Drop pre-1953 demand - Jethmalani
11 July 2000
New Delhi: Union Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs Ram Jethmalani today said Farooq Abdullah must withdraw his proposals for reversion to the pre-1953 Constitutional position for the Centre to consider his demand for autonomy. Talking to The Indian Express, Jethmalani said the demand for the pre-1953 position was not ''constructive'' and it sounded ''too peremptory and unhelpful''. ''The report on autonomy has some over-boundaries. It suggests that everything that has happened after 1953 in J&K is unconstitutional and immoral,'' Jethmalani said. He said this aspect of the report had greatly disturbed the government. ''We were right in rejecting the report without further discussions.'' Referring to his remarks on advocating autonomy for J&K, which are being viewed favourably by the National Conference, Jethmalani said the devolution of political and fiscal powers to the state was not inconsistent with the Indian Constitution. However, he said, Farooq Abdullah should come with concrete proposals for his demands on autonomy and devolution of powers to his state. ''The term autonomy is ambiguous and liable to be misunderstood. But as long as it is aimed at devolution of fiscal and political powers autonomy it would only strengthen the state'', the Minister said. Jethmalani said something that would gladden the hearts of the Congress leaders - the 1975 accord between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah - should be taken as the final word as far as the Constitutional status of J&K was concerned. (The accord had upheld finality of the accession and that the state government was only entitled to review the Central laws that have been extended to the state during 1953 and 1975 and which fall under the Concurrent List). ''We should show respect to the accord. How can the National Conference except us to forget the accord. This is not fair,'' Jethmalani said. However, he advised Farooq Abdullah to exercise restraint and not take decisions (on relationship with NDA) in an angry mood. ''The NC is our ally and the doors of the government are open for Farooq for discussions on anything.'' Jethmalani said any package for J&K under autonomy should fulfill three criterion. Firstly, it should be for the welfare of the people, it should be consistent with the conflicting aspirations of the people of the three regions of the state and be acceptable to the people of India. ''Finally, any agreed change should be promulgated only when complete normalcy is restored to J&K.'' He said nothing would work under the shadow of guns and militancy. Asked wether the BJP-government did not let down its ally by summarily rejecting the autonomy proposals, Jethmalani said the sense of hurt and betrayal was on both sides. ''I guess Farooq Abdullah had also promised to the Prime Minister that the Assembly would not pass a resolution.'' He said now the situation required deft handling and a statesman-like approach. Jethmalani said he had no pre-conceived notions about devolution of powers to all the states. ''The whole gamut of issues involving state-Centre relations needs an introspection.'' He said government was open to discussion and all the states including National conference were free to send their proposals to the Constitutional Review committee.