Friday, August 29, 2008

J&K: Pro and anti-secession

The J&K crisis has led to a renewed debate on whether the State deserves independence from India. Apologists for independence include Arundhati Roy, Vir Sanghvi and S.S.A.Aiyar. Those who argue against independence include Manoj Joshi, K.Subrahmanyam and V.P.Malik.

My heart lies somewhere between these two extreme positions. But it seems to me that analysts like K.Subrahmanyam confuse (read this)the republic's basic responsibility to sustain the fundamental ideals that make India such as secularism, with the perceived imperative to use force against what in reality, are aspirations for genuine autonomy, masquerading as azadi.

One can see similar contradiction in Malik's article. Malik invokes the French philosopher Ernest Renan to suggest what constitutes a nation: it is not speaking the same tongue, or belonging to the same religion or ethnic group, but having accomplished great things in common in the past, and the wish to accomplish them again in future.

Renan's lecture on nationalism needs to be read in full to understand this 19th century philosopher. He said: "A nation's existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual's existence is a perpetual affirmation of life. That, I know full well, is less metaphysical than divine right and less brutal than so called historical right. According to the ideas that I am outlining to you, a nation has no more right than a king does to say to a province: "You belong to me, I am seizing you." A province, as far as I am concerned, is its inhabitants; if anyone has the right to be consulted in such an affair, it is the inbabitant. A nation never has any real interest in annexing or holding on to a country against its will. The wish of nations is, all in all, the sole legitimate criterion, the one to which one must always return."
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