Interlocutors Recommend Political Settlement for Kashmir Issue

‘Guarantees under Article 370 must be upheld, all Indian laws imposed in Kashmir from 1952 be reviewed, Indian parliament should not make laws applicable to Kashmir

Srinagar, May 24: The three interlocutors appointed by the Indian Government, submitted their report on Kashmir to the Indian Home Minister in October 2011. They recommended that political settlement must be achieved only through dialogue between all stake-holders, including those who are not part of the mainstream.

“Their commitment to democracy and pluralism must be above board. Kashmir should continue to function as a single entity within the Indian Union,” the report, which was made public by the Indian Home Minister in New Delhi today, said.

kashmir political map
Kashmir Political Map

Kashmir Status Guaranteed By Constitution

It said Kashmir’s distinctive status guaranteed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution must be upheld. “Its ‘erosion’ over the decades must be re-appraised to vest it with such powers as Kashmir needs to promote the welfare of the people on its own terms.”

The report said Kashmiri people must be able to exercise their democratic rights without the strains and stresses of the past, both as State subjects and as Indian citizens. “Transparent and accountable governance cannot be ensured otherwise. Nor can freedoms and the safeguarding of cultural identity, honour and dignity of every individual.”

“The diverse aspirations of the three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – and of sub-regions, of various ethnic and religious groups, of people uprooted from their homes due to wars or endemic violence – must be addressed. This calls for political, financial and administrative empowerment of elected bodies at the level of the region, the district, the block and the Panchayat/Municipality,” it said.

To promote Kashmir’s economic self-reliance, the report says a fresh financial arrangement between India and Kashmir is required. “This would include a special dispensation for hilly, backward and remote areas and for socially disadvantaged groups.”

“A hassle-free movement of people, goods and services across the Line of Control and the International Border must be swiftly ensured leading to institutionalised cooperation between the two parts of the erstwhile princely State in all areas of mutual interest and concern,” it said.

Pakistan Administered Kashmir

The report advises that it would be best achieved if institutions of democratic governance are established at the level of the State, the region and the sub-region in those parts of Kashmir that are presently administered by Pakistan.

Constitutional Committee To Review Past, Plan Future

The report says a Constitutional Committee should be formed, its members agreeable to all, and it should not only review the past, but be mainly tasked to look to the future.

“To build on this consensus, we recommend that a Constitutional Committee (CC) be set up to review all Indian Acts and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to Kashmir after the signing of 1952 Agreement. It should be headed by an eminent personality who enjoys the esteem of the people of Kashmir and of the people of India as a whole. It should include, as its members, constitutional experts who enjoy the confidence of all major stake-holders. Its conclusions, to be reached within six months, will be binding on all of them.”

“The Constitutional Committee should be future-oriented in that it should conduct its review solely on the basis of the powers Kashmir needs to address the political, economic, social and cultural interests, concerns, grievances and aspirations of the people in all three regions of the State – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – and all its sub-regions and communities. In this connection, the Committee will also need to reflect on the quantum of legislative, financial and administrative powers that the State Government should delegate to the three regions at all levels of governance – the regional, district and Panchayat/Municipality.”

Consensus To Guide Committee

The report said the Constitutional Committee’s recommendations must be reached through consensus so that they are acceptable to all stake-holders represented in the State Assembly and in Parliament. “The next step would be for the President, in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) and (3) of Article 370 of the Constitution, to issue an order incorporating the recommendations of the Constitutional Committee.”

“The nomenclatures in English of the Governor and the Chief Minister should continue as at present. Equivalent nomenclatures in Urdu may be used while referring to the two offices in Urdu.”

“Indian Parliament will make no laws applicable to the State unless it relates to the country’s internal and external security and its vital economic interest, especially in the areas of energy and access to water resources. These changes should be harmonized in all parts of the former princely State. All opportunities for cross-LOC cooperation should be promoted. This will require substantial constitutional changes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir,” the report added.

Fayaz Wani
Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.