Sheikh aide says he knew autonomy move was futile
9 July 2000
New Delhi: Farooq Abdullah''s father Sheikh Mohommad Abdullah, the towering Kashmiri leader who had ended his 22-year hostility towards New Delhi in 1975, also had briefly fiddled with the proposal of greater autonomy and abandoned it as soon as he realised it had serious implications. This was disclosed by Devi Dass Thakur, the then deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who had headed a Cabinet committee in 1977 to look into the possibility of scrapping all Central laws which had been extended to the J-K state during Sheikh''s incarceration, to The Indian Express here in an exclusive interview. Thakur, who has since retired from politics after his last assignment as Governor of Assam and now practices law in the Supreme Court, said unlike Farooq Abdullah, the Sheikh had understood the ''futility and grave implications of such a move''. Going down memory lane, Thakur said he had prepared a 117-page report ''examining scientifically all the laws and statutes which had been extended to J-K ''. The two of the four-member committee - G M Shah, son-in-law of Sheikh Abdullah and G N Kochak - had refused to endorse the stand and they were asked by Sheikh to prepared their separate report. ''Shah and Kochak presented a brief report based on history and emotions''. Apparently they had favoured scrapping of all the Central laws. Thakur said he had briefed the Sheikh Cabinet for three hours on his report. ''I explained to them that most of the central laws were necessary to ensure basic freedom and justice for the people of the state''. Initially Thakur said he was hesitant to present his report in 1981. ''When there was a lot of outcry over the delay in my report and Sheikh saheb summoned me, I told him plainly that the report was all likely to embarrass him''. But apparantely Sheikh insisted on hearing it. ''The Indian Constitution is one of the best in the world from where other nations have borrowed concepts. In case we would scrap all the extensions of the Indian statute and enact new laws, again we will have to borrow from the same Constitution'', Thakur had explained to Sheikh and other Cabinet ministers. Politically too, said Sheikh''s former colleague, the reversal of the clock would only create unnecessary confrontation with the Centre and throw the state into turmoil. ''Sheikh saheb had come into power after 22 years. I told him that for restoration of the autonomy would need an agitational approach and being in the government it was not so easy''. Besides, he said the people of Kashmir, who were seeing the signing of the Indira-Sheikh accord as a historical chance for return of peace in Kashmir would fail to empathise with the agitational approach of the National Conference. ''I told the Cabinet that Constitutions are not changed at the whims and fancies of certain people and it was a serious business. After all there is no identifiable basis for seeking abrogation of the central laws. Shall we et the impression go that since we are Muslim-majority state that it is reason we want all this.'' Sheikh Abdullah, he claimed, understood the logic that instead of resolving the tensions between Srinagar and New Delhi, demand for reversal to the 1952 position would only generate tensions. Sheikh accepted the report, Thakur said. He also had a look into the other report since known as Kochak report. Thakur said the Sheikh was so wary of opening a Pandora''s Box that he quietly shelved his autonomy ambitions. ''He had accepted my report in principle since he did not act on the other report which had aired the sentiments for scrapping the Central laws extended to the J-K state during the 22-year political exile for Sheikh from the state. Thakur refuses to get involved in the present controversy over the autonomy demand of Farooq Abdullah. ''If Farooq Abdullah was genuinely interested in this, he could have done it in 1983, after his first election as the chief minister of the state after his father''s death'', he all he has to say. Thakur said his report was sought by the Home Ministry during the recent controversy.