NC’s Autonomy demand: rhetoric and record

NC’s Autonomy demand: rhetoric and record

Srinagar: National Conference and the government led by party’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has gone into overdrive after securing blank in recently concluded Parliamentary election. Populist measures have come out in droves. Retirement age of employees has been enhanced from 58 to 60 years. Stipendiary recruitment policy stands withdrawn. Four-year long ban on SMS facility on prepaid phone connections has been done away with. Fortified gates of Gupkar have opened, with party leaders meeting welcoming general public. There are several other measures that stand taken and many more are in the offing.
But surprisingly, Omar’s populist script is silent on a report by Justice (retired) Saghir Ahmed Working Group on Centre-State relations. Justice Saghir-led Working Group was among the five groups announced by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 to address the dimensions of Centre-State relations in context of Jammu and Kashmir. Justice Saghir submitted his report to the UPA-led government on December 18, 2009, recommending restoration of autonomy to the state.
However, instead of implementing the recommendations, the UPA, of which National Conference is an ally, put the ball in state government’s court. The state government then constituted Cabinet Sub-Committee in October 2010 to examine recommendations by Justice Saghir-led panel. However, consensus eluded members comprising NC and Congress even as the term of the CSC was extended time and again.
In fact, the eight-member CSC has exhausted last extension for one year and it silently came to end on February 18 this year. On August 16 last year, the government said the term of CSC shall be one year “from the date of its re-constitution i.e. 18.02.2013.”
Interesting, the CSC, which is essentially aimed at deciding future relationship of Jammu and Kashmir with New Delhi, also failed to hold a single meeting during its seventh extension of six months from November 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013.
From April 30, 2013 to August 15, the panel remained without extension even as it had been assured that its term would be extended. It was formally done on August 16 last year.
However, in wake of the drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls and oft-repeated calls for abrogation of Article 370 by BJP-led government in New Delhi, National Conference, according to its spokesman, will seek another extension of CSC and formal report in near future.
“National Conference will take all measures that are required to safeguard and protect Article 370, and all measures required at government and legal level will be taken in this regard,” Junaid Mattu, the party spokesman, told Kashmir Reader on Sunday.
Asked whether it in plain terms means seeking another extension in the term for the CSC, Mattu responded in affirmative.
“The fact of the matter is that most powerful legal ratification in this regard is Autonomy Resolution of 2002 passed by state Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. Unfortunately it was not given the respect it required by BJP (then in power in New Delhi), and given the recent statement from RSS and the BJP, it is now amply clear that they had ideological differences about it,” Mattu said, underling that CSC “does merit cognizance and needs to be revived.”
“Our stand is that we have never shelved it. Our party is committed to internal autonomy and we will do everything required in this behalf,” he added.
Asked about Congress’s stonewalling of restoration of autonomy in CSC meetings, Mattu responded with caution. “We are in a coalition, they (Congress) have right to their opinion but as far National Conference is concerned, we are committed to it.”
Members of the CSC are on record to admit difference of opinion regarding the recommendation on autonomy.
It is learnt that there are 32 points in the Saghir Committee recommendations and coalition partners have failed to come up with anything substantial.
The state government constituted the CSC vide Cabinet decision Order (no. 1148-GAD of 2010) on October 11, 2010. Initially it was asked to submit report for three months but has since got as many as eight extensions. Presently, it stands defunct.