The slogans of autonomy

Sheikh Ghulam Rasool

 In analyzing the impact of raising the issue of Regional Autonomy Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, former Chief Secretary of J&K Government who joined National Conference after his retirement, writes that the impact of this issue needs to be assessed to maintain the solidarity of the state. According to him, Delhi agreement 1952 had been approved by Parliament and State Constituent Assembly, giving the state an unassailable constitutional position. The Government of India showed its commitment by issuing constitution order under Art 370/35A. The attack on autonomy began with coming of GM Sadiq as chief Minister. Though Indira Gandhi – Abdullah accord of 1975 allowed state government to review the central laws enforced in the state, but reports of two high level Committees on the subject remained on shelves in the secretariat. While Dr. Farooq Abdullah announces introduction of regional autonomy, with ambitions to  secure power, BJP has been advocating concept of Regional Council for Jammu  to thwart state autonomy. But Dr. Farooq has shifted to regional autonomy without considering its long term impact leading ultimately to trifurcation of state. It is time to cool down and evolve a pragmatic and attainable goal.




The Constitutional Orders:


“In Oct 1947 Maharaja of Kashmir’s accession to India limited Jurisdiction of the Central Government to three subjects namely: Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication. Its acceptance by Lord Mount Batten Viceroy on the recommendation of the Union Government sealed the special status of the state which has been further elaborated in the Delhi Agreement between the State leadership headed by Sheri Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Prime Minister (as he was then called) of the state and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. The Delhi agreement in 1952 was duly approved by the Indian Parliament and  the State Constituent Assembly. Having scored a firm and unassailable constitutional position, it is still a mystery as to why Late Sheikh Sahib chose to come open against the Central Government on some other issues. While the agitation of  Praja Parishad and some pricks by Central government infuriated the late leader and gave in to his emotionalism over real politics against the saner advice of his trusted colleagues like Beg Sahib (Mirza M Afzal Beg) and Maulana Masoodi who were of the considered view that any battle in future could be fought within the system and not outside. This resulted in the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah and his long incarceration. The government of India expressed its commitment to Delhi Agreement of 1952 by issuing Constitutional order under Article 370/35A which was duly incorporated in the State Constitution adopted in 1957. Till 1964, only financial integration of limited level and administrative integration under All India Services Act was carried out under Article 370 of the Constitution of India”.


The erosion of autonomy:


“The misplacement or theft of the Holy Relic at Hazratbal in 1963 provided upheaval to the suppressed sentiments of the people which ultimately resulted in change of the government and installation of G.M. Sadiq as Chief Minister. With Congress party at the helm and National Conference with the deposed Prime Minister Bakhshi Sahib/ Shamsuddin. With the changeover, full onslaught  on the State Autonomy was carried out with PM designated as CM- elected Sadri Riyasat replaced by Governor as nominee of the President of India and number of changes in the  state constitution by the state legislature of the state. The Indira Gandhi/Sheikh Abdullah Accord in 1975 allowed state government to review Central Laws with the specific condition  not to change the nomenclature and procedure of Chief Minister, Sadri Riyasat , abolition of legislative Council and various laws related to internal security without approval of Government of India. In spite of two high level committees, one led by late D.D. Thakur, the reports to review any state laws remained in the debris of Secretariat record.


The Impact of Accord:


The Accord in fact fortified the status quo of 1964/1975 and the state autonomy remained a hollow slogan. This is further amplified by rejection of the state Autonomy Resolution of the State Legislature in 1998 by the Central Government. It is another story as to why the NC government led by Dr. Farooq Abdullah didn’t leave the NDA government though Omar Abdullah was handy with the resignation as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Farooq Abdullah had to be content with assurance of Mr. Arun Jaitely as an emissary  of Vajpayee Government. In the same manner he was duped by “Sky is the limit” assurance of PM Narasimha Rao. During the election of 1996 and 2002, I did speak once or twice about political slogan of Autonomy but after seeing the real politics of the party, had to limit my utterances to Sadak, Bijli, Pani….etc (Roads, electricity and water). Then for election of 2008, the Election manifesto was drafted which I co-authored along with Abdul Rahim Rather sahib and Mr. Vijay Bakaya . This repeated the demand of restoration of Autonomy as per Delhi agreement. However we were conscience of our limitations on this account and advocated decentralised power to the three parts of the state by introducing the concept of single line Administration at the district level. This was kept in view of the success story of the system for Ladakh and Kargil regions which I had authored as Chief  secretary in 1992-1993 known as Ladakh Hill Autonomous Council”.


Regional Autonomy Slogan: Impact


“Dr. Farooq Abdullah has few days back announced that introduction of Regional Autonomy within 30 days of formation of his Government. He has stated that the proposal has already been prepared. In this context, it is worthwhile to mention that BJP and some other parties have been advocating concept of Regional Council for Jammu partly to thwart State Autonomy and partly to assuage feelings of neglect of Jammuites by Kashmiri hegemony. This concept has not been accepted by  NC and other sections of the society as it would sow seeds of trifurcation of the state. Under the proposed Regional autonomy, divisional level, political set up with counsellors as mini MLA’s, chief executive as mini CM and regional council as  mini Legislature charged with developmental agenda to start with will lead to parallel executive and legislative set up at the divisional level. The Hill Council based on development strategies has already led widening scope of administrative matters of state level and even Chief Council Leh refusing to unfurl state flag and instead hoisted National Flag with local Council flag.


“It appears that Dr. Farooq Sahib either disgusted and disappointed with the slogan of state Autonomy has shifted to Regional autonomy without any consideration to its ultimate trifurcation of the state. May be the pending writ petition before The Supreme Court about Article 370/35-A have unnerved the mainstream stake holders. Very shortly, we will hear a parallel slogan of Autonomy at Local Self panchayat level as the boycott by the NC/PDP has provided other stake holders with promising greenery to build strong institutions at the grass root level. With all autonomy slogans going around  would ultimately lead to parallel legislative and executive set up. What will be the fate of mainstream, out stream and other fringe streams for the future of the state very easy to understand. All round democratic Rajwars! It is high time to cool down tempers and evolve a pragmatic and attainable goal consistent with our cherished history of egalitarian principles of “Uswai Hasna” of  Beloved  Prophet (SAW)”.


[Courtesy: daily  Greater Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, December 26, 2018].

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