Source: The Hitavada      Date: 04 Nov 2017 11:36:22













Per se, there is nothing wrong in the concept of autonomy within constitutional framework. But the trouble is that the concept cannot be implemented in a healthy manner with so much distortion of political discourse in the State that has often lived under the dark and dirty shadow of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

Srinagar, October 29 (PTI): The Opposition National Conference passed a resolution on Sunday, vowing to continue its struggle for restoration of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir as enshrined in the Constitution of India. “We continue to fight for the restoration of autonomy and restoration of Article 370 to its original, pristine form, while condemning those divisive voices who are opposed to the sovereign constitutional guarantee extended to the people of the State,” a resolution passed at the delegates’ session of the National Conference here reads. NATIONAL Conference is back to its old demand, insisting that it had never given it up during the intervening years. It has now decided to campaign for restoration of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir in its original and pristine form, as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Its leading lights have decided that the situation in Kashmir would improve once autonomy is restored to the State.

Nothing can be farther from reality in Kashmir, however. The situation in Kashmir has continued to worsen over time through the pre-1953 years when autonomy -- as per the definition of National Conference -- was available on the ground. It continued to go from bad to worse to worst even when Article 370 of the Constitution of India was being implemented in its its original, pristine form. The condition in the jewel-in-the-crown State of the Indian Union continued to get out of control despite all the facilities and concessions to the State and its people for decades on end. The State of Jammu and Kashmir continued to wallow in poverty despite the pumping of shockingly huge amounts of central money into the State. The Centre did not flinch even once when it came to extending all types of assistance to J&K in the fond hope that things would improve with practical demonstration of overly sympathetic consideration of the condition available on the ground in Kashmir. No matter what the Government did, the effort met with a resistance from the political community whose genesis the Government or the Indian nation never understood. The Government could not understand why the political community in Kashmir was so enamoured of separatism.

When the Government kept getting negative signals from Kashmir for years on end, it changed its approach, though did not alter the constitutional position. It made suitable permissible alterations in implementation of various provisions in the Constitution. Had that not been done, Kashmir would have slipped out of India’s hand years ago. But in right time, the Government firmed up and handled the situation fairly deftly to defuse the crisis.

In the process, the Government did commit certain mistakes and made blunders. Yet, the Government acted quickly enough to save the situation. It might have got afflicted by its own political compulsions, but it did take certain positions from time to time to see that Kashmir remained very much an integral part of the Indian Union. This action to save the situation needed some price to be paid. Yet, more or less, the Government made a lot of critical contribution to the Kashmir issue and kept its escalation more or less under check.

In Kashmir, right from the word ‘go’, the political community was overcharged with separatism in certain areas. The Jammu area remained more or less under control while the Kashmir Valley continued to simmer in discontent, thanks to the machinations of many a political party. It was this segment of the political community that nursed a stupid ambition of slicing Kashmir off the Indian Union. And to have that dream fulfilled, those segments did not mind following in Pakistan’s footsteps, introducing terrorism as a political tool. That is how the situation in Kashmir has gone so bad as to duck any efforts of redemption.

It is perfectly all right for National Conference to pass a certain resolution to cater to its constituency. Yet, it is expected that political parties in Kashmir realise all the facets of the situation available on the ground in Kashmir. Instead of following only their political road-map, they must realise the actual meaning of the various provisions of the constitution.  Because this has not happened, the situation in Kashmir has continued to slip from bad to worse. Today, Kashmir is considered a hotbed of separatism nursed and fanned to flourish by some political parties in the State. This was one example of political discourse getting botched up fully over decades.

Even as National Conference continues to demand full autonomy to Kashmir -- in the manner it did before 1953 -- it has failed to appreciate that the pre-1953 condition was only a temporary arrangement that had to be scrapped, thanks to growth of separatism that dared India’s territorial integrity and spiritual unity. National Conference or many other political parties in Kashmir have often felt that a greater autonomy to Kashmir would solve all the problems in the State. The NC resolution indicates exactly that.

With separatism so much in the air, the Government has little option but to get stricter and handle the situation in a no nonsense manner. It still made mistakes, fumbled on many issues, allowed separatist elements to have a field day in long stretches of time. It also indulged in politics that was far from sublime. Yet, because the Government’s overall handling had some sense of rational continuity, Kashmir was held together with the rest of India.

In these efforts, the Government took help of various elements of Kashmir’s political eco-system. It did play one element against the other to maintain a sense of balance. And as all this happened, the Government also leaned heavily on the security forces and especially the Army to tackle terrorism that had become so menacing in Kashmir.

Most unfortunately, most Kashmir-based political parties never understood these complex efforts of the Government, no matter which party led it in New Delhi. They continued to sing the same refrain of autonomy only because they had their vested interests. Not one single political leader of these parties ever tried to analyse properly what was going wrong all the while in Kashmir. That is the reason why National Conference has started singing the same refrain once again.

Per se, there is nothing wrong in the concept of autonomy within constitutional framework. But the trouble is that the concept cannot be implemented in a healthy manner with so much distortion of political discourse in the State that has often lived under the dark and dirty shadow of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. If the Kashmiri parties understand this reality rationally, then they may be able to make significant contribution to the process of correcting the botched up political discourse in Jammu and Kashmir.