Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Sovereignty Issue

While there is a great deal of euphoria over the prospects of peace talks between the Union government and the ULFA, there is one issue over which both sides are somewhat paranoid, namely the issue of sovereignty. For the ULFA, or at least sections of it, sovereignty is the core issue without which there can be no discussions. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has made it clear that the issue of sovereignty cannot be raised. Jnanpith Award winner and former mediator Indira Goswami has said that the government should even amend the much-amended Constitution if need be so that both sides can talk on the issue of sovereignty. Actually there is no need for extreme positions. Nor does sovereignty have to be such a taboo word among mature, grown-up people. Gandhiji had said that even after India’s independence, people should have the right of striving for autonomy and sovereignty. And there is certainly no need for a constitutional amendment merely to enable people to discuss the issue of sovereignty. After all, how will that amendment be worded? That people should have the right to discuss sovereignty? Has the Constitution said anywhere that we do not have the right to discuss ‘sovereignty’? Just as we have the right to discuss autonomy, euthanasia, sex, racial discrimination or treason, we also have the right to discuss sovereignty. However, the Centre should not lose the opportunity of ascertaining whether the subject is plain sovereignty or subsidized sovereignty — where the people demanding sovereignty would like the Government of India to subsidize the breakaway sovereign states. It should be very simple for the Centre to tell the ULFA top brass that just as the subject of progressive dismemberment is repugnant for any individual, the subject of sovereignty (subsidized or unsubsidized) is repugnant to India. THE SENTINEL

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