A constitutional committee should review all central laws extended to Jammu and Kashmir and make permanent article 370 of the constitution that grants the state special status, a three-member team of interlocutors led by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar has recommended. The panel had been tasked with ascertaining the views of the people on resolving the Kashmir tangle.
In its report, submitted to Home Minister P. Chidambaram in October 2011 and made public Thursday, the interlocutors also noted that there was consensus in the border state that its distinctive status guaranteed by article 370 must be upheld. The report also said its erosion over the decades must be re-appraised to vest it with such powers as the state needs to promote the people's welfare on its own terms.
"To build on the consensus, we recommend that a constitutional committee be set up to review all central acts and articles of the constitution of India extended to the state after signing of the 1952 agreement," the interlocutors said in their 180-page report that called for a "new compact" with the state's people.
"It will bear in mind the dual character of Jammu and Kashmir, viz. that it is a constituent unit of the Indian Union and that it enjoys a special status in the said Union, enshrined in article 370 of the constitution; and the dual character of the people of the state, viz. that they are both state subjects and Indian citizens," it said.
The 1952 agreement lays down the terms of engagement between the central government and the Kashmir government.
The other members of the interlocutors panel were academicians M.M. Ansari and Radha Kumar.
The panel wants the constitutional committee to be headed by an eminent personality who enjoys the esteem of the state's and the nation's people, and it should include constitutional experts as members . The committee should submit its report within six months and this will be binding on all stake-holders in Kashmir, the report said.
On article 370, the panel said: "Delete the word 'Temporary' from the heading of Article 370 and from the title of Part XXII of the Constitution and replace it with 'Special' as has been used for other states under other Articles for Maharashtra, Gujarat, Sikkim and northeast."
However, the interlocutors held that there was consensus in Jammu and Kashmir on it continuing to function "as a single entity" within Indian Union.
Soon after the report was made public, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that he "will not be reacting" to it for the time being.
Padgaonkar, though, said he hoped the report will lead to an informed debate on the issues touched by the interlocutors, all across the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir.
He also announced that the interlocutors, in their capacity as resource persons, will hold seminars in the border state on the report over the next four months and provide feedback to the government.
The interlocutors had since October 2010, when they were asked to take up the task, met 700 delegations in 22 districts of Jammu and Kashmir and also held three round-table conferences.
"The political settlement we propose takes into full account the deep sense of victimhood prevalent in the Kashmir valley. It surely deserves to be dressed with great sensitivity.
"At the same time, we have also sought to avoid the pitfalls of viewing the myriad issues bedeviling the state from the prism of any one region or ethnic or religious community," the report said.
Favouring dialogue among all stake-holders for a political settlement, the report favoured creation of three elected regional councils for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to devolve certain legislative, executive and financial powers to them.
"The diverse aspirations of the three regions 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 a financial and ministrative empowerment of elected bodies," it said.
The interlocutors also suggested that parliament will make no laws applicable to the state unless it relates to the country's internal and external security and it vital economic interest, especially in areas of energy and access to water resources.
The interlocutors also proposed a roadmap for confidence building measures, which included releasing of all the stone-pelters arrested during the violent incidents of 2010, political prisoners against whom there are no serious charges and withdrawal of cases against first-time offenders.
It also suggested amendments and review of disturbed areas and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Finally, the interlocutors recommended that the search for a Kashmir solution should not be made contingent on India-Pakistan talks.
"If the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir are willing to enter into a settlement, the door can always be kept open for Pakistan to join. The key objective is to make the Line of Control irrelevant. It should become a symbol of concord and cooperation," the report said.