New Age Islam
Sun Apr 11 2021, 11:20 PM

Current Affairs ( 28 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment


Don’t get fooled by crowds in the Valley


By K Subrahmanyam


A number of reputed commentators have started urging that if the Kashmiris are so keen on secession, as witnessed by the massive rallies mobilised by separatist Hurriyat leaders, why should not India allow them to secede. A section of Kashmir’s population led by separatist leaders whom, democratic India has allowed to function freely, wants to secede from India on the basis of religion. It is not that they are denied their religious freedom. But they want to convert their territory into Darul Islam by merging it with Pakistan.


But we know that 60 per cent of the population of Kashmir Valley has taken part in the 1996 and 2002 elections, certified by international observers as free and fair.


The secessionists have refused to take part in the elections and demonstrate their real strength among the Kashmiri people. One should not be taken in by their capacity to collect a crowd. Gujjars can be collected in tens of thousands not only to block the rail and road traffic between the Capital and western India but even to hold the Capital to ransom.


Mamata Banerjee can hold a massive gherao of tens of thousands of people around an industrial establishment. Chiranjeevi, the actor, can collect half a million to launch his new party.




At the drop of a hat a crowd can be collected in India. Once that crowd goes beyond a critical size, violence and destruction of public property are routine happenings. There is a degree of permissiveness that has imbued our law enforcement culture in respect of such defiance of public order. For politicians of most parties, calling for bandhs and rallies with inevitable violence has become an inherent part of their political culture to demonstrate their power to inflict loss of lives and damage to public property.


Such disruptions, from Parliament to the streets, are projected as indications of the political machismo of the parties. In that sense, India, as Gunnar Myrdahl termed it fifty years ago, is a soft state. Therefore large crowds and destruction of public property and casualties in police firings should not be allowed to influence our long term perceptions at this stage of the political development and constitutional evolution of this country.


Kashmir is not the only case where the Republic of India has faced the issue of secessionism. Tamil Nadu displayed strong secessionist tendencies from 1947 to 1967. National flags were burnt and also copies of the Indian Constitution.


Protest demonstrations were held in large numbers though there was no violence.


The depth of secessionist sentiment may be gauged from the fact that since 1967, when the former secessionists captured power through Assembly elections, till today, the Congress Party has not been able to make headway in the state.


The state has been ruled alternately by the two Dravidian parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ( DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ( AIADMK) both of which branched off from the original secessionist Dravida Kazhagam.


Tamil Nadu is one state which has rejected Hindi and does not teach Hindi in the state schools or allow its usage in the state. But today Tamil Nadu has given up its secessionist stand, plays a significant role in central politics and acknowledges that its membership of the Indian Union has benefited the state immensely. The reason for this conversion is the fact that the Dravidian parties have no anxiety about Delhi interfering in their elections or state administration.


The Union government also dealt with secessionism in Nagaland and Mizoram where organised militias of secessionists fought against the Indian Army for a few years. Even while trying to counter the military offensive of the secessionists the government of India held the door for negotiations open for secessionists to accept the Indian Constitution, join mainstream politics, fight elections and wield power.


After a few years of waging a futile war both Naga and Mizo secessionists accepted the Indian Constitution and joined mainstream politics.




Those who fought against the Indian Army became chief ministers. When Laldenga, Vizol and Jasokie, chief ministers of Mizoram and Nagaland, died they received state funerals and their bodies were wrapped in Indian tricolour when taken to the final resting place. So it happened in the cases of C N Annadurai, the DMK chief minister of Tamil Nadu, and M G Ramachandran, the AIADMK chief minister. It happened to Sheikh Abdullah too, who originally espoused Kashmir’s accession to India, subsequently opted for secessionism, and then came back and accepted the Indian Constitution.


Unlike in many other countries of the world where militants and secessionists are invariably hunted to their extermination the Indian republic has succeeded in winning over secessionists to accept the Indian Constitution which provides for adequate autonomy for religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities. More recently the Indian experiment has caught on in Aceh in Indonesia.




Kashmir’s secessionist insurgency is not new. A virulent insurgency supported by Pakistan was waged in 1989- 1994 and that was effectively countered and the state was able to hold free and fair elections in 1996. India is a secular democratic federal republic. Any secession based on religious identity cannot happen without its having repercussions elsewhere in the country. In 1947 there was division of the country based on religious identity without calculating the costs of such division. The result was one million dead and ethnic cleansing of 15 million. The extremism in the country is not confined to Islam only.


There are extremists among Hindus also as evidenced by the recent happenings in Orissa, and earlier ones in Gujarat. The Indian republic is therefore duty bound to keep such extremist forces in check.


The extremists in Kashmir have links with international Islamic terrorism and therefore allowing secession to Kashmir separatists will be deemed as a victory for international Islamic terrorism.


When India was established as a secular federal democratic republic there could have been no realistic expectation that the population emerging from feudalism, extreme poverty, illiteracy and deeply immersed in religious, communal and caste prejudices would be able to rise up immediately to the level of understanding of the noble concepts that underlie the Indian republic.


It should have been obvious that it would take a long time to educate and condition our people to the ideals underlying our Constitution. It took 190 years for the US to enact the Civil Rights Act empowering the Black population.


It is the duty of the republic to uphold the ideals and ensure that political parties operate within the framework of the ideals enshrined in the Constitution.


If any party or section violates the basis ideals of the Constitution, such as secularism, it is incumbent on the state to do everything in its power to bring such deviants back to the mainstream.


If that proves not feasible then they should be countered by use of force, if necessary. The republic cannot evade its basic responsibility to sustain the fundamental ideals that go to make India what it was meant to be when the Constitution was proclaimed.


The writer is India’s leading commentator on security issues. He is a former civil servant.

Source: Mail Today, New Delhi