Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > April 28, 2007 > How to Run a Coalition Govt in J&K

VOL XLV No 19

How to Run a Coalition Govt in J&K

by Balraj Puri

Friday 4 May 2007

Despite prolonged parleys between the PDP leaders with the senior national Congress leaders, Ministers of the Union Government and their interlocutors, the terms on which the final agreement was arrived at were so simple that they raised more questions than they answered.
Were the differences between the major coalition partners in the government of Jammu and Kashmir on fundamental political principles and ideological or were they elementary and tactical? Were they due to lack of coalition culture in the State and due to clash of personal ego and ambitions? What are the lessons that can be drawn from the crisis and the way it was resolved? Finally, has the crisis been resolved permanently and the coalition will run smoothly henceforth?
The most pertinent questions are: why is there no permanent mechanism to evolve consensus between the coalition partners on all issues before making the differences public and debating them through the media or taking them to Delhi’s arbitration? Why did the coordination committee, set up to oversee implementation of the Common Minimum Programme that was adopted at the formation of the Committee, stop meeting soon after its formation?
The first lesson to be drawn from the recent crisis is the need to revive that Committee with necessary changes; it should meet regularly to discuss all contentious matters.
The issues that precipitated the clash between the principal partners in the coalition government, on little reflection, will be seen to be not of a fundamental nature but related to their interpretation and perception of the situation. The issues like gradual withdrawal of forces from the State and of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that the PDP had raised have been constantly under review. As General V.P. Malik, the then Chief of the Army, pointed out in a recent article, the forces were withdrawn from the principal towns of the Valley in 1996 but were recalled following deterioration in the situation.
Even during the recent controversy, 11,000 BSF personnel were withdrawn and replaced by personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). But before the proposal to recruit one lakh persons in the State Police to take up the job of the Army, as the PDP and Congress had agreed, is implemented, its full implications need to be studied. For all the cases of custodial deaths and fake encounters, exposed in the recent months in Ganderbal, Rajouri, Kishtwar and Jammu, involved the police.
The security forces did commit many excesses in the initial years of the insurgency. But the realisation soon dawned at the policy-making level that these excesses proved counter-productive. A number of measures were taken to discipline their behaviour. There is no evidence to believe that the police is more disciplined than the security forces. Its recent conduct is enough to doubt that belief.

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MORE important than the quantum of the security forces or the State Police and their proportion is an assurance that their presence is for the safety of civilian population and not a threat to their life, dignity and honour of women. Certain elementary measures are needed to ensure strict observance of human rights.
First of all, the crude method of measuring the performance of the police or the security forces by the number of militants they kill should be immediately scrapped. For it is a direct incentive for killing (even innocents).
Further, while it is mandatory on the part of the district authorities all over India to report every case of custodial death to the National Human Rights Commission, why is the J&K State exempt from that mandate? It is clearly misuse of Article 370 to deny the citizens of the State from safeguards of their human rights that are enjoyed by them in the rest of the country.
The State Human Rights Commission has been made a “toothless tiger”. It was headless for the last one year and even now all its vacancies are not filled. In its latest report, it has listed a large number of complaints against the State Government which prevent its effective functioning. The Commission has no investigating agency. An IGP was appointed when the Commission was set up in 1997 to help independent investigation but was soon withdrawn and never appointed again. The least that can be done is to make the Commission really effective by attending to the complaints that it has made in its report.
Likewise the State Women’s Commission is headless for the last four years and is non-functional. It was supposed to defend the rights, dignity and honour of women from assaults from any quarter. The State Accountability Commission, too, is headless for over a year and yet to become fully functional. The national Rights to Information Act is not applicable to the State, nor has the State RTI Act incorporated the most important provisions of the Central Act with the result that it is totally ineffective.
In the absence of local institutions of checks and balances and the proposal for restoration of the 1953 status of the State, when the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and other autonomous federal institutions did not apply to the State, the proposal for enlarged strength of the police, how hazardous “an autonomous police state” would be, can be easily imagined.
The above discussion provides a context in which the demand of gradual withdrawal of the Army and the AFSP Act can be considered. There is every case for immediate withdrawal of the Army from civil property allegedly under its unauthorised occupation and due compensation to its owners. Further, withdrawal of the Army from the State or towns has been left to the threat perception of the Committee that would be appointed under the agreement between the Mufti and the Government of India. In this context, if the Pakistan Government agrees to include the J&K State in the joint anti-terrorism mechanism set up by India and Pakistan, it would make a crucial difference. Perhaps the parties of the State, particularly the separatists, who are convinced that militancy has outlived whatever was its utility, can play their part.
As regards the AFSP Act, it was gradually extended to different parts of the State. Its withdrawal should similarly be gradual depending upon the situation there, pending its review by the Government of India in the light of the recommendation of the Committee set up for the purpose.

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