Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Telangana: the last straw

India has been going through one of the most important phases in its political makeup. The government of India, today decided to initiate the formation of the new state of Telangana. This is the last of the of most remarkable events happening in India which herald the paradigm shift in Indian polity. India has been always defined as nation with multiple fault lines formed on the basis of region, religion, caste and language. The recent events have shown that India of today has moved on.

While region and language formed major political forces in the first few decades after independence, religion and caste became majorly important after 1989. The political effectiveness of religion and caste wore out quickly due to its excessive use in the past few decades. The last general elections show that they now constitute a force on a decline. Region and language played a big role in the southern states and the regional parties have cashed on them for about half a century. The Telangana issue finally manifests their downfall.

Today the only factor that matters in the hearts and minds of the Indian populace is their development. Some fear that Telangana has opened a Pandora's box and now similar demands will emanate from Vidharbha, Bhudhelkhand, Saurashtra,... The demand for smaller states is based on the hope for equitable development. Thus the issue today is about the greater decentralization of power and finances which presents itself as demands for statehood. At the time of freedom, the concern about keeping the unity and territorial integrity of India were supreme which lead to a constitution with a federal structure and a strong centre. Today, India is much more confident of keeping its flock together and hence there is a need to revisit the federal structure of the nation to keep in touch with the aspirations and needs of the current times.

PS: Telangana movement also reassures the people about the effectiveness of non violent Gandhian means of protest, something which was missing during the Gujjar aggitation, Nandigram or the Gorkhaland movement. But of course such means do succeed only if there is a genuine problem and considerable public support.

Some articles worth a read:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Under The Surface

I am personally glad to see that Indian government has taken a very pragmatic view for solving political problems whether internal or with neighbours. Despite big statements that we will not talk to Pakistan, there have not been many occasions when people have been so optimistic about resolution of Kashmir dispute. The Manmohan Singh/ Sonia Gandhi signature is all over the modus-operandi of this process. The surface appears calm but underneath, a lot of churning is going on.

The first step towards resolution of Kashmir dispute was taken during the meeting of Manmohan Singh with Parvez Musharraf on the sidelines of UN general assembly[1]. Dr. Singh quietly laid down the basic rules of the game that 'maps cant be redrawn.' Surprisingly, Musharraf did not object to the idea but rather worked on it. Even more surprising the was that such a big agreement did not grab the lime light of media. It is believed that India and Pakistan almost came to an agreement on the Kashmir dispute [2] but then events unfolded in Pakistan leading to the oust of Musharraf and ending in 26/11 which robbed the governments of the will to take forward these agreements publicly.

Now quiet talks between the separatists [5] and some say between India and Pakistan [3][4] have proven to be more fruitful than, an all open to media, Agra like event. India has deftly encouraged the moderate leaders of Hurriyat Conference to have faith in the government and has build an international environment for the resolution of the dispute at the same time. The omens are clear. After a long slumber, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) wakes up when Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, meets them and OIC announces an envoy to Kashmir[6]. Thus giving support to Mirwiaz as a leader of Kashmir who can make things move and also bringing the Islamic countries on the table so that the final solution has the blessings of the larger Islamic world and hence making sure that no voices are raised in the name of religion after the matter is settled.

Later, Delhi decides to allow Mirwaiz to go to Pakistan and even China [7] [9] . Many saw the reference to Kashmir problem in Sino-US statement [8] as something harmful for India but it may turn out be even beneficial. China covers almost a fifth of the Kashmir claimed by India. It is also a major partner to the dispute due to its relations with Pakistan. The leverage of China and US with Pakistan can come handy, not to overlook the fact that US has a great interest in solving the dispute [9]. Also it looks like that the Gordian knot of fixing Indian border with both China and Pakistan may have to solved together as both hinge on Kashmir [11].

The Prime Minister is accused to be very unemotional on most of the occasions very unlike Vajpayee. But this very quality lets us move beyond stated positions and predictable public response to any provocation. All we can hope is that these efforts succeed and finally India can look beyond its neighbours.