Don’t break up the country

By Markandey Katju

Politicians in Maharashtra who are agitating against Biharis are playing with fire

A politician in Maharashtra has threatened to brand Biharis as infiltrators and force them out of Maharashtra if Bihar authorities take legal action against Mumbai policemen, who picked up a teenager from Bihar without informing their Bihar counterparts. The teenager is alleged to have vandalised the martyr’s memorial in Mumbai during the Azad Maidan protest on August 11.

The politician is reported to have said that if the Bihar government tries to become a hurdle in a police investigation “then my party would dub every Bihari in Maharashtra as an infiltrator and force them to leave the state.”

In the past as well, certain politicians in Maharashtra have voiced similar opinions. Some of them have propounded a ‘son of the soil’ (bhumiputra) theory, earlier threatening to evict South Indians, and now threatening to evict Biharis and UPites from Maharashtra.

Since this is a very serious issue, i may first refer to Article 19 (1) (e) of the Constitution of India which states: “All citizen shall have the right… to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India”.

Thus, it is a fundamental right of all citizens to migrate and settle in any part of India, and it would be unconstitutional to prevent persons from migrating and settling at places where they find their livelihood vide 1997 (3) Guj L R 1998 (2012) SC. The only exceptions are Kashmir and the Northeast due to special historical reasons.

India is one country with one nationality – Indian. Those who regard Maharashtra as a separate nation are traitors to the nation, and should be given harsh punishment. In view of Article 19 (1) (e) of the Constitution, it is a fundamental right of non-Maharashtrians to settle in Maharashtra, just as it is a fundamental right of Maharashtrians to migrate and settle in UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Punjab, etc. Of course, if any particular non-Maharashtrian has done something illegal in Maharashtra, he can be penalised. But how can all Biharis be branded ‘infiltrators’ for some wrong done by other Biharis?

The ‘son of the soil’ theory is a theory of Balkanization of the country, and must be condemned. Those who have propounded it are not really concerned about the welfare of the people of Maharashtra; they are concerned about their vote bank.

India is broadly a country of immigrants, like the US. About 92-93% people living in India today are not the original inhabitants of India. The original inhabitants are only the pre-Dravidian tribals known as adivasis e g Bhils, Gonds, Santhals, Todas, etc; they form just 7-8% of the Indian population today.

If the ‘son of the soil’ theory is implemented, 93% of Maharashtrians would also have to leave Maharashtra, because they are also not sons of the soil. The only sons of the soil are the Bhils and other tribals living in Maharashtra. This shows that the theory may be fine for capturing votes, but it would lead to chaos and disaster if any serious attempt is made to implement it.

Also, the unity of India is required if our country is to prosper economically. Article 301 of the Constitution states that trade and commerce shall be free throughout the territory of India. This provision guarantees the economic unity of India, and political unity depends on economic unity. Thus, a factory in Tamil Nadu is entitled to sell its goods in UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Punjab, Bengal, etc.

Modern industry requires a large market. And unless modern industry emerges in India, we cannot be a prosperous nation, because agriculture alone cannot generate the wealth required for our people’s education, health, employment and so on. Only united India provides such a large market. Any attempt to break up our country will therefore doom our people to poverty.

It could also be said that the ‘son of the soil’ theory offends section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. And being disrespectful of or bringing into contempt the Constitution of India is a criminal offence punishable by up to three years imprisonment or fine or both. Not just does the theory disrespect and bring into contempt Article 19 (1) (e) of the Constitution – hence becoming a crime – it is also an offence under section 153A of the IPC as it amounts to inciting enmity between groups of people.

Assuming that some Bihari authorities did something wrong, does it justify branding all Biharis as infiltrators in Maharashtra? Two wrongs do not make a right. The remedy, if some illegality is committed by a Bihar authority, is to file a writ petition in the Patna High Court or the Supreme Court and not to threaten Biharis living in Maharashtra. Most Biharis living in Maharashtra are poor people who have come to Maharashtra for earning their livelihood.

Also, if Biharis are chased out of Maharashtra, Maharashtrians living outside Maharashtra may meet the same fate. Where will all this end? We saw what happened when rumours were spread which created panic among people from the Northeast living in Bangalore and elsewhere. The time has come for the nefarious designs of such selfish politicians who only care for their vote bank, even if the country breaks up, to be exposed.

The writer is chairman, Press council of India, and former Supreme Court Judge.

Courtesy : http://www.timesofindia.com

Read More : http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/satyam-bruyat/entry/don-t-break-up-the-country

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