Group of Interlocutors for J & K
The Central Government named a group of three interlocutors to hold sustained dialogue with all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir. They were noted journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Prof. M. M. Ansari, Information Commissioner and Prof. (Mrs) Radha Kumar, trustee of Delhi Policy Group.
The three interlocutors, appointed by the Government, had been entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to understand their problems and chart a course for the future.
All the three interlocutors have done credible work in public life and bring with them significant understanding of political and economic issues, especially in the context of Jammu and Kashmir. The government hoped that after interacting with all shades of political opinion they would suggest a way forward that truly reflects the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the youth.
The terms and references of the panel will be to hold talks all shades of opinion including political parties, groups, students, civil society, separatists and other stakeholders in all the three regions —Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.
The Home Minister said the move to appoint the group of interlocutors was a clear demonstration of the seriousness of the government of India to find a solution to the Kashmir problem which has been there “for many, many years.”
- The Group recommended that a Constitutional Committee (CC) should be set up to review all the central Acts that have been extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1952. The CC should come out with its findings within six months. According to the Group, the CC should review whether, and to what extent, the application of central acts to the state has led to an erosion of the state’s special status.
- The word ‘Temporary’ in Article 370 should be replaced with ‘Special’ which has been used for certain states such as Assam, Nagaland and Andhra Pradesh.
- The Central laws shall only be made applicable to the state if they relate to the country’s security or a vital economic interest, especially in the areas of energy and water resources.
- Currently, the Governor is appointed by the President. The Group recommended that the state government shall give three names for consideration for the position to the President. However, the Governor shall finally be appointed by the President.
- Separate Regional Councils for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh should be created and certain legislative, executive and financial powers should be devolved to them. The subjects that could be transferred to the Regional Council include prison reforms, public health, roads and bridges and fisheries.
Cultural, Economic and Social Recommendations
- There are 16 centrally sponsored schemes which are mostly funded by the centre. However, most of the funds for these schemes have not been utilised properly. The Group recommended that an effective system to monitor these schemes should be put in place.
- An expert committee to review the state’s financial needs should be constituted.
- The central government should tap the hydro-electricity potential of the state. Till date only 15 per cent of the potential has been harnessed. Additional hydro-electricity projects should be established for which the central government should meet the entire equity capital.
- Industrial establishments and other buildings occupied by the security officers should be vacated.
- Financial package of incentives on the pattern given to the North Eastern States should be given to the state.
- The hilly, remote areas should be declared as special development zones.
- The restrictions on the internet and mobile phones should be reviewed.
- In order to fulfil these recommendations, the Interlocutor’s Group proposed the following roadmap:
- The ‘stone pelters’ and political prisoners against whom no serious charges have been framed should be released.
- There should an amendment and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.
- The state policy should provide for the return of Kashmiri Pandits.
- A judicial commission to supervise the identification of bodies buried in the unmarked graves should be established.