The Myth of Greater Autonomy

Brig Anil Gupta
The way the balloon of “Azadi”, promised by the separatists has been burst after the emergence of Zakir Musa and declaration of Syed Sallahudin as a ‘global terrorist’, time has come for people to understand the truth behind the dream of ‘Greater Autonomy’ sold by the soft-separatists to mislead the people of the State and to exploit them for their vote bank politics. Greater Autonomy in simple words means return to pre-1953 status implying New Delhi’s authority wouldbe  restricted to defence, foreign policy and communications, as was the case before 1953. It also demands that the State should have its own Prime Minister and Supreme Court. “Autonomy” means living under one’s own laws or the concept of Self-Government but the leaders of National Conference are misleading the nation by saying that, “we want Autonomy within the Indian Constitution.”  The founding fathers of constitution of India were of the firm and unanimousview “that it would be injurious to the interest of the country to provide for a weak central authority which would be incapable of ensuring peace, coordinating matters of common concern, speaking effectively for the whole country in the international sphere etc. due to diversity of cultures, languages, religious and various other factors.” In nut-shell the Constitution of India does not concede the type of autonomy the NC wants. The Greater Autonomy demand is full of contradictions. Return to pre-1953 status would imply that the state would be governed by the J&K Constitution Act of 1939- a deemed Constitution prepared by the oligarchy around Maharaja Hari Singh, against whom Sheikh Abdullah founding father of NC had launched “Quit Kashmir” movement alleging atrocities by the Maharaja and his Government. Sheikh later, after the Maharaja appointed him as Prime Minister following the accession with India, unceremoniously dethroned the Maharaja and forced him to live in exile. The new love found for the same constitution, which was considered suppressive, by the scions of Abdullah dynasty smacks of contradictions and political opportunism.
The Greater Autonomy seeks to limit the state’s accession to India only territorially with New Delhi having no powers whatsoever to intervene in the State even if it is in turmoil of the type state is witnessing these days. It proposes that the declaration of State of emergency by Union of India shall be subject to concurrence of the State Government to be vetted by the State Assembly within two months failing which State of emergency shall lapse. This provision shall cause chaos and serious upheaval between three distinct regions of the State, more so when, there exists a discriminatory imbalance in the state assembly when 46 seats have been allotted to Kashmir region as against 37 seats to the Jammu region despite almost equal population but Jammu region having almost twice the area than that of Kashmir region. The regions of Jammu &Ladakh have been the worst victims of regional discrimination during the six-decade rule of the said party.
The truth is that even the Sheikh had conceded to the futility of the demand of pre-53 status when he returned to power in 1975 as Chief Minister of the state and not as the Prime Minister. The Kashmir Accord signed between him and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhihad affirmed that “provisions of the Constitution of India already applied to the state of Jammu and Kashmir without adaptation or modification are unalterable.” The DD Thakur Committee report, ratified by Sheikh Abdullah, also re-affirmed the applicability of central laws applied to the state of J&K after 1953 in toto. The fact is that Farooq Abdullah as inheritor of the Sheikh wanted to cement the rule of Sheikh Dynasty by selling the dream of Greater Autonomy to the gullible people of Kashmir who were getting disillusioned with the successive governments in Delhi. The demand for Greater Autonomy was out rightly rejected by the NDA Government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee stating that “acceptance of the resolution would set the clock back and reverse the natural process of harmonising the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with the integrity of the nation.” Farooq’s son Omar Abdullah was then a junior minister in the Government but chose not to resign. Similarly, when the interlocutors’ report submitted by late Padgaonkar was consigned to the dustbin by UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh, Farooq merrily continued as a senior minister in the government for three years and his son as the CM.
These omissions on part of the members of Abdullah dynasty opened the eyes of the common Kashmiris. They realised that they were being taken for a ride on the basis of phraseology which did not matter much to them. Be it Wazir-e-Azam or Wazir-e-Ala, was meant to play only with words. It dawned on them that through these political gimmicks, the Abdullahs were only trying to keep them sandwiched in the power game played by power brokers in Srinagar and Delhi. By re-raising the demand of Greater Autonomy and by using political clichés like “if seeking autonomy was anti-national, call me anti-national” and “we have accessed and not merged with India”, the Abdullah dynasty is once again resorting to political opportunism in a desperate bid to return to power by hook or crook. The issue of merger is another myth which needs to be broken separately. The statement is factually and historically incorrect since subjects (“WE”) had no role to play in the accession of a princely state to either of the two dominions namely India and Pakistan. The Abdullahs also lose sight of the fact that while division of India leading to partition was based on Two-Nation Theory implying religion, the accession was purely the prerogative of the ruler of the princely state with no pre-conditions attached.
Another falsehood associated with Greater Autonomy demand is that it is the aspiration of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Nothing can be farther from truth. The demand of Greater Autonomy was opposed tooth and nail by the Jammu based political parties; BJP, Congress and NPP. The members of these parties also staged a walk out when the Greater Autonomy resolution was passed by the state assembly by a voice vote on 26 June 2000. It would be pertinent to mention that people of  Jammu and Ladakh are opposed to any sort of autonomy and favour total integration of state with the Indian Union. Can the sentiments of the residents of two-thirds of the state be ignored by the nation? The bitter truth is that the entire Kashmiri population also does not support the concept and demand of greater autonomy. The Kashmiri population is divided among “azadi-seekers”, “pro-Pak”, “greater autonomy”, “self-rule” and “Islamo-Fascists” lobbies. The “Islamo-Fascists” through the terror of gun are trying to alter the political discourse in Kashmir. To counter the same, the need of the hour is for the unity of politicians of all shades. The people of Kashmir in the past have dismissed the political gimmicks of the Abdullah dynasty but are now caught in a dilemma due to fear of the gun.
Now that both the NC and Congress are out of power and see no scope of return in the near future, they have entered into an unholy Alliance of Interests(AOI), duly backed by Hurriyat, with the purpose of provoking people by revoking issues based on false, fabricated and imaginary narratives to derail the sustained dialogue process initiated by the Central Government which is sincerely working towards a long term and lasting solution of the Kashmir imbroglio. The unholy alliance is interested in nothing but safeguarding their political survival rather than in the restoration of the state’s so-called special status. They along with the separatists are preparing ground for another period of disturbances in the state driven by negative-politics. The reality is that the people had enough of it and want none of this again. They are yearning for good- governance which they have deprived of for past three decades when the unholy alliance enjoyed power in the state individually or in coalition. If the present dispensation can provide them a clean, corruption free, caringand responsive administration, the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are prepared to sign the death-warrant of the unholy alliance formed by NC, Congress and separatists.
(The writer is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at