by Haifa Peerzada
The history of Reorganization of the Indian states clearly shows that the Reorganization of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is difficult due to the internal and external exigencies in J&K, which makes it a special case, prevents its reorganization, and history – both recent and past bear testimony to that. Nevertheless its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution of India for its integration into the Indian Union has made things even more complicated. While there is difference in perceptions as far as special status of J&K is concerned, there is national consensus for its fullest integration into the Indian Union.
With the decision on creation of Telangana, speculations were rife about demands for separate statehood to erupt in the State of Jammu and Kashmir as Omar Abdullah also remarked. There was also a demand for forming a fresh reorganization of states commission which did not happen and is also unlikely to happen. While there were protests by protagonists of Gorkhaland and Bodoland, no such protests erupted in Jammu and Kashmir or in other parts of the country where at least 14 demands for a separate statehood have been made from time to time. In the context of Jammu and Kashmir, things are different because of its complex web of internal and external exigencies, which is also connected with the Kashmir dispute since 1947. Reorganization of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has long been abandoned as it was never considered to be brought under the purview of States Reorganization Commission. It would be interesting here to trace the history of the reorganization of states in India to get to where we stand today.
History of Reorganisation of States
The political events that marked the first wave of federal reorganization was partition of the sub-continent in 1947, creation of a separate nation-state of Pakistan and the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, which also led to the first inter-state war between the two. It is in this backdrop that the Constitution of India was framed which was more unitary in nature. This was driven by the intention to get together a diverse nation within the boundaries of the Indian state. In this context, the Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution of India gave unbridled powers to the Central government to alter or create new states. The first wave in reorganization was with respect to governance in order to accommodate the ethnic groups and communities, to have an unbiased government that is not prejudicial to the diversity of the nation and also for maintenance of good relations with its neighbours in the South Asian region, while reorganizing the states on linguistic lines. While, reorganization of states and autonomy on linguistic lines raised legitimate apprehensions of separatism and disintegration, the 1957 elections proved otherwise in which the Congress party won with a thumping majority. Nevertheless there was a tradition in India on creating states on linguistic basis. Also under the leadership of Nehru as India’s Prime Minister, there was a trend towards centralization in the sense of having large and few states than vice versa as was evident in the letter that he wrote to the Chief Ministers of the state at the time. However as the overwhelming opinion prevalent these days, is that more centralization means more authoritarianism which has led to less grassroots participation as well as oppression of the common man, precludes more decentralization and devolution of power at least within the Indian Union if not outside of it. This is also under consideration as a way of conflict settlement for a number of states in the Indian Union who are seeking separate statehood. While people may be asking for external self-determination, these complex forms of power sharing are seen as a way to accommodate the grievances and needs of the people so that they are able to realize their right to self-determination, which may prove to be a better option than excessive decentralization. These propositions continue to be a dilemma for India as it becomes difficult for India by the day to reconcile its national security with such demands.
The second wave in reorganization of states was with respect to the division of the state of Assam in Northeast India. Its reorganization on the earlier lines was not possible as its society represented a complicated mix of tribal and linguistic communities. The colonial legacy had created several territorial problems even beyond the borders of the state; so that part of India remained the least integrated and posed a threat to its internal and national security. Therefore out of compulsion, in order to reconcile security imperatives with democratic accommodation, Assam was divided into seven separate province states. Later on during Indira Gandhi’s period as Prime Minister, there was again a tendency towards centralization as merely creating new states on the basis of ethnic and linguistic affiliations did not suffice the purpose of reorganization, now people asked for greater autonomy which included more economic independence and promise of non-intervention by the host state. This was also the period when emergency was imposed – a major blot in the Indian political history. There was a third wave of democratization in 1990’s going on as a result of globalization and economic liberalization which played its part. That time politics was also postulated in the growth of caste based regional parties that became more closely aligned with the Central Government and started to have more say in policy making, therefore also marked a shift towards decentralization. The awareness about democratization continues to spread which in the current context finds expression in the recent protests in Bodoland for separate statehood, which was ofcourse opposed by the non-tribals in the region. This is what is deemed to happen when people’s aspirations are not taken into account, while proceeding on one’s own convenience in an effort to form a unified state or keeping the state from disintegrating. This also exemplifies the importance of human security as it precludes the shift from Westphalian to Post-Westphalian conception of the state.
The trends that had become prevalent in 1980’s and 1990’s which included decline of Congress, rise of Hindu nationalism and parties, emergence of coalition governments and regionalization of politics, led to a defacto dispersion of power. Nevertheless Indo-Pak relations worsened. It is pertinent here to note that ethnic communities in three new states of Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh were unconnected with foreign borders or cross border nationalities. Therefore political will rather than constitutional provisions decided the creation of new states to accommodate the interests of various ethnic communities while striking a balance between addressing their grievances and national security. This exercise was not possible in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Reorganisation of the State of J&K and Telangana
In the 1990’s, India was thrown back to the gruesome ethnic, territorial and religious character of the dispute in Kashmir postulated in its colonial legacy in the run up to the beginning of militancy in 1989-90. The decline of the Congress coupled with the decay of governance patterns which earlier found expression in “interlocking balancing and relational control” postulated in the domestic and external politics respectively, has been the deciding factor in India’s attitude towards the state and therefore its unwillingness to give it separate statehood either internally or externally. The internal and external dimensions of the conflict are so inextricably linked that we cannot read the two in disjunction to each other. These are just the pressure points in the same line of transaction in so far as granting separate statehood to J&K is concerned.
The timeline of events on creation of Telangana clearly demonstrates political will attached to it. The aftermath of decision on Telangana has also been peaceful, which is a prerequisite for reorganization of any state; however there are some who are peacefully agitating for a unified Andhra Pradesh. The reasons for addressing the needs and grievances of the people who agitated for creation of Telangana were internally driven and did not have any potential of spillover as was the case in Jammu and Kashmir. Though there has been a significant emphasis at least on papers on decentralization and devolution of power, the fact however remains that the Indian Union or the centre is very much in control. The creation of Telangana was apparently not seen as a step towards disintegration of the Indian state by the policy makers and hence also dictates the political will attached to it and the haste with which it was ultimately created to better govern the state and meet people’s demands. While some may argue that it might have been for political purposes but there are people in significant numbers who support this step taken by India and are happy with it. Whether this was a good step or not is outside the purview of this article but the decision on creation of Telangana has now become a fact.
In the backdrop of the issue of self-determination as far as the Kashmir conflict is concerned, different religious and ethnic groups have shown different aspirations and are driven by their own personal motivations and desire over a period of time. As fractured in their relations the people in the state are, they are as much deeply divided regionally within the state with Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir Valley as its constituent units. Hence, separate statehood for the State as a single unit remains out of question, due to communalization and regionalisation of politics in the state, within India, coupled with ethnic affiliations from across the border that has added fuel to the fire. The recent deadly communal riots in Uttar Pradesh bear testimony and present an alarming picture of communalization of politics and society in India, which is also a warning bell to other states of India and to India. This might as well prove to be a prelude to the disintegration of the Indian state including the state of Jammu and Kashmir, if left unchecked. The wave of communal violence in India that started in the 1990’s was underscored by the Ayodhya issue in 1992 which India was allegedly unable to deal with and continues to be under criticism for that.
With respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, India had already given it a special status and autonomy in 1953 (Delhi Agreement) through Article 370 of the Constitution of India exercising its power that the Constitution makers provided for under Articles 1 to 4. It is also important to note here that legally and constitutionally it is because of Article 370(1) (c) that Article 1 of the Constitution applies to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In other words Article 1 applies to the State of Jammu and Kashmir because of Article 370. It arguably also means that in the event of abolition of Article 370 from the Constitution, J&K automatically would cease to be a part of the Indian Union. Perhaps majority in the policy making community in India understand the implications of removing Article 370 from the Constitution, that’s why despite the saber-rattling from the right wing national party (BJP) and its affiliates in J&K, on papers it still exists, as India considers, the State of Jammu and Kashmir its integral part.
Integration vis-à-vis Communal overtures
For BJP, who are also for the fullest integration of J&K into the Indian Union believe abolition of Article 370 would do the same. At the same time the party has shown reluctance to support separate statehood for Jammu which has led many to accuse BJP for having double standards as they still are silent on whether J&K would be brought under the purview of fresh reorganization commission if so formed. Be that as it may, this clearly demonstrates that integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union that has a national consensus attached to it has been perceived differently in terms of employing means to facilitate that. Fuelled by fear of Pakistan’s involvement in Jammu and Kashmir, as it still supports plebiscite solution to the Kashmir conflict which was an essential prerequisite condition for operation of Article 370, India as a whole internationally is in favour of J&K’s integration into its union. It still exists as a temporary provision in the constitution but also integrates J&K into the Indian Union, while its erosion continues which finds expression in the conflict itself. All this in a nutshell, is postulated in the fact that none of the political parties want any major communal divide in so far as it may prove detrimental for the fullest integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union no matter how much the state is regionally divided from within. Also at this point in time, this issue has not attracted much attention in the State or in India because there are other seemingly more important national and international security issues in connection with the state of Jammu and Kashmir that are taking the high ground. So bringing this issue on is not only uncalled for but also a fatal as well as futile exercise to even pursue in the prevailing circumstances.
Haifa Peerzada is a law graduate from University of Delhi and in 2010, she enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi and licensed to practice law by the Bar Council of India in 2011. She also holds a M.A in International Relations (Security) from the University of Birmingham. She is inclined towards alternative dispute resolution and conflict resolution, including policies related to peacekeeping, security- both traditional and non-traditional forms, international development and peace management. Currently she is practicing law in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and is also a Visiting Lecturer of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Jammu and Kashmir.