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Secession Politics

Secession Politics

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Published by Hakim Afzal

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Published by: Hakim Afzal on May 18, 2012
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FEDERALISM: POLITICS OF SECESSION.
“Though the country and the people may be divided into
different states for convenience of administration, the country is one integral whole, its people a single people living under asingle imperium derived from a
single source.”
 
Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar
The Indian Constituent Assembly under the Presidentship of Dr. B.R Ambedkar thus pledgedfor a Secular Republic with its own form of Federalism. Federalism has been widely acceptedas the form of government which involves two or more tiers within the polity, each with ameasure of constitutional autonomy, each directly governing and being accountable to thepeople.
 
Since
 
federalism is a viable political and legal tool for addressing the critical issues of conflict that exist in a multi- cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic country, the makers of the Constituent assembly devised a system which best suited the prevailing conditions post-British rule. However, in the absence of any track record or reliable radar to assessdepartures from the existing template of norms and yardsticks, which were derived fromthe then dominant models, jurists found it difficult to certify that the system was indeed
federal. It was therefore declared ‘Quasi
-
Federal’.
 India is thus considered as a federal country with unitary features. The constitution of Indiaexplicitly adopted a federal political and administrative structure with enormous powers tothe central government and assigned certain specified financial and administrative powersto the state governments. In India, the inequality of states, and of regions within states, hascommonly generated tensions and dissatisfactions. Following are some of the basic reasonsfor these dissatisfactions:
1.
 
Centralisation of power:
India is an example of “Cooperative Federalism” wherein, the
Centre or Union is stronger than the federal units or the States. The centre is strongenough to ensure that policies are formulated at this level (By the Parliament). Anexample of such powers is explained under Article 248 of the Indian Constitution, whichprovides the Union with
Residuary powers.
Another example of the Centre prevailingover the states is depicted through Article 201 of the Indian Constitution according towhich, legislation by a State is subject to disallowance by the President, when reservedby the Governor for his consideration. There are numerous such examples of India havinga strong Union which makes it all the more difficult for the state to govern themselves asmany a times the Centre is seen as encroaching upon its interests. This leads to clashesand tension between the centre and the states.
 2.
 
Regional Aspirations:
India is a Union of 28 states and 8 Union Territories wherein eachstate and Union territory is distinct in terms of Size, Population, Linguistics, Culture, etcand each aspires to fulfil the interests of its people. Unequal States give rise to the needfor the constitutional recognition of inequality, to be built into the federal polity in wayswhich protect diversity without sacrificing unity or imposing uniformity. In India, theinequality of states, and of regions within states, has commonly generated tensions and
 
dissatisfactions. Asymmetrical federalism and special status provisions, including specialfiscal regimes and incentives, have helped address these problems to some extent. Butstill there have been many instances where states have cried foul play anddiscrimination.
3.
 
Financial Dependence:
A salient characteristic feature of a Federal Government islegislative autonomy with financial dependence. We all know that the seventh schedule(ART-246) divides the Union and State powers into three lists i.e. Union list, state list andconcurrent list, also, according to ART-254, with respect to the subjects of List-3 (onwhich both state and Union can make legislations), the law made by the Parliament(whether before or after state legislation), shall prevail while the law made by the statelegislature shall be void to the
extent of Repugnancy.
This gives Centre an upper hand inthe formulation of laws regarding finance even though they are against the interest of the state.
 
As argued earlier, despite India claiming to be having Linguistic Federalism andSecularism as its guiding principles, there have been many voices in the country whothink otherwise. These disagreements have been articulated in the past and even nowthrough movements aiming towards outright Secession leading to bloody confrontationsbetween insurrectionary groups and the Government security forces. Following are a fewexamples of this secessionist politics in India:
I.
 
PUNJAB CRISIS:
During the 19
th
century and the period during the partition of thecountry in 1947, Punjab and Sikhs were the centre of the storm as unlike the southernstates (Which had linguistic differences), the Sikhs had Religious differences. Anotherspecial feature about this case was the effects of partition itself as neither the Sikhs weregiven any special status after Independence nor were they included in the generalprocess of Reorganization of states.After much deliberation, the Sikhs were provided with a Punjabi Suba with bare majorityof the Shiromani Akali Dal, a Sikh religious political party with earlier bases from theGurudwara Prabhandak committee. Also it faced three outstanding issues which have stillnot been solved:
 
The status of the Capital city of Chandigarh shared as Capital between Punjab andHaryana.
 
The status of some mixed Hindi and Punjabi speaking Hindu dominated regions.
 
Division of the river waters for irrigation purposes among the two states.All these have led to a lot of disaffection and dissatisfaction which has in turn created asituation of internal conflict and movements demanding autonomy (Like Punjabi SubaMovement) or total independence (Like the Khalistan Movement).
II.
 
ASSAM REORGANIZATION:
In north-east India, especially in Assam, special problemsarose immediately after Independence which made the Reorganization of theseterritories a very difficult and violent process as the Government faced explicit, univocaldemands from the non-Hindu tribal groups. Several sets of ethnic confrontations
 
intersect in Assam: between Hindus and Muslims, Linguistic groups (particularlyAssamese and Bengali speaking), Residents and migrant population and the indigenoustribes.There have been numerous movements both peaceful as well as violent in the state andto further this revolution, many organizations like the All Assam Students Union (AASU),Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), etc have been created. The Asom Gana Parishad is a Regionalpolitical party in Assam which consists of a Hindu dominated alliance with the Plainstribals, plantation workers and Muslims. In 1985 this party came to power but facedmultiple dilemmas in the form of the Bodo Movement by the tribals and the toughest tillnow struggle with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) which was a militant anda violent movement. All this was because of their ties with the centre and the ULFAlaunched an altogether secession and independence movement claiming that they havelost faith in both AGP and the centre.
This was not the end to the locals’ dissat
isfaction as the state introduced the Terrorists
and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Act which was a “Counter
-
Terrorist” Legislation that gave
state the authority to launch counterforce operations against the members of ULFA. Thisintervention was successful and the ULFA got divided and perished while the samehappened to the aspirations of those who supported it.
III.
 
JAMMU AND KASHMIR SITUATION:
The Kashmir issue has occupied a prominencein Indian and South Asian domestic and international politics for over six decades now.Despite its special status and particular form of regional autonomy, the CentralGovernment and political leaders have intervened as much or more in Kashmir since thetime of independence than in any other state of the Union.Kashmir first saw a very strong centre-state alliance under the National Conference
Government led by the people’s popular leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah but later
the same government under the same leader propagated a notion of difference andcovert support for Independence which landed Sheikh Abdullah behind bars. After thisstarted a period of turmoil which saw a clash between the Hindu and Muslim populationand an armed rebellion led by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).There are three prevailing explanations to the rise of insurrectionary and secessionistmovements in Kashmir:
 
The Indian Government has always been far too soft and permissive in issues of violations of the special acts like AFSPA, etc which leads to widespread discontentand anger as the Security forces misuse these acts to kill civilians and achieveawards and recognitions.
 
There exists a prehistoric desire among the Kashmiri Muslims for a Muslimdominant state separate in existence from the Hindu majority country.
 
The Indian state has failed in Kashmir like many other states to provide aneconomic environment in which a new generation of Kashmiris could sustainthemselves with decent living conditions, permanent and reaping jobs, amenitiesto modern and developed lifestyle, etc.

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