Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju while addressing a seminar organized by the South Asia Media Commission said that he rejected the two-nation theory and the Partition of the subcontinent. He said:
“The cause of the Kashmir problem is the partition of India on a totally bogus basis – the two-nation theory… I don’t recognize Pakistan as a legitimate country because the whole basis is the two-nation theory and I don’t accept the two-nation theory.”
The underlying sentiment expressed by Justice Katju was music to my ears. It was in 1989 that I first launched a personal campaign of sorts against the Partition and sought to undo its spirit. That year I wrote, published and sold all by myself a slim book entitled “The Rediscovery of India” that dealt with some little publicized events attending Indian Independence. The book was never reviewed of course despite my approach to several editors. Subsequently a Pakistani writer published a book with the same title that was reviewed by the same editors. More recently Lord Megnadh Desai has come out with a third book with the same title.
Identity politics have overtaken all notions of national unity. How, then, might we hope to generate common regional purpose that would help create Indo-Pakistan unity?
Welcome as are the growing sentiments for creating Indo-Pakistan unity the manner of expressing them by Justice Katju could not be more damaging to the very cause that he espouses. Indo-Pakistan reunification cannot be achieved by the wave of a Judge’s gavel or the thesis written by an academician. It is a very complex issue that has to be approached in calibrated fashion. Six decades of independent and sovereign Pakistan have created generations politically committed to their nation. Calling Pakistan a bogus nation is precisely the kind of expression that will provoke the strongest resistance. To undo the damage wrought to the people of the subcontinent by the Partition it is essential that first of all ground realities must be recognized. Before relations with Pakistan can be addressed conditions within India itself need to be appreciated.
Forget Pakistan, within India itself several recent incidents in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and other cities suggest that common national purpose is a distant dream. Identity politics have overtaken all notions of national unity. How, then, might we hope to generate common regional purpose that would help create Indo-Pakistan unity? Fortunately by addressing the problem within India we would lay a solid foundation for resolving it across the region. Identity politics assume negative characteristics when there is absence of genuine federalism.
Federalism holds the key to an effective future world order.
It opens the door to successful regional cooperation. Federalism implies self governance for people at all levels of their multi-identities. A citizen loyal to his village can also be loyal to his state and to the nation provided there is a rational demarcation of power and responsibility that allows each level of administration to govern itself relating to subjects relevant to the respective level. That provides self-rule. That is what federalism is all about. And that is the model that must be replicated not only within India but across the South Asian region where the peoples of different nations share history, culture, language and experience to qualify as a common entity.
Justice Katju’s hope therefore to reunify India and Pakistan is not only impractical but undesirable.
Thanks to the example set by the European Union it is entirely feasible for the nations of South Asia to form a South Asian Union that allows peoples across borders to live as one cultural unit without disturbing existing national boundaries. Need one recall that citizens of Germany have equal access and equal rights with the French in France that exceeds what citizens in the rest of India have in Jammu and Kashmir?
Eventually, federalism will alone provide the key to Indo-Pakistan unity. And the one subject common at the federal level of entire South Asia is security. That is why one repeatedly urges the government to initiate talks with their counterparts in Pakistan to create a joint defence system for the region. That is from where meaningful talks will start, not from people to people contacts across the Wagah border holding candles. The common peoples of India and Pakistan present no serious hurdle to unity. The problem is created by the governments and political establishments of both nations.