IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

A change that hit federalism, inclusion 

4th August, 2020 Editorial


  • Political activity in the erstwhile State has come to a complete halt since Article 370 that broadly, defined Jammu and Kashmir’s relationship with the rest of India was upended and a new framework introduced last year.
  • In a democracy, the concept of integration has to be evaluated from a multi-faceted system and lens, which includes the emotional aspect as well. And in that respect, sadly, the effect on the ground of the cataclysmic change of August 5, 2019 has yielded the opposite effect.


  • The continued detention of political prisoners shows that if democratic rights were not even available to the voices that speak on behalf of the Indian Union, how would ordinary people even think of enjoying them?
  • Balraj Puri consistently advocated; peace would not ensue in J&K without guaranteeing respect for the democratic rights of its people; to ensure that the most important tool would be a rigorous pursuit of federalism within the State. Both of these are particularly salient in the present context.

Key to integration

  • In his best-selling book, Kashmir Towards Insurgency, published in the early 1990s, Balraj Puri presciently wrote that there was a persistent policy of denying Kashmir a right to democracy;
  • One-party rule had been imposed on the State through manipulation of elections; Opposition parties had been prevented from growing and elementary civil liberties and human rights had been refused to the people.
  • He repeatedly argued that the feeling of hopelessness and a threat to identity exacerbated by a political vacuum create a breeding ground for militancy.
  • He emphasised that a prerequisite to emotionally integrate Kashmir with the rest of India was to ensure that the people of the State enjoy the same democratic rights and constitutional protections as the people across the country.
  • These lessons were learnt the hard way with a lot of sacrifices, of lives, including those of ordinary Kashmiris and security personnel.

Asymmetry and federalism

  • The idea that the presence of Article 370 weakened the Indian Union is erroneous and is contrary to a basic understanding of democracy and lessons learnt from the experiments of Indian federalism.
  • J&K’s separate flag and Constitution within the Indian Union represented asymmetry, which is integral to the Indian federal experience. It should be seen in the context of an urge for recognition of identity within the vast ambit of the liberal and accommodative spirit of the Indian Union.
  • There is plenty of evidence to suggest that such asymmetry has strengthened the Indian Union and led to better policy implementation and participation in political processes.
  • J&K remains a microcosm of India’s diversity. J&K’s immense geographical, ethnic and religious diversity should be the source of strength rather than seen or viewed as a liability.

On devolution

  • Devolution of political power from the Centre to J&K should not lead to political hegemony of any one region or political party; rather, it should be accompanied with devolution of powers within J&K to reflect the former State’s divergent regional and ethnic urges.
  • The institutional reconciliation of differences among these various shades of diversity is one of the prime components for a harmonious solution to the J&K imbroglio.

Overcoming the setback

  • Indian Parliament has left everyone dissatisfied in J&K, including the people of Kargil within the separated Ladakh. It has only compounded the divide between J&K and the rest of the country that we, as a political class in J&K, had been assiduously trying to bridge for several decades and at grave risk to our lives.
  • Situation in J&K calls for serious introspection from all those who believe in an inclusive and accommodative idea of India. We need multiple bridges including those between J&K and the rest of the country and among the various communities and regions of the former State.
  • In order to build these bridges we will need a greater multi-layered, institutionalised decentralisation and respect for democratic rights for the people of J&K.