ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kashmir: Can Autonomy Be a Solution?

Given that plebiscite is not a practical possibility, autonomy is the best option both for the Kashmiris and for the central government. Alongside this the Indian state must respect the human rights of the Kashmiris, and work for economic development of the state.

The Kashmir assembly has passed a resolution for autonomy. Whether it is an exercise in one-upmanship or a genuine one is difficult to say. It is being maintained by some that since the central government is going to start talks with Hurriyat, Farooq Abdullah has resorted to this exercise to steal the show. Whatever it may be, I feel it is not merely one-upmanship but a genuine move. I happened to talk to Farooq Abdullah in 1998 in Srinagar and he told me that the then prime minister Narasimha Rao had promised to consider the possibility of autonomy. In fact he was keenly awaiting the green signal from Delhi. I had told him it would never come. He then told me “without it you cannot fight militancy in the valley”. But now the question is: can one fight militancy even with autonomy being granted?

The original sin was committed by the Congress government at the centre and at the time of Jawharlal Nehru himself. In fact Nehru was greatly attached to Kashmir and it is uncertain if he was geuninely disposed towards letting Kashmir have autonomy as laid down under Article 370 of the Constitution. After the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah (which itself was questionable though it is a different story), the centre was more than anxious to water down Kashmir’s autonomy. It wanted the state under its grip. With pliable chief ministers succeeding the Sheikh it was not difficult. The Kashmir assembly passed resolutions to slowly surrender its autonomy, first abolishing the posts of sadr-e-riyasat and prime minister and replacing them by governor and chief minister and then asking for jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to be extended. By the time Sheikh Abdullah was released all these autonomy measures were surrendered by Kashmir ‘voluntarily’. Kashmir had become a state like any other state. Article 370 remained on paper.

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