Deep Alienation: the Communal Sickness
by Ajay Chrungoo on 01 Sep 2010 9 Comments

The cycles of public unrest in the valley, described by many as ‘Intifada’, aim to bring two things to the fore. One, that nobody is willing in the valley to stand up to the secessionist sentiment articulated in its various variants. Second, that this sentiment is an expression of a deep alienation of the people of the state which has to be addressed in order to restore peace.


A fiat accompli is being crafted to bring home the point that India has no scope in Kashmir, and that the best option for it is to retract a step or two. And the best prescription for that is “Greater Autonomy” for the state as envisaged by the National Conference or the nominal variation of it, “The Self Rule” of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This, it is said, saves the face of everybody – India, Pakistan, and the Muslims of Kashmir.


The NC leadership has minced no words to tell the nation that the problem has nothing to do with development or unemployment. They have asked the nation not to address the “symptoms,” but to tackle the actual “disease”. And the disease, in their perception, is the erosion of the Autonomy of the state, and as such the real curative prescription is restoration of this Autonomy.


Through a selective and distorted discourse, an impression is being generated that the Indian State has unilaterally violated the spirit in which Jammu & Kashmir state entered the boundaries of the Indian federal organization. And hence the deep alienation – or so we are told.


When the Constitution of India was framed and adopted, its founding fathers proclaimed with pride the framing of a vision which incorporates the concept of fundamental rights of mankind in its broadest possible sense, with the right to equality as its corner stone. They took pride in having put in black and white a vision which is inclusive in its widest sense. If we, for the sake of argument, take that the erosion of autonomy unilaterally by India was a cardinal sin committed against the people of Jammu and Kashmir, more specifically Muslims of Kashmir, we still cannot escape the question as to why should it create a deep sense of alienation. What rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been denied through the process of erosion of autonomy? What is it which the separatists or half-separatists call ‘deep alienation’?


To understand this, we have to simply understand what the pro-Autonomists are asking for. If one goes through the ‘Greater Autonomy” proposal of the National Conference, we realise that they are very clearly and unambiguously asking for the application of only one Article of the Constitution of India to Jammu & Kashmir, and that is Article 1 which defines the territories of India.


They do not want the application of any other article of the Constitution of India to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, not even the Fundamental Rights. This means they are seeking to live independently within the territorial jurisdiction of India. This further means that they are seeking the creation of two States on the territory of India, one the state of India governed by the Constitution of India and other the State of Jammu and Kashmir governed by its own constitution.

The leaders of National conference call the arrangement as a ‘Republic within the Republic’. More clearly, this is tantamount to creating a state on the territory of India but outside the constitutional organization of India.


So when we talk about ‘autonomy’ for Jammu & Kashmir, we are not talking about more decentralisation. We are not talking about this right or that right which has been denied to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. We are certainly not talking about this freedom or that freedom which any civilised society or people should have. We are also not talking about Fundamental Rights or human rights. We are only talking about the exclusion of the state of Jammu & Kashmir from the whole system of the Indian Constitution, including its federal provisions. 


Autonomy is a concept essentially to empower the minorities. The history of autonomy politics in Jammu & Kashmir has been to invoke people’s power to deny the very empowerment of the people. There is a basic conflict between the political perspectives of keeping Jammu & Kashmir out of the constitutional organisation of India and the perspectives of federalism and autonomy which fall within the broader constitutional organisation of India.


And what is the ideological content of the politics which seeks such ‘autonomy’. The National Conference leaders have a very straightforward position which will help us to understand this vital question. They say that what they are demanding is primarily because the majority of people living in Jammu & Kashmir are Muslims. By implication it means a Muslim-majority state cannot live under a constitutional dispensation which is essentially secular and based on the principle of equality.


When the separatist leadership or the mainstream leadership talk about deep alienation because of erosion of their autonomy, they are basically talking about the denial of their right to create a Muslim state outside India or on the territory of India. ‘Deep alienation’ is a mere euphemism or a disguise for the communal ideology.


And that is the ailment which Kashmir suffers from? This communal ideology has nourished the politics of exclusion. Politics of exclusion drove Kashmiri Hindus out on the point of gun. This communal ideology feels comfortable with fundamentalists. It takes pride in Jihad.


Kashmir will remain alienated from India so long as it is in the grip of communalists. The concept of ‘Autonomy’ is the negation of secularism. The failure of the polity in India is that it has accorded a secular legitimacy to a communal ideology. The failure of Indian state is that it has never tried to contest it.


The writer is chairman, Panun Kashmir

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