The Hindu Editorials (22th August 2019) -Mains Sure Shot

Question- India is a diverse country, keeping this in mind, discuss the issues of federalism and coexistence. (250 words)

Context- the recent turn of events and demoting the status of Jammu and Kashmir.

  • India is a diverse country with several religions, cultures, ethnic groups staying together in harmony. But from time to time most linguistic and ethnic groups aspire for a State of their own.
  • And militants in different parts of the country have taken up arms against the government and against other groups to achieve this particular objective.
  • If we look back we can see some trends like after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many countries weathered away and many new States emerged in their place. 
  • This usually happened through processes of civil war, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
  • But in this rush of State-breaking and State-making around the world, especially in Europe, what happened was a number of groups who were aspiring for having a State of their own got a new lease of life. There were many seperatist movements across the world including India.
  • Some examples are- the Nagas and the Bodos in India, the Chechens in Russia, separatist movements in Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Moldova (Trans-Dniester), Baluchistan in Pakistan, West Papua in Indonesia, the Oromos and the Somalis in the Ethiopia-Somali region, the Kurds in Turkey, Sudan, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, and the rise of protest politics in the Kashmir Valley.

What is community?

  • Community means a group of people who are considered as being one or as a unit because they share some common characteristics, like the same language, or the same religion, or same nationality and so on.
  • For example when we say we are Bengali or we are Tamil or we are Punjabi or we are Indian we share a sense of oneness, of belonging together.

Why is it so important?

  • In the 1990s, scholars realised that individuals do not only seek economic benefits. Individuals need to have an identity; they need community whether that of language, or religion, or memory, or shared traditions.
  • Community is so important because it gives an individual a sense of identity. As individuals it creates a sense of belonging and togetherness.
  • This similar sense of belonging of many individuals creates a community.
  • Some people associate with their community feeling very strongly, while others are less rigid about it. This differs from individual to individual.
  • But the loss of a sense of community breeds trauma; leads to struggle; and can even lead to a civil war. 

The coexistence of nation state and community:

  • A nation state or a nation is not one single entity. It is made up of several communities (or states) who come together and form a nation.
  • Thus any attempt by the nation state at any point of time which has threatened the identity of community or any homogenising influence has resulted in protests and at times violent means like suicide bombings, grenade explosions, attacks on government buildings and installations, indiscriminate murders, assassinations, arson and crossfire. For example, in 1971, when East Pakistan declared itself independent of Pakistan, an estimated 3 million people died in the war between the new state of Bangladesh and the parent country. 
  • These kind of wars cannot be resolved by military means. 
  • The only way to deal with such disorder and the innumerable tragedies is to strengthen federalism. A decentralised political system enables participation. It also protects minority identities. This was the precise logic that governed the linguistic reorganisation of States in India in the 1950s. This was the precise logic that gave to J&K, along with other constituent States of the Indian federal system, regional autonomy.

Conclusion:

  • Mature democracies do not try oppress diversity or homogenise minorities. Diverse cultures expand and enrich our grasp of the complexities, and the dilemmas of the human condition.
  • A monochromatic society is, by definition, soulless and bare. Stripped of the excitement of learning new languages, acquaintance with new values, familiarity with new cuisines, literature, music, art, sculpture, and ways of conceiving the world, life becomes dull. And a society fails to progress.
  • It also risks peace and stability.
  • The best way to protect diversity is through the grant of regional autonomy. If we abolish diversity we land up with a sense of longing, loss, and ultimately resentment.
  • With Article 370 abolished, what needs to be done is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir need to be given some other form of autonomy, so that they do not feel this sense of loss and longing.

Way ahead:

  • The fact that federalism is the soul of a diverse State must always be kept in mind.

 

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