ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Beyond the Autonomy Debate

The autonomy resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly has revived the opportunity for the much-needed debate on an issue that has both historical roots and future implications.

In the game of flip-flop – a popular pastime with Indian politicians prime minister Vajpayee and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah seem to excel each other. Soon after the Jammu and Kashmir assembly passed the autonomy resolution, Vajpayee went on record saying that it was within the country’s constitutional framework. But when his partymen began to denounce Abdullah as a Pakistani agent and bayed for his blood, he knuckled under, and his cabinet in a highly arbitrary fashion rejected the autonomy resolution, even without waiting for the comments of the law ministry to which the resolution was referred earlier. With the outright rejection of his resolution, Abdullah also stopped breathing fire, and began to hem and haw, diluting its original spirit of a return to the pre-1953 status and harping instead on the rusted hope of devolution of more powers.

Since neither Vajpayee nor Farooq is known for the political acumen that is being attributed to them by newspaper analysts who are reading all sorts of meanings into their utterances, it is more likely that Abdullah took a gamble and Vajpayee’s knee-jerk reaction to it made matters worse. But in the process, an old Pandora’s box has opened up, with regional parties like the DMK in the south, the Akalis in the north, and the AGP in the east reiterating the demand for greater autonomy, and even Justice R S Sarkaria (who headed the commission on centre-state relations) lending his voice to the chorus. Whatever their motives might be, the autonomy resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly has revived the opportunity for the much-needed debate on an issue that has both historical roots and future implications.

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