ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Patrick Hoenig

Totem and Taboo: The Case for a Secession Clause in the Indian Constitution?

The vertical dispensation of power, as it exists in India today, is the result of an attempt to accommodate the ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural variety of its peoples, while nipping in the bud any political initiative veering in the direction of secession. "Unity in diversity", the motto of Indian federalism, evokes the image of colourful regional identities woven around a strong national core. But the celebration of the nation state, which is said to have emerged in the face of "daunting odds", is indicative of how little coincidental the choice of words has been in the praise of Indian federalism: Unity comes first, diversity follows. Picking up on new trends in international and constitutional law, this article argues that the introduction of a secession clause in the Constitution will be conducive to breathing new life into the debate on the division of labour between the centre and the states. Breaking with the taboo of static, irreversible borders and opening the political space for discussing deviations from the territorial status quo may help generate a fresh commitment to constitutionalism and put a stop to the erosion of the Constitution's integrative power that is giving rise to secessionist claims in the first place.