Against the British-way of Brexit, New Delhi has Inenter for JK, Faisul Yaseen writes

Britain handled the experiment of nationalities within well while democratic movements in the United Kingdom led to autonomy and evolution of powers, said Lord Meghnad Jagdishchandra Desai, an Indian-born United Kingdom economist and Labour politician in his last month’s lecture ‘Devolving Power: The British Experience’ at Jammu.

Baron Desai’s lecture revolved on the benefits Britain had yielded over the years by allowing autonomy and devolution of powers in Scotland, Ireland and Wales with democratic movements from the ground up.

Without making any remark on how the absence of autonomy and devolution in India was holding the country back in Jammu Kashmir, Punjab, North East and South India, he said in the United Kingdom the devolution of powers and frequent referendums had addressed the issues of the people through democratic means.

Desai, who has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India, in 2008, did not directly talk about devolution of powers in India or a state like Jammu Kashmir but painted a picture about the issue of regional and sub-regional nationalism and autonomies and what it meant for larger politics, peace and development.

Stressing that similar experiments had also been conducted in places like Catalonia although without success as Spain had scuttled it by not trying the British way as its constitution did not allow such devolution.

Desai’s lecture in the winter capital Jammu, which over the years has become a hotbed of the Hindutva politics, was of significance as the rightwing BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP), which is an alliance partner of the coalition government in the State, derives its powers from Jammu.

BJP has been against any autonomy to Jammu Kashmir, demanding complete merger of the State with the Indian union and calling for abrogation of Article 370, which accords special status to J&K.

The rightwing party, which also runs the government at New Delhi, stands for ‘Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan and Ek Pradhan’ (one constitution, one flag, and one sovereign head).

As Desai talked about the referendums held in Scotland, Ireland and Wales from time-to-time and how with the British-way of dealing with the issue of nationalities within, devolution of powers and autonomy, in the process he raised questions why New Delhi was afraid of holding a referendum in Jammu Kashmir where people have been demanding it for the past 70 years.

His example of how capital centres of London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast had come to co-exist in the four-country kingdom was enough to drive home the point that military-might cannot be used to subdue a population and hold a region hostage.

Desai’s example of how despite the British-approach, the second half of the 20th century had witnessed the terrorism of Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland and counter-terrorism by the state pointed out the repercussions of a hardline stances taken by the state and the oppressed.

Desai, who retired from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2003 as Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, which he founded in 1992, and where he is now Professor Emeritus, was all praise for how despite differences, each political party in the United Kingdom had people who stood for devolution of powers and how their decisions were not driven by a fanatical minority.

He said in all these cases, the thinking had been that the people at large – the majority – be consulted, but at the same time, minority not forgotten.

Compare this to the way Government of India (GoI) handled the issue of providing autonomy to Jammu Kashmir despite J&K Legislative Assembly passing the autonomy resolution with a two-third majority.

The then National Democratic Alliance government at New Delhi trashed the autonomy resolution in utter disrespect of the institution it tries to woo the separatists and secessionists toward.

From ‘sky is the limit’ to ‘everything within the ambit of humanity’, GoI has made promises to restore autonomy to Jammu Kashmir but always failed to deliver.

To complicate the matters further, now it is bent upon abrogating whatever little autonomy is left with J&K under Article 370, which provides a special status to the state.

Baron Desai, the author of Marxian Economic Theory, Applied Econometrics, Marxian Economics, Testing Monetarism, a critique of monetarism, Marx’s Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism, Rethinking Islamism: Ideology of the New Terror, The Route to All Evil: The Political Economy of Ezra Pound, a novel Dead on Time, and The Rediscovery of India, is an authority on economics and politics and his lecture illustrated how politics was being used as economics and vice versa in the region.

Desai, who has been active in the British Labour Party, becoming chairman between 1986 and 1992, needs to understand that GoI has its own way of dealing with nationalities within, devolution of powers and autonomy, and as opposed to the British-way of Brexit, New Delhi has Inenter for J&K.

Faisul Yaseen is Political Editor of Rising Kashmir and can be mailed at


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