The 66th Republic Day of India

The 66th Republic Day of India

Blustering Provincialism Or A Revitalization Of The Constitution Of India?

Insurgency, counter insurgency, flawed institutions, unaccountability in political and bureaucratic offices, tenuous infrastructure, rife unemployment, a bankrupt state exchequer, and a civil society that is gasping for air. Is that the Kashmir that our ancestors fought tooth and nail for? Is that the Kashmir for which our previous generations sacrificed their youths, their comforts, their lives? Will the toll that the past two decades have taken on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir be brushed aside in a bid to assert a destructive ultra nationalism and further integrate the State into the Indian Union?

On January 26, the day that the Constitution of India replaced the Government of India Act (1935) 66 years ago, I recalled avidly reading about the hoopla generated by Anna Hazare and his cohort in 2011. I watched the hullabaloo on Indian television surrounding Anna’s “Gandhian” means of protest against the rampant corruption in the Indian polity, the Indian bureaucracy, and Indian society. The fanfare that Anna’s media savvy team efficiently roused up to bolster his tenacious demands was blown out of all reasonable proportion by the anchors/ commentators/ media celebrities, right-wing personages, and politicians who couldn’t boast of having any substantive politics. 

It was amusing to watch right-wing commentators on television, whose belligerence, blustering and rhetoric vis-à-vis Kashmir is repulsive, take up Anna’s cause with gusto. Indian parliamentarians screamed themselves hoarse about the supremacy of parliamentary democracy. Those parliamentarians had failed to invigorate the very well written Constitution of India with the dignity and vigour that it deserves. It was greatly troubling that the Indian legal system could not prevent the nomination and election of a dubious Head of Government for the position of Prime Minister of India, one who has been accused by lakhs of people of orchestrating a pogrom in his State. Lack of corroborating evidence! 

Much as I admired the determination and perseverance of the then 74 year old Anna Hazare to go the whole hog by undertaking an “indefinite” fast, I couldn’t help wondering at his politics. Were Anna and his team validating the culture of the Congress by asserting that the only two personages Anna was willing to negotiate with were then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Rahul Gandhi? Last I heard, Rahul Gandhi was the scion of the Gandhi dynasty, the General Secretary of the Congress, and now a parliamentarian. When did his position or credibility supersede that of the then Union Minister for Home Affairs of the Republic of India? I just recalled that another personage Anna considered worth his while to talk with was the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chauhan. Perhaps the ethnic, regional, and linguistic commonalities between Chauhan and Anna would facilitate the mammoth task of speaking for a gigantic nuclear power, India. Perhaps Anna, in the frenzy of his crusade, forgot that it isn’t politically expedient to brush India’s diversity aside? The diversity of this country cannot thrive on facile attempts to create the homogeneous category of “Indian.” Nor can it thrive on dubious attempts to gloss over provincialism or a highly culpable marginalization of a minority community. The increasing communalization of Indian politics is an overwhelming force that threatens the creed of secularism in India, which is a serious concern. Such issues should be dealt with head on.

The Constitution of India seeks to guarantee respect for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the integrity of the electoral process. But time and again, provisions of the Constitution of India have been violated in Kashmir, and the ideals that it enshrines have been forgotten. In Kashmir, rights relating to life, liberty, dignity of the people, and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, embodied in the fundamental covenants and enforceable by courts of law, should be upheld and guaranteed. The much lauded parliamentary democracy in India must protect a genuine democratic set-up in Kashmir. The Government of India cannot continue to install Heads of Government in Jammu and Kashmir, and claim that it is not plutocratic. The non-governance in Jammu and Kashmir, and the growing disconnect between the rulers and the ruled in the State seem to have lulled the Government of India into further apathy. 

Heads of Governments, particularly in trouble-torn States, cannot avoid their ethical and moral responsibilities toward the peoples of the States.

Kashmir needs a reformist with the zeal of Anna Hazare, but with a much broader vision and a greater understanding of the chapter on fundamental rights in the Constitution of India.