Rise in Regional Aspirations in India after 1947:
1980s may be seen as a period of rising regional aspirations for autonomy, often outside the framework of the Indian Union. These movements frequently involved armed assertions by the people, their repression by the government, and a collapse of the political and electoral processes. It is also not surprising that most of these struggles were long drawn and concluded in negotiated settlements or accords between the central government and the groups leading the movement for autonomy. The accords were reached after a process of dialogue that aimed to settle contentious issues within the constitutional framework. Yet the journey to the accord was always tumultuous and often violent.
Indian Approach toward rise of Regional asptrations:
We have repeatedly come across one basic principle of the Indian approach to diversity – the Indian nation shall not deny the rights of different regions and linguistic groups to retain their own culture. We decided to live a united social life without losing the distinctiveness of the numerous cultures that constituted it.
Indian nationalism sought to balance the principles of unity and diversity. The nation would not mean the negation of the region.
In this sense the Indian approach was very different from the one adopted in many European countries where they saw cultural diversity as a threat to the nation. India adopted a democratic approach to the question of diversity.
Democracy allows the political expressions of regional aspirations and does not look upon them as anti-national. Besides, democratic politics allows parties and groups to address the people on the basis of their regional identity, aspiration and specific regional problems. Thus, in the course of democratic politics, regional aspirations get strengthened.
At the same time, democratic politics also means that regional issues and problems will receive adequate attention and accommodation in the policy making process. Such an arrangement may sometimes lead to tensions and problems. Sometimes, the concern for national unity may overshadow the regional needs.
AREAS OF TENSION
Immediately after Independence our nation had to cope with many difficult issues like partition, displacement, integration of princely States, reorganisation of states and so on.
Many observers, both within the country and from outside, had predicted that India as one unified country cannot last long.
Soon after Independence, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir came up. It was not only a conflict between India and Pakistan.
More than that, it was a question of the political aspirations of the people of Kashmir valley. Similarly, in some parts of the north-east, there was no consensus about being a part of India.
First Nagaland and then Mizoram witnessed strong movements demanding separation from India.
In the south, some groups from the Dravid movement briefly toyed with the idea of a separate country.
These events were followed by mass agitations in many parts for the formation of linguistic States. Today’s Andhra pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat were among the regions affected by these agitations.
In some parts of southern India, particularly Tamil Nadu, there were protests against making Hindi the official national language of the country.
In the north, there were strong pro-Hindi agitations demanding that Hindi be made the official language immediately.
From the late 1950s, people speaking the punjabi language started agitating for a separate State for themselves. This demand was finally accepted and the States of Punjab and Haryana were created in 1966.
Later, the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were created.
More recently, the state of Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated, creating two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Thus the challenge of diversity was met by redrawing the internal boundaries of the country.
Yet this did not lead to resolution of all problems and for all times. In some regions, like Kashmir and Nagaland, the challenge was so complex that it could not be resolved in the first phase of nation-building.
Besides, new challenges came up in States like punjab, Assam and Mizoram. Let us study these cases in some detail. In this process let us also go back to some of the earlier instances of difficulties of nation building. The successes and failures in these cases are instructive not merely for a study of our past, but also for an understanding of India’s future.
JAMMU AND KASHMIR
The ‘Kashmir issue’ is always seen as a major issue between India and Pakistan.
But the political situation in the State has many dimensions.
Jammu and Kashmir comprises three social and political regions: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
- The heart of the Kashmir region is the Kashmir valley; the people are Kashmiri speaking and mostly Muslim with a small Kashmiri speaking Hindu minority.
- Jammu region is a mix of foothills and plains, of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and speakers of various languages.
- The Ladakh region is mountainous, has very little population which is equally divided between Buddhists and Muslims.
The ‘Kashmir issue’ is not just a dispute between India and Pakistan. This issue has external and internal dimensions. It involves the issue of Kashmiri identity known as Kashmiriyat and the aspirations of the people of J&K for political autonomy.
Roots of the problem Before 1947,
- Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was a princely State. Its Hindu ruler, Hari Singh, did not want to merge with India and tried to negotiate with India and Pakistan to have an independent status for his state. The Pakistani leaders thought the Kashmir region ‘belonged’ to Pakistan, since majority population of the State was Muslim.
- But this is not how the people themselves saw it – they thought of themselves as Kashmiris above all. The popular movement in the State, led by Sheikh Abdullah of the National Conference, wanted to get rid of the Maharaja, but was against joining P akistan.
- The National Conference was a secular organisation and had a long association with the Congress. Sheikh Abdullah was a personal friend of some of the leading nationalist leaders including Nehru.
- In October 1947, Pakistan sent tribal infiltrators from its side to capture Kashmir.
- This forced the Maharaja to ask for Indian military help.
- India extended the military support and drove back the infiltrators from Kashmir valley, but only after the Maharaja had signed an ‘Instrument of Accession’ with the Government of India.
- It was also agreed that once the situation normalised, the views of the people of J&K will be ascertained about their future. Sheikh Abdullah took over as the prime Minister of the State of J&K (the head of the government in the State was then called prime Minister) in March 1948. India agreed to maintain the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir.
In pursuance of this commitment, Article 370 was incorporated in the Constitution of India. It clearly states that the provisions with respect to the State of J&K are only temporary and not permanent.
It became operative on 17 November 1952, with the following provisions:
- The provisions of Article 238 (dealing with the administration of Part B states) is not applicable to the state of J&K. The state of J&K was specified in the cate-gory of Part B states in the original Constitution (1950). This Article in Part VII was subsequently omitted from the Constitution by the 7th Constitutional Amendment Act (1956) in the wake of the reorganisation of states.
- The power of Parliament to make laws for the state is limited to:
(a) Those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which correspond to matters specified in the state’s Instrument of Accession. These matters are to be declared by the president in consultation with the state government. The Instrument of Accession contained matters classified under four heads, namely, external affairs, defence, communications and ancilliary matters.
(b) Such other matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which are specified by the president with the concurrence of the state government. This means that laws can be made on these matters only with the consent of the State of J&K.
- 3. The provisions of Article 1 (declaring India as a Union of states and its territory) and this Article (that is, Article 370) are applicable to the State of J&K.
- Besides above, the other provisions of the Constitution can be applied to the state with such exceptions and modifications as specified by the President in consultation with the state government or with the concurrence of the state government.
- The President can declare that Article 370 ceases to be operative or operates with exceptions and modifications. However, this can be done by the President only on the recommendation of Constituent Assembly of the state. Therefore, Article 370 makes Article 1 and Article 370 itself applicable to the State of J&K at once and authorises the president to extend other Articles to the state.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INDIA AND J&K:
In pursuance of the provisions of Article 370, the President issued an order called the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1950, to specify the Union’s jurisdiction over the state. In 1952, the Government of India and the State of J&K entered into an agreement at Delhi regarding their future relationship. In 1954, the Constituent Assembly of J&K approved the state’s accession to India as well as the Delhi Agreement. Then, the Presi-dent issued another order with the same title, that is, the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir), Order, 1954. This order superseded the earlier order of 1950 and extended the Union’s jurisdiction over the state.
This is the basic order that, as amended and modified from time to time, regulates the constitutional position of the state and its relationship with the Union.4 At present, this is as follows:
- Jammu and Kashmir is a constituent state of the Indian Union and has its place in Part I and Schedule I of the Constitution of India (dealing with the Union and its Territory). But its name, area or boundary cannot be changed by the Union without the consent of its legislature.
- The State of J & K has its own Constitution and is administered according to that Constitution. Hence, Part VI of the Constitution of India (dealing with state governments) is not applicable to this state. The very definition of ‘state’ under this part does not include the State of J&K.
- Parliament can make laws in relation to the state on most of the subjects enumerated in the
Union List and on a good number of subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List.
But, the residuary power belongs to the state legislature except in few matters like prevention of activities involving terrorist acts, questioning or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India and causing insult to the National Flag, National Anthem and the Constitution of India. Further, the power to make laws of preventive detention in the state belongs to the state legislature. This means that the preventive detention laws made by the Parliament are not applicable to the state.
- Part III (dealing with Fundamental Rights) is applicable to the state with some exceptions and conditions. The Fundamental Right to Property is still guaranteed in the state. Also, certain special rights are granted to the permanent residents of the state with regard to public employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlement and government scholarships.
- Part IV (dealing with Directive Principles of State Policy) and Part IVA (dealing with Fundamental Duties) are not applicable to the state.
- A National Emergency declared on the ground of internal disturbance will not have effect in the state except with the concurrence of the state government.
- The President has no power to declare a financial emergency in relation to the state.
- The President has no power to suspend the Constitution of the state on the ground of failure to comply with the directions given by him.
- The State Emergency (President’s Rule) is applicable to the state. However, this emergency can be imposed in the state on the ground of failure of the constitutional machinery under the provisions of state Constitution and not Indian Constitution. In fact, two types of Emergencies can be declared in the state, namely, President’s Rule under the Indian Constitution and Governor’s Rule under the state Constitution. In 1986, the President’s Rule was imposed in the state for the first time.
- International treaty or agreement affecting the disposition of any part of the territory of the state can be made by the Centre only with the consent of the state legislature.
- An amendment made to the Constitution of India does not apply to the state unless it is extended by a presidential order.
- Official language provisions are applicable to the state only in so far as they relate to the official language of the Union, the official language of inter-state and Centre–state communications and the language of the Supreme Court proceedings.
- The Fifth Schedule (dealing with administration and control of schedule areas and scheduled tribes) and the Sixth Schedule (dealing with administration of tribal areas) do not apply to the state.
- The special leave jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the jurisdictions of the Election Commission and the comptroller and auditor general are applicable to the state.
- The High Court of J&K can issue writs only for the enforcement of the fundamen-tal rights and not for any other purpose.
- The provisions of Part II regarding the denial of citizenship rights of migrants to Pakistan are not applicable to the permanent residents of J&K, who after having so migrated to Pakistan return to the state for resettlement.
Every such person is deemed to be a citizen of India. Therefore, the two characteristic features of the special relationship between the State of J&K and the Union of India are:
(a) the state has a much greater measure of autonomy and power than enjoyed by the other states;
(b) Centre’s jurisdiction within the state is more limited than what it has with respect to other states.
FEATURES OF J&K CONSTITUTION:
In September–October 1951, the Constituent Assembly of J&K was elected by the people of the its relationship with the Union of India. This sovereign body met for the first time on 31 October 1951, and took about five years to complete its task. The Constitution of J&K was adopted on 17 November 1957, and came into force on 26 January 1957. Its salient features (as amended from time to time) are as follows:
- It declares the State of J&K to be an integral part of India.
- It secures justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to the people of the state.
- It says that the State of J&K comprises all the territory that was under the ruler of the state on 15 August 1947. This means that the territory of the state also includes the area which is under the occupation of Pakistan.
- It lays down that a citizen of India is treated as a ‘permanent resident’ of the state if on 14 May 1954 (a) he was a state subject of Class I or Class II, or (b) having lawfully acquired immovable property in the state, he has been ordinarily resident in the state for 10 years prior to that date, or (c) any person who before 14 May, 1954 was a state subject of Class I or Class II and who, having migrated to Pakistan after 1 March 1947, returns to the state for resettlement.
- It clarifies that the permanent residents of the state are entitled to all rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India. But, any change in the definition of ‘permanent’ can be made by the state legislature only.
- It contains a list of directive principles that are to be treated as fundamental in the governance of the state. However, they are not judicially enforceable.
- It provides for a bicameral legislature consisting of the legislative assembly and the legislative council. The assembly consists of 111 members directly elected by the people.
Out of this, 24 seats are to remain vacant as they are allotted for the area that is under the occupation of Pakistan. Hence, as an interim measure, the total strength of the Assembly is to be taken as 87 for all practical purposes. The council consists of 36 members, most of them are elected in an indirect manner and some of them are nominated by the Governor, who is also an integral part of the state legislature.
- It vests the executive powers of the state in the governor appointed by the president for a term of five years. It provides for a council of ministers headed by the chief minister to aid and advise the governor in the exercise of his functions. The council of ministers is collectively responsible to the assembly. Under the original Constitution of J&K (1957), the head of the state and head of the government were designated as Sadar-i-Riyasat (President) and Waziri-Azam (Prime Minister) respectively. In 1965, they were redesig-nated as governor and chief Minister respectively. Also, the head of the state was to be elected by the state assembly.
- It establishes a high court consisting of a chief justice and two or more other judges. They are appointed by the president in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the state. The High Court of J&K is a court of record and enjoys original, appelate and writ jurisdictions. However, it can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights and not for any other purpose.
- It provides for Governor’s Rule. Hence, the governor, with the concurrence of the President of India, can assume to himself all the powers of the state government, except those of the high court. He can dissolve the assembly and dismiss the council of ministers. The Governor’s Rule can be imposed when the state administration cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the J&K Constitution. It was imposed for the first time in 1977. Notably, in 1964, Article 356 of the Indian Constitution (dealing with the imposition of President’s Rule in a state) was extended to the state of J&K.
- It declares Urdu as the official language of the state. It also permits the use of English for official purposes unless the state legislature provides otherwise.
- It lays down the procedure for its amendment. It can be amended by a bill passed in each house of the state legislature by a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of that house. Such a bill must be introduced in the assembly only. However, no bill of constitutional amendment can be moved in either House if it seeks to change the relationship of the state with the Union of India.
External and internal disputes
Ever since then, the politics of Jammu and Kashmir has always remained controversial and conflict ridden both for external and internal reasons.
Externally, Pakistan has always claimed that Kashmir valley should be part of pakistan. As we noted above, Pakistan sponsored a tribal invasion of the State in 1947, as a consequence of which one part of the State came under Pakistani control. India claims that this area is under illegal occupation. Pakistan describes this area as ‘Azad Kashmir’. Ever since 1947,
Kashmir has remained a major issue of conflict between India and Pakistan.
Internally, there is a dispute about the status of Kashmir within the Indian Union.
Kashmir was given a special status by Article 370 in our Constitution.
Article 370 gives greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir compared to other States of India. The State has its own Constitution.
All provisions of the Indian Constitution are not applicable to the State. Laws passed by the Parliament apply to J&K only if the State agrees.
This special status has provoked two opposite reactions.
- There is a section of people outside of J&K that believes that the special status of the State conferred by Article 370 does not allow full integration of the State with India. This section feels that Article 370 should therefore be revoked and J&K should be like any other State in India.
- Another section, mostly Kashmiris, believe that the autonomy conferred by Article 370 is not enough.
- A section of Kashmiris have expressed at least three major grievances. First, the promise that Accession would be referred to the people of the State after the situation created by tribal invasion was normalised, has not been fulfilled. This has generated the demand for a ‘plebiscite’.
- Secondly, there is a feeling that the special federal status guaranteed by Article 370, has been eroded in practice. This has led to the demand for restoration of autonomy or ‘Greater State Autonomy’.
- Thirdly, it is felt that democracy which is practiced in the rest of India has not been similarly institutionalised in the State of J&K Politics since 1948.
After taking over as the prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah initiated major land reforms and other policies which benefited ordinary people. But there was a growing difference between him and the central government about his position on Kashmir’s status.
He was dismissed in 1953 and kept in detention for a number of years. The leadership that succeeded him did not enjoy as much popular support and was able to rule the State mainly due to the support of the Centre. There were serious allegations of malpractices and rigging in various elections. During most of the period between 1953 and 1974, the Congress party exercised a lot of influence on the politics of the State. A truncated National Conference (minus Sheikh Abdullah) remained in power with the active support of Congress for some time but later it merged with the Congress. Thus the Congress gained direct control over the government in the State.
In the meanwhile, there were several attempts to reach an agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and the Government of India. Finally, in 1974 Indira Gandhi reached an agreement with Sheikh Abdullah and he became the Chief Minister of the State. He revived the National Conference which was elected with a majority in the assembly elections held in 1977.
Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982 and the leadership of the National Conference went to his son, Farooq Abdullah, who became the Chief Minister. But he was soon dismissed by the Governor and a breakaway faction of the National Conference came to power for a brief period. The dismissal of Farooq Abdullah’s government due to the intervention of the Centre generated a feeling of resentment in Kashmir. The confidence that Kashmiris had developed in the democratic processes after the accord between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah, received a set-back. The feeling that the Centre was intervening in politics of the State was further strengthened when the National Conference in 1986 agreed to have an electoral alliance with the Congress, the ruling party in the Centre.
Insurgency and after
It was in this environment that the 1987 Assembly election took place. The official results showed a massive victory for the National Conference – Congress alliance and Farooq Abdullah returned as Chief Minister.
But it was widely believed that the results did not reflect popular choice, and that the entire election process was rigged. A popular resentment had already been brewing in the State against the inefficient administration since early 1980s.
This was now augmented by the commonly prevailing feeling that democratic processes were being undermined at the behest of the Centre. This generated a political crisis in Kashmir which became severe with the rise of insurgency. By 1989, the State had come in the grip of a militant movement mobilised around the cause of a separate Kashmiri nation. The insurgents got moral, material and military support from Pakistan.
For a number of years the State was under president’s rule and effectively under the control of the armed forces. Throughout the period from 1990, Jammu and Kashmir experienced violence at the hands of the insurgents and through army action. Assembly elections in the State were held only in 1996 in which the National Conference led by Farooq Abdullah came to power with a demand for regional autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. J&K experienced a very fair election in 2002. The National Conference failed to win a majority and was replaced by people’s Democratic party (pDp) and Congress coalition government.
Separatism and beyond
Separatist politics which surfaced in Kashmir from 1989 has taken different forms and is made up of various strands. The Kashmiris were convinced now at the second dethronement of their elected leader [in 1984] that India would never permit them to rule themselves.
Then there are groups that want Kashmir to merge with Pakistan.
Besides these, there is a third strand which wants greater autonomy for the people of the State within the Indian union. The idea of autonomy attracts the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions in a different way.
They often complain of neglect and backwardness. Therefore, the demand for intra-State autonomy is as strong as the demand for the State autonomy. The initial period of popular support to militancy has now given way to the urge for peace. The Centre has started negotiations with various separatist groups. Instead of demanding a separate nation, most of the separatists in dialogue are trying to re-negotiate a relationship of the State with India. Jammu and Kashmir is one of the living examples of plural society and politics. Not only are there diversities of all kind (religious, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, tribal) but there are also divergent political aspirations. However, despite all these diversities and divergence on the one hand, and the continued situation of conflict on the other, the plural and secular culture of the State has remained largely intact.
Since the 2008 protests and 2010 unrest, the turmoil has taken a new dimension when people, particularly youngsters of the Kashmir valley have started pelting stones on security forces to express their aggression and protest for the loss of freedom. In turn they get attacked by the armed personnel with pellets, rubber bullets, sling shots and tear gas shells. This leads to eye-injuries and several other kind of injuries to many people. Security forces also face injuries, and sometimes get beaten up during these events. According to Waheeda Khan, most of the ‘stone-pelters’ are school and college going students. Large number of these people get arrested during these events for allegedly resorting to stone pelting, after which some of them are also tortured. According to political activist Mannan Bukhari, Kashmiris made stone, an easily accessible and defenseless weapon, their weapon of choice for protest.
The summer of 2010 witnessed a convulsion in the world’s most militarized zone, the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, an unprecedented and deadly civil unrest that is beginning to change a few things on the ground. Little known and relatively anonymous resistance activists emerged, organizing an unarmed agitation more fierce than the armed rebellion against Indian rule two decades earlier. And apparently aware of the post 9/11 world, young Kashmiris, children of the conflict, made stones and rocks a weapon of choice against government armed forces, side-stepping the tag of a terrorist movement linked with Pakistan. The unrest represents a conscious transition to an unarmed mass movement, one that poses a moral challenge to New Delhi’s military domination over the region.
Human rights violations by militants
Islamic separatist militants are accused of violence against the Kashmir populace. They continue serious human rights violations: summary executions, rape, and torture. In the effort to curb support for pro-independence militants, Indian security forces have resorted to arbitrary arrest and collective punishments of entire neighbourhoods, tactics which have only led to further disaffection from India. The militants have kidnapped and killed civil servants and suspected informers.
Human Rights Watch alleged that thousands of civilian Kashmiri Hindus have been killed over the past 10 years by Islamic militants organisations or Muslim mobs.The militants committed war rape during the 1980s. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have emigrated as a result of the violence. Estimates of the displaced varies from 170,000 to 700,000. Thousands of Kasmiri Pandits had to move to Jammu because of militancy.