J&K interlocutors’ report released

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Srinagar: Recommending setting up of a Constitutional Committee for the purpose, center’s interlocutors on Kashmir have called for revision of all central laws and acts of the Indian Constitution extended to the state after 1952. The report of the interlocutors, Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari, which was made public on Thursday, proposed a new approach to the state’s problems covering political, economic, social and cultural aspects, forming a package which will have to be accepted in its entirety. However the central government has said that the report does not reflect its own views but calls for a debate. “The government has not taken any decisions on the report yet. The government will welcome an informed debate on its contents,” said the home ministry in a statement, issued immediately after making the recommendations of the interlocutor’s public. “The group of interlocutors held extensive deliberations with the government of J&K, political parties and civil society stake-holders at the state and national level. Their report was submitted on October 12 last year,” the ministry added. Addressing the political dimension, suggests a road map listing confidence-building measures that include review of Disturbed Areas Act and re-appraisal of application of controversial AFSPA. The report, which was handed over to Home Minister P Chidambaram on October 12 last year, also favoured resumption of the dialogue process between the Centre and the Hurriyat Conference at the earliest. On Centre-state relation, the report calls for review of all Central Acts and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to the state after 1952 Delhi agreement. “This does not mean a pure and simple return to the pre-1953 situation. The clock cannot be set back. Instead, the Group wants such a review to take into full account the changes that have taken place over the past six decades,” the report said. To build on the consensus that exists in the state, the interlocutors have recommended that a Constitutional Committee (CC) be set up to review all central acts and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to the state after the signing of 1952 agreement. Addressing the erosion of state’s special status in the future the report suggests that no more central laws and Articles of the Constitution should be extended to the state by a presidential order. The report also suggested that Parliament will make no laws applicable to the state unless it relates country’s internal and external security and its vital economic interests, especially in the areas of energy and access to water resources. The group of interlocutors has recommended that Jammu and Kashmir should function as a single entity and added that the basis for a broad consensus existed. The report wants the state’s status to be termed as ‘special’ as is the case with several states under Article 371, deletion of the word ‘temporary’ from the heading of Article 370 which should be replaced with word ‘special’. The report said a broad consensus exists in the state on the point that the state’s distinctive status guaranteed by Article 370 must be upheld. “Its ‘erosion’ over the decades must be re-appraised to vest it with such powers as the state needs to promote the welfare of the people on its own terms,” it said. Calling for a unique way of appointing the Governor for the State Government, after consultations with Opposition parties, shall submit a list of three names to the President. The President can ask for more suggestions if required. The Governor will be appointed by the President and hold office at the pleasure of the President. It also suggested that there should be no change in Article 356 and if the state government is dismissed, elections should be held within three months. “The present arrangement should continue with the provision that the Governor will keep the State legislature under suspended animation and hold fresh elections within three months”, the report recommends. The interlocutors also suggest that the CC should be headed by an eminent personality who enjoys the esteem of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and of the people of the India as a whole. It should include as its members Constitutional experts who enjoy confidence of all major stake holders. The CC’s conclusions, to be reached within six months, will be binding on “all of them”. “The review will, therefore, have to determine whether – and to what extent – the central Acts and Articles of Constitution of India, extended with or without amendment to the state, have dented Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and abridged the state government’s powers to cater to welfare of its people,” the report said. The CC’s recommendations must be reached through consensus so that they are acceptable to all stake holders represented in the state assembly and Parliament. The next step would be for the President in exercise of powers under Article 370 to issue an order incorporating the recommendations of the CC. The order will need to be ratified by a Bill in both Houses of Parliament and by each House in the state legislature by a special two-thirds majority to be presented to the President for assent. “Once this order is over, clauses (1) and (3) of Article 370 shall cease to be operative and no orders shall be made by the President here after under the said clauses as from the date of final order,” it said. The report recommended that for promotion of the state’s economic self-reliance, a fresh financial agreement between the Centre and the state is required. Touching upon the external dimensions of the Kashmir issue, the report calls for efforts to bridge the divide between people on both the sides of Line of Control including a hassle-free movement of people and goods across the LoC and a consultative mechanism where elected representatives from both sides can deliberate on issues of common interests like water, economy, tourism and trade. “The core idea here is to make the LoC irrelevant, a mere line on a map,” the report said. Hinting upon the historic relations of Kashmir with the outside world the report stresses for a need to make Jammu and Kashmir a bridge in order for it to become a business hub. “Take all appropriate measures to regard Jammu and Kashmir as a bridge between South and Central Asia”, the report recommends. KNS

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