A New Compact With the People of Jammu and Kashmir’ to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram last October. It was made public on Thursday after a gap of over seven months.
The interlocutors had visited the state 11 times and met 700 delegations across all the three regions of the state between October 2010 and September 2011. They interacted with various sections of society but could not meet the separatist leadership, barring Moulvi Abbas Ansari.
The report specifically mentions that “The State’s distinctive status guaranteed by Article 370 must be upheld” and it goes on to add and stress: “its (Article 370) ‘erosion’ over the decades must be re-appraised to vest it with such powers as the state needs to promote the welfare of the people on its own terms”. This would be music to the ears of the ruling National Conference that has been pushing forrestoration of autonomy, dating to the pre-1953 status.
It also suggests that the word “temporary” regarding Article 370 be replaced with “ special”, emphasising that the original and unique character of the state’s political and administrative authority should not be undermined in any case.
“Parliament will make no laws applicable to the State unless it relates to the country’s internal and external security and its vital economic interest, especially in areas of energy and access to water resources,” the report says.
Interlocutors, while arguing for “dialogue” and “consensus”, recommend that “to build on this consensus, we recommend that a Constitutional Committee (CC) be set up to review all Central Acts and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to the State after the signing of the 1952 Agreement”. This is one part of their formula for consensus building.
To achieve the objective of political settlement in the state, the interlocutors have suggested that it must be achieved “only through dialogue between all stake-holders, including those who are not part of the mainstream. Their commitment to democracy and pluralism must be above board”. The State should continue to function as a single entity within the Indian Union.
The report recommends creation of Regional Councils for each of the three regions of the state: “Create three Regional Councils, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (the latter would no longer be a division of Kashmir). Devolve certain legislative, executive and financial powers to them.”
A further devolution of executive and financial powers to Panchayati Raj institutions -- at the level of a district, a village panchayat, a municipality or a corporation -- would be part of the overall package. “All these bodies will be elected. Provisions will be made for representation of women, SC/ST, backward clans and minorities,” the report reads.
On the appointment of Governor and his powers, the interlocutors observe: “The state government, after consultation with Opposition parties, shall submit a list of three names to the President. The President can ask for more suggestions, if required. The Governor will be appointed by the President and hold office at the pleasure of the President. Article 356: the action of the Governor is now justiciable in the Supreme Court. The present arrangement should continue with the proviso that the Governor will keep the State legislature under suspended animation and hold fresh elections within three months,” the report states.
“The diverse aspirations of the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and of the sub-regions of various ethnic and religious groups of people uprooted from their homes due to wars or endemic violence must be addressed,” the report reads, making a case for regional and ethnic identity and at the same time speaking of refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, West Pakistan, and Kashmiri Pandit migrants.
Although the report that runs into 176 pages has attempted to touch upon all issues confronting the state -- “freedom” that has caught the imagination of some sections of the people in the state, regional equality and the devolution of powers, special powers of the security forces and recommended barracks for them, yet its major thrust is on the “political roadmap” to find a consensus on Kashmir.
Another area of focus of the report is exercising of the “democratic rights” by the people without “strains and stresses of the past; transparent and accountable, safeguarding of cultural identity, honour and dignity of every individual”. The report hails the panchayat elections held last year with the participation of 76 per cent voters and voices concern over “unmarked graves” and human rights issues.
The group of Interlocutors
October 13, 2010: The Ministry of Home Affairs appoints a group of interlocutors on Kashmir after a four-month spell of violence on the streets of Kashmir. Led by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar with academician Radha Kumar and ex-Information Commissioner MM Ansari as members, their brief was to hold a sustained dialogue with all sections of society in the state
Oct 2010-Sept 2011: Interlocutors visit state 11 times and meet 700 delegations. None of the separatists meet the panel
Oct 12, 2011: The panel submits its report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram
May 24, 2012: Interlocutors report made public
What the report says