Looking For Answers

I think we are right now sailing in the same boat.  You’re   probably asking yourself the same questions that have  engaged my attention: what solutions is the trinity of interlocutors   proposing to New Delhi for resolving the Kashmir dispute, and how their prescription can help in bringing in lasting peace in the state;  is it going to blunt the sharper edges of the international dimensions of the dispute that is counted   as ‘dangerous’ nuclear flashpoint; and  how would  Islamabad take the move.    

During 2010 Kashmir was on the boil.  There is no need for recapping the 2010 happenings that   had caused death to 116 students and youth, brought Kashmir under international focus and largely changed Kashmir narrative in a section of Indian intelligentsia. These   happenings had prompted visit of all parties’ parliamentary delegation to Srinagar.

Besides announcing an eight point formula for addressing Kashmir uncertainties one of the major decision taken by New Delhi was appointment of a team of interlocutors comprising journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academic Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari. No elaborate list of terms of reference was publicized by the appointing authority however it was made known through media that the team will find a solution to Kashmir problem. On their appointment, I had commented in this column that broader parameters about the mandate of the team suggest that it would be nothing but another ‘academic study’ about vexed problem.

Notwithstanding my skepticism about the whole exercise,   now    when the team seems ready to submit its report to GoI on October 12 of this year the question arises; how far will the report help in addressing the Kashmir dispute with its long and chequered history of the United Nation Security Council resolutions,  scores of meetings, it appointing three international commissions to suggest ways and means for resolving the dispute, India and Pakistan leaders continuously meeting at the highest level since 1952, and New Delhi and Srinagar signing two major agreements viz Delhi Agreement 1952 and Indiria Sheikh Accord of 1975.

The team has visited all the district headquarters in the state and interacted with political parties that don’t subscribe to the UN resolutions but consider state as integral part of India. It also met a cross section of the people. It may be premature to comment about the report the team is going to submit to their appointing authority but the broad hints made public by the team during its last visit to the state leave scope for comment and analysis.

Mr. Padgaonkar made three broad points around which the report is expected to revolve: 1. the report will address political aspirations of the people of Kashmir. 2.  Focus for permanent settlement of Kashmir within framework of Indian Constitution.3. Address demands, needs, and grievances of the people of the valley. The first point is a statement that could be stretched to the extent of engaging the leadership that has been articulating the demand of right to self-determination and freedom but the second point not only works as a rider to the first point but also ostracize its scope and limits it to the political parties believing in accession of the state talking about restoring autonomy of the state or self governance within the constitution of India.

How different is demand of greater autonomy from that of self governance, if the two are synonymous and interchangeable may be matter a debate for those who have piloted these ideas but without going into nitty-gritties of the two propositions, I see them as two faces of the same coin. The parameters of the proposal made public by the interlocutors broadly suggest that the team is working for prescribing an admixture of autonomy and self-rule, some measures for giving a human face to the report  and equally suggestions for providing of good governance.

In this column I am not going to debate if the uncertainty that has been obtaining in the state for over six decades has its genesis in bad governance or    the ‘admixture- formula’ could be seen as catering to the political aspiration of people of the state or if it is going to alter the contours of ‘Kashmir dispute’ and change it status.  

But big  question remains that if any formula seeking greater autonomy or whatever,  within the Constitution of India could  be implement in view the constitutional constraints as highlighted by  PDP MLA Nizam-ud-Din Bhat in his private members bill seeking    ‘deletion’ of sub-clause (B) of section 147 of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution that was discussed by me in past Monday column. These constraints where debated and discussed during 1974 parleys between the Plebiscite Front leadership and New Delhi that had culminated into an accord. The third point in the six point accord reads: where any provision of the constitution of India has been applied with adoption and modifications, such adaption and modifications can be   altered or repealed by an order of the President under article 370….’In 1995, when NC in the light of Prime Minister’s public announcement reiterated its demand for autonomy, in its memorandum it called for Presidents order under article 370 for restoration of autonomy in terms of Delhi agreement.
The team of interlocutors also talked about finding a solution within article 370-   Noorani while discussing erosion of this article writes, “Far from enjoying a special status as envisaged in 370, the state was put in a status inferior to that of other states”.

Whatever formula the team of interlocutors prescribes for addressing internal dimensions of the problem if it entails change in constitutional relations it would need a Presidential order.

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