Wazir-e-Azam and Sadr-e-Riyasat row!

The crux lies in effective political empowerment rather than mere change of nomenclature

The nomenclature row-the name to be given to chief political executive and to the head of the state of J&K State has started picking up. It happened in controversial manner in J&K legislative assembly.

 After the K-panel’s controversial recommendation reported reviving the nomenclature of “Wazir-i-Azam” and “Sadr-i-Riyasat” for J&K’s chief minister and governor respectively, it rocked J&K Legislative Assembly. There was a row with the members from Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and Jammu State Morcha (JSM) opposing any such move, creating an uproar in the Lower House of the assembly over the reported content in the recommendations of interlocutors which they submitted to the Centre some days ago. However cosmetic the measure might seem, the interlocutor’s might view it as an attempt to rectifying a wrong. It is cosmetic in the sense that mere change of nomenclature would hardly mean political empowerment of states top political functionaries. The disempowerment has been a persistent endeavour of powers that be-the main reason for alienation, so widely talked of! The disempowerment was put in full flow in 1953, with the arbitrary dismissal and arrest of the elected chief executive of the state-carrying the nomenclature of Prime Minister, the dismissal was affected by Sadr-i-Riyasat-head of the State!

Twelve years ahead the nomenclature of head of state and that of chief political executive-Sadr-i-Riyasat and Prime Minister held on, however in 1965, weak kneed Sadiq regime bereft of popular base relented to pressure and did away with relevant sections of J&K’s constitution by incorporating Articles 356 relating to failure of constitutional machinery in the states and 357 relating to exercise of legislative powers under proclamation issued under article 356, while as Article 370 implied that:
 Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution:

a. the provisions of Article 238 shall not apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir,
b. the power of Parliament to make laws for the said State shall be limited to;
i. those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which, in consultation with the Government of the State, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession governing the accession of the State to the Dominion of India as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make laws for that State; and
ii. such other matters in the said Lists, as, with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the President may by order specify.

Article 238 was the forerunner of 356/357 that governed exercise of president’s discretion in situations where, as per the report of the Governor of a State or otherwise the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of state cannot be carried on in accordance with provisions of the constitution. Article 238 was omitted by (7th Amendment) Act, 1956 and 356 and 357 were later made applicable to the State of J&K. The constitution of Jammu & Kashmir (Sixth Amendment) Act, 1965 dated 10th April facilitated imposition of 356/357. As per (Sixth Amendment: 2) the nomenclature of Sadr-i-Riyasat and Prime Minister was changed to governor and chief minister and as per (Sixth Amendment: 9) ‘Discharge of functions of the Governor in certain contingencies’ section 32 was omitted and section 33 substituted, which reads-‘The President may make such provisions as he thinks fit for the discharge of functions of governor in any contingency and not provided for in this part.’ As per the omitted section (32) the discretionary powers in contingency clause rested with Sadr-i-Riyasat and central had no role.

This then is the background of the constitutional provision. The idea to apply ‘Wazir-i-Azam’ [Urdu for Prime Minister] instead of reverting back to call the chief executive-the Prime Minister was mooted as Beg-Parthasarthy talks were going on prior to Indira-Abdullah accord in 1975. It didn’t take effect, obviously it wasn’t acceptable. More over Sheikh Abdullah took oath as Chief Minister. The reported recommendation by interlocutors was made out to be an attempted turn back of the clock… Ghadi Ki Suiyaan Peachey Karnay Ki Koshish! The opposition in J&K legislative assembly alleged that the interlocutors were exceeding their brief, and they warned that any such move to revert the clock would be fraught with volatile consequences. If at all the interlocutors have made such a recommendation, it may not be constructed as- Ghadi Ki Suiyaan Peachey Karnay Ki Koshish, but setting right the time- Ghadi Ki Suiyaan Teekh Samay Par Rakhnay Ki Koshish! 

The move was constructed to be extra-constitutional by the opposition; hence would not be allowed, maintained the opposition while criticizing the interlocutors. What makes it extra-constitutional rather than taking it measure to restore J&K constitution is difficult to comprehend. The opposition in fact staged a walkout in protest. On the contrary the ruling party members-the NC benches welcomed the recommendation, which had been part of party’s `Greater Autonomy’ draft. Partners in the coalition- Congress members adopted stoic silence over the issue while PDP members adopted a cautious approach.

PDP member Nizam-ud-Din interrupted Harsh Dev Singh of Panthers party, who had stated that change in the nomenclature of state’s chief minister as ‘Wazir-i-Azam’ and governor as ‘Sadr-i-Riyasat’ amounted to turning back the clock “Yeh Ghadi Ki Suiyaan Peachey Karnay Ki Koshish Kar Rahey Hain, so as to give an impression of J&K being a separate, sovereign and independent nation. Nizam-ud-Din put in a contrary view stating, “The union government has its own jurisdiction and the House too has its own jurisdiction. Moreover the House has passed the resolution on autonomy and we can discuss that in the House. Though constitutionally speaking he (Harsh) can discuss the issue in the House yet the recommendation of interlocutors appointed by the Centre is a subject with the union government as the report is submitted to them. Therefore, it would not be proper for any member to criticize the interlocutors or the recommendation till it is put in public domain. Therefore, anyone criticizing the recommendation prematurely will be vitiating the peace process and will not be taken as a facilitator,” said Nizam-ud-Din. Harsh Dev Singh cast the reported recommendation of interlocutors as an “attempt to weaken the ties of State with the Centre” while saying that kind of recommendation is beyond the constitutional brief of interlocutors. “The recommendation is extra-constitutional. We condemn it and strongly oppose the recommendation,” Harsh maintained. BJP Legislature Party leader Prof Chaman Lal Gupta endorsed his point and asserted that any move aiming at restoration of pre-53 situation would be opposed tooth and nail. BJP members generally held the view expressed by Harsh and Gupta-the BJP legislative party leader.

Independent MLA Abdul Rashid stated that even after the signing of Instrument of Accession, this provision was there. Rashid threw a spanner at works, as he mocked “Ghadi Ki Suiyaan Peachey Hi Jaati Hain Jab Ghadi Ruk Jaati Hai.” NC MLA- Shamima Firdous endorsed Rashid’s take, saying “Haan Ghadi Ki Suiyaan To ’53 Par Ruki Hui Hain.”

The debate might be premature-an exercise in futility, it might be worthwhile to debate it later, when the details are known, and if at all such a recommendation has been made, the context in which it is made has to be known. The crux lies in effective political empowerment, rather than mere change of nomenclature. To debate issues later, once the facts are fully known might be worthwhile and make sense!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi
[Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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