'Article 370 is a 'temporary' provision which should be made 'permanent' to assure special status to J&K.'
M M Ansari, former central information commissioner and part of the three-member committee appointed by the United Progressive Alliance government to hold talks with all stakeholders amid violence and unrest in the Kashmir valley in 2010, tells Sahil Makkar that Article 370 is a 'temporary' provision and should be made 'permanent' to assure a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
What is your opinion on abolishing Article 35A of the Constitution now that a larger bench of the Supreme Court will take a view on a public interest litigation filed by a non-governmental organisation?
As per Article 370 of the Constitution, the central government can make laws with respect to three subjects only -- defence, external affairs and communication.
Beyond that, the central government has extended to J&K umpteen laws through Presidential orders, which would be termed invalid along with the scrapping of Article 35A by the Supreme Court.
A major political crisis will emerge as Parliament is not competent to frame laws for J&K.
The Presidential order as a route to govern the state will be closed, paving the way for dis-integration of the state.
The mainstream political parties, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party will not cooperate with the central government due to loss of trust between the Centre and the state.
Many say it is a ploy of the Bharatiya Janata Party which had promised to abolish Article 370 in its poll manifesto. It appears that the central government is likely to take a different stand than the J&K government in court.
The BJP is in alliance with the PDP and it has already committed that it will do nothing for abrogation of Article 370.
Parliament alone can do nothing unless it is backed and endorsed by the state assembly.
The state will not compromise with its autonomy.
There is no illegality in inserting the above provision into the Constitution.
Therefore, the Supreme Court cannot scrap it. We have to live with Article 370 till the Centre and the state arrive at a consensus through a democratic process.
You were part of the three-member interlocutor committee appointed by the UPA government to speak to various stakeholders in J&K. What were the main recommendations and how many have been accepted by the government?
The recommendations of our committee and several other committees have hardly been implemented by the Centre, which is why the Kashmiris feel totally alienated and deprived in terms of quality education and employment.
One of our major recommendations relates to erosion of Article 370 and we suggested a way out to resolve contentious issues between the Centre and the state.
The government has not cared to look at it, which is unfortunate.
What could be the reason behind the UPA government not implementing your report in full?
I can't say why the UPA government did not implement our report.
Our committee was formed on the basis of recommendations of all political party delegations that visited Kashmir in 2010.
These parties are the constituent of the UPA and the National Democratic Alliance.
No political party has assertively demanded implementation of the report, which we prepared in close interaction with all the political parties that were then part of the delegations.
Such inaction has sowed the seeds of mistrust between the Centre and the state.
Your committee had also suggested setting up a Constitutional committee to review all laws made post 1952. Do you think reviewing laws is the right way forward?
Yes, indeed. This suggestion has had wider acceptance during our interaction with a cross section of people from civil society and the political leadership as well.
How has the situation in J&K changed post your report (2011)?
How is the approach of the NDA government on J&K different from that of the UPA government?
Over time, the situation has worsened.
The BJP-PDP agenda of alliance has not been implemented in letter and spirit.
Several accepted schemes have not been effectively executed, which is why Kashmiris have suffered both within and outside the state.
That Kashmiri students are thrown out of universities because the ministry of human resource and development has not released their scholarships is a case in point.
Do you believe things have turned worse in J&K under the current regime?
The initiative to engage with all the stakeholders is lacking.
Alienation of Kashmiris has escalated while human rights violations and related sufferings have increased.
The youth don't enjoy social life, which their counterparts elsewhere in the country do. They are, therefore, hugely frustrated and disappointed for no fault of their own.
What are the immediate measures the NDA government should take to win the trust of the people in J&K?
All the recommendations made by various committees should be implemented in letter and spirit.
This must be done under the supervision of a high-powered committee comprising representatives from all the major political parties.
A fresh initiative should be taken to engage all the stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue to resolve all the contentious issues.
The prime minister's recent statement to shun the bullet and hug Kashmiris is the way forward.
Let us not only preach this, but also practise it.
What could be a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue?
Article 370 is a 'temporary' provision which should be made 'permanent' to assure special status to J&K.
This is possible through accommodation of the aspirations of the people of the state.
This task is difficult indeed, but it is not impossible as the democratic and federal polity allows for reconciliation and coexistence of diverse socio-economic groups.
As we may move towards talking to Kashmiris in the spirit of Narendra Modi's approach to 'hug' them, terror will subside and diminish since Kashmiris have for long been yearning for peace.
IMAGE: A scene from Kashmir. Photograph: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters