The single biggest grouse against India by the Kashmiris has been the dilution of Article 370 over the decades, i.e. the erosion of the State’s powers in relation to the Centre. The best way to ‘skin this cat’ is more autonomy for each and every state of India including Jammu and Kashmir – genuine autonomy in a truly federal India with no concentration of power in the Centre, as is unfortunately the case today.
An equivalent of Article 370 ( with some safeguards for free movement, property purchase, etc) across all states may not destroy the idea of India; rather, it will strengthen it. This, in fact, has been a long-standing demand of the states for decades. Will it kill patriotism if each state has a flag, the way Kashmiris seem to want theirs and are viewed with paranoia across the rest of India? What’s the harm if each state gets one? A state flag and a country flag!
Threat to the ‘Idea of India’?
Perhaps even a state anthem highlighting the special aspects of the region playing alongside the national anthem. What’s in a name, were each state to rename their CM a PM? We can always re-designate our PM, President and our President, Governor General. There was a time, post independence, when secession by states from the Union was feared but it wasn’t illegal to seek to secede. That’s all in the past.
Whatever may have been our failures as a nation for the last 69 years, the idea of India being broken by “a thousand mutinies” is not really our greatest worry. That is not to say all is well, and admittedly we do have areas of concern where ethnic clashes continue to take place. However, most separatist movements are for smaller states within the constitution of India, and there is nothing wrong with that. It will most likely bring about better administration in the long haul; it is well known that the size of most Indian states, both in size and population, is rather large and unwieldy, and thus difficult to manage.
Homecoming for Pandits is Due
In my view, the separatist movement in Kashmir has picked up a strong “Islamist” hue as well, is prominent in five districts of the valley and alas, there is seemingly NO room for Pandits there. For Pandits are looked upon, whether true or otherwise (strangely Maharaja Hari Singh’s Hindu Dewan, Ram Chandra Kak, wanted to accede to Pakistan rather than India in 1947) as being Indian puppets.
Maybe, just maybe, in the course of time, once things settle down, this intractable problem may also get solved and the refugee Pandits find themselves being more welcome in the valley than they are today!
(Manoj Mohanka is a businessman who follows politics and religion closely and runs a trust to educate Muslim girls coming from poor families. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)