Social Scientist. v 10, no. 111 (Aug 1982) p. 14.

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Class, Political and National Dimensions of the State Autonomy Movements in India

THE debate about the nature of the Indian Federation as laid down in the Constitution has gone on for about three decades now. The general trend of opinion has been to treat it as a federal constitution but with a very strong unitary bias. Its working during the last three decades, however, has been pronouncedly on unitary lines along with a steady encroachment on the powers of the States, which means that the Constitution provides mechanismb to the Centre to encroach upon and curtail the rights and powers of the constituent States. Moreover, provisions that make the Centre all-powerful as against the States also tend to strengthen the executive as against the legislature.1

This trend towards centralisation endangers civil liberties of the people, as was clearly shown during the Emergency. The issue of State autonomy therefore is clearly tied to the question of democratic rights and civil liberties of the common people.

Increasing centralisation of power culminating in the Emergency cannot be treated just as a constitutional aberration.2 The inability and hesitations of the Janata government to dismantle all the Emergency provisions and to overhaul the Constitution on democratic lines, testify to the limitations of the ruling classes in India in protecting the democratic rights of the people. And after the 1980 parliamentary elections, the threat of authoritarianism of course has reappeared in a pronounced form. The contention of this paper is that the process of centralisation, as well as the authoritarian danger that accompanies it, has its roots in the very path of development pursued by the ruling classes in India.

The Indian ruling classes, within which the bourgeoisie is the leading element, have all along sought to develop India along capitalist lines. The specific features of this path of development are the main determinants of development and consolidation of classes as well as the internal differentiations and conflicts that arise among the

*Centrc for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.

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