Defining nationalism

An unnecessary controversy has cropped up in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Article 370 of the Constitution. The BJP which agreed to form an alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to form the government when no party could get a majority on its own in the State Assembly in 2014, knew that its position on Art 370 is diametrically opposite to PDP’s which is firm on the continuation of this constitutional provision on J & K while the BJP is for its abrogation. When Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said in the State Assembly that those who wanted to do away with this Article were “anti-national’ the BJP members demanded that her comment should be expunged from the proceedings of the House. Why supporting a constitutional provision should be taken exception to passes understanding.
Art 370 of the Constitution is in consonance with the Instrument of Accession that provided the legal basis of J & K joining the Indian Dominion on October 26, 1947.  Schedule I of the Instrument specifically mentioned that except defence, foreign affairs and communication, powers on all other matters will remain vested in the Maharajah. The Constitution formalized this position by providing for Art 370 which imposed certain restrictions on the right of the Parliament to enact laws that would extend to J & K. It is an emotive issue for the Kashmiris. Mainstream parties like the BJP have to understand the feelings of the Kashmiris. Integration of J & K with the rest of India means a sense of identification of the Kashmiris with India. Hurting the sentiments of the Kashmiris will not help but hinder the process of psychological integration. Any attempt at amending the Constitution by deleting Art 370 will have a negative impact on the Kashmiris.
As the political party ruling India, BJP should have the farsight and the wisdom to desist from doing anything that alienates any section of the people. If Art. 370 has to be amended or rescinded, it can be done only with the consent of the people of Kashmir, not against their will. Any unilateral attempt to do away with Art 370 will only help those who are constantly trying to foment trouble in Kashmir and fanning secessionist sentiments. Nationalism means the national sentiment of the entire people. A narrow definition of nationalism can only weaken the political fabric of a country as diverse as India.

Saturday, 4 February, 2017