Integration into national mainstream

By K.N. Pandita
India is a union of federating units. These units are diverse in most of the facets of life, culture, and economy. Their geography and economic resources are at great variance.

In simple logic these should have been independent units, at best having a friendly working relationship with the neighbouring units.

But certain factors have bound them together, especially long history of foreign occupation and colonial rule. Civilizational cohesion has remained a binding force. It goes to the times when earliest settlers namely Indo-Aryans set their foot first on Indo-Gangetic plain and gradually expanded over the vast Hindostan.  

Long freedom struggle spearheaded by Gandhi ji and the Indian National Congress, emotionally integrated the units into a cosmopolitan view of the future of a nation.  

It was very rightly thought that these federating units could and should preserve their personality and individuality. Yet at the same time, recognition of their identity would not prove a hindrance to the forging of a national identity. The arrangement found reflection in the Indian Constitution. To make things work smoothly, subjects were identified over which the states and the union would have authority to deal with. Some were left to joint handling.

This arrangement fully guaranteed power and authority of the federating units over the identified subjects. No discrimination has been made. J&K is no exception to he full enjoying of authority of legislating on these subjects.

But we have examples in other countries where some federating units have been allowed a larger amount of autonomy in order to assure them that the mother-state would not disregard their sovereign status as admissible under the constitution.

Theoretically speaking, there was little justification for Kashmir leadership of early 1950s to insist on incorporation of special status for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The raison de etre, so often hinted at, was that the Muslim majority of the State wanted to be constitutionally insulated against the possible hegemony of Hindu majority Indian Union.

Insisting on special status, when judged in historical perspective was a contradiction in terms. If the National Conference believed in secularism of India, the basis it claims for accession, then asking a provision with roots in communal chemistry is a contradiction in terms.

That the valley-centric leadership wanted to prevent demographic change of the valley does have solid logic behind it. But then the same logic should have applied in reverse situation as well. Kashmir leadership should have realised at that time that one-way traffic would cause serious misgivings at any time. This has happened. How can integration of the State into national mainstream become a reality when any Kashmiri can raise property in any part of the union while no Indian not even the President can buy a square foot of land in Kashmir. This psyche was crudely reflected in the un-statesman-like speech of the valley representative in the parliament.

In practical terms, in the socio-economic dynamics of present-day society, units and identities have become increasingly interdependent and mutually complementary. Economy is the prime driving force that shapes and formulates parameters of development. A union would like to provide crutches to a limping unit but only up to a certain point of time and development. After all a self-generating economy has to be evolved.

We understand that essential resources and infrastructure for development and for reaching a certain level of progress is a matter of close cooperation among the units. Constitution does not accept or recognise any obstacles in that process.

The question before the leadership of the state is how best to adapt to the developmental philosophy that brings relief to the masses of people. Will that happen through exclusiveness or inclusiveness?

It is true that with the passage of time, the exclusivist element in relations between our state and the centre would have been washed down gradually owing to the dictates of the dynamics of development. But this process has remained fettered and checked for reasons of creation of doubts and misconceptions.

In practice, and in larger sense exclusiveness, to which retrograde elements cling so fast, has eroded or got diluted. Hundreds of thousands of Kashmir valley students are admitted in professional and higher educational institutes of the country. They are as good part of our youth legions as any other youth in any part of the country.

In financial matters, we enjoy highest GDP per capita in the country, which is the precise measuring rod for a people’s level of economic life. Indian administrative system allows minority privileges to the valley-based segment of its population though within the valley, it enjoys the privileges accruing from majority status.

In terms of integration of J&K into national mainstream, one may say that before we take up that question, it is only reasonable to identify the contours of national mainstream within Kashmir. With the entire religious minority community extirpated for last two decades and no political party in or out of power even thinking of restoring their own secular credentials, there can be no mainstream line of thinking in Kashmir. Negative thinking does not help. It creates more complicacies.

For integrating the state into national mainstream, primarily the task has to be undertaken by local political parties of nationalist propensity. This task asks for very extensive, planned and dedicated fieldwork.

Castigating Pakistan and its agencies is not the way of tackling internal subversion. The right way of facing the challenge is of educating masses of people with all earnestness. Unless there is a widespread network of study circles in each village and each habitat that is equipped with such educative methodology and infrastructure as would give the people an idea of what secular democratic dispensation of the Indian nation state intends to arrive at, we shall not be able to fight internal subversion.

Nationalist elements are the best tools for implementing the programme of mass study and socio-political education. These elements are generally apolitical meaning they do not necessarily subscribe to any major or minor political party. But a sense of responsibility that a civil society needs to create is motivating them. This motivation needs to be harnessed.

The real alienation of Kashmiri masses is not to be searched in the nature of relationship between the State and the Union. It has to be investigated in the subtle mechanism evolved to keep the masses of people away and ignorant from what is going to shape their lives and the lives of their progeny in times to come.

The primary lever of this mechanism is of unending rhetoric about the cliché like Kashmir dispute, plebiscite, peoples’ wishes, and solutions acceptable to all etc. In the context of national integration as long as these parameters of futurist visions remain haunting Kashmiris, there can be less and less possibility of integration into national mainstream. Therefore the time has come when it is to be said categorically that all these cliché are obsolete and redundant and Indian sovereignty over the state cannot be diluted by any government whosoever leads it.

An important ingredient of integration mechanism is accountability. Accountability is another name of strict and judicious enforcement of the law of the land. We are faced with the ignominy of incredible scams in the country. There is hardly a walk of life, which is not adversely affected. Our accountability system is so loose and elusive that seldom is a known and established culprit dealt with the law of the land. Unless this situation is reversed, integration of a sensitive and delicate state like that of Jammu and Kashmir cannot fructify.
(Dr. Pandta is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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