Monday, June 4, 2012

“Meaningful autonomy” and article 370

Originally posted here.

“Meaningful autonomy” is the considered recommendation of the three interlocutors appointed by the UPA government for Jammu and Kashmir. This is according to what we have gotten to hear from the media and other sources so far. The report has not yet been made public. Until that happens we will have to wait to know how exactly they arrived at this. Since autonomy is synonymous to independence it goes in the direction opposite to integration. Our constitution has a provision to eventually integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the union of India. While the interlocutor’s report is made public, let us revisit the Lok Sabha debates when Jawaharlal Nehru was our Prime Minister and see what his position on the matter was –
“Our view is that article 370, as is written in the Constitution, is a transitional, in other words a temporary provision. And it is so. You can see how much change has come about in so many things since it was enacted. And that is continuing to happen. The Home Minister has just mentioned two or three things in which changes have recently been made. I do not regard it as permanent.
As a matter of fact, as the Home Minister has pointed out, it has been eroded, if I may use the word, and many things have been done in the last few years which have made the relationship of Kashmir with the Union of India very close. There is no doubt that Kashmiris fully integrated…” [Reproduced from “A Secular Agenda” by Arun Shourie. Part of Lok Sabha debate on 27-11-1963.]
The longevity of article 370 may give one the impression that it is permanent provision. And with the debate on “autonomy” to Jammu and Kashmir being carried out based on “human stories” the important issue of integration of the state gets completely divorced from what the Constitution says. Discussions on our sovereignty and territorial integrity cannot be held in such a vacuum. The very article begins with the words “Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir” [link]. Where is the question of autonomy here? Like Jawaharlal Nehru said the article ought to have eroded into oblivion by now. However the latest report by the interlocutors seems to suggest the exact opposite. It is time the debate on the state of Jammu and Kashmir was rescued from the trap of “azadi” and “autonomy” it seems to have fallen into and reconciled with what the Constitution of India provides for the state. Indeed Jawaharlal Nehru himself promised that article 370 was temporary, the Congress party should honour it.

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