Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy violated constitutional principles—and thereby diminished the constitutional office he holds—by tweeting support for the call for a total economic boycott of Kashmiris in the wake of the Pulwama attack. Roy also exposed his ignorance of the strategic importance of commerce with Kashmir and Kashmiris, in both tracking terror-financing as well as addressing Kashmiri alienation that plays into the hands of terrorists and separatists. The office of the Governor is a key one in India’s federal structure, and a Governor is sworn to preserve and defend the Constitution, thereby working to uphold the integrity of the Indian Union. Roy’s tweet could incite other Indians to boycott Kashmiris and Kashmir, undermining the Union’s integrity. In fact, Roy’s tweet goes against the very spirit of the Constitution as enshrined in the principles of “JUSTICE, social, economic and political”, “EQUALITY of status and of opportunity” and “promote(-ing) among them all (citizens) FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation” contained in the Preamble.
Further alienating Kashmiris by denying them equal economic opportunity and assaulting their dignity by treating them as sub-par compared to their fellow-citizens from the other parts of the country will feed into any disaffection they may feel with the Indian State. It would be an end that the separatists’ playbook seeks. Letting Roy continue as Governor erodes faith in the Constitution and its authority. A person inciting one set of Indians to act against another violates the basic tenets of the Constitution, and thus the person can’t be expected to honour and uphold the Constitution even when she has sworn to do so. While the Supreme Court, in a 2010 judgment, called for “compelling reasons” to guide the removal of a Governor from her post by the president, there can be no doubt that Roy’s failure to uphold Constitutional values is an anathema to the idea of a state bound to the Constitution, and thus makes for “compelling reason”. Apart from this, Roy’s stand is counter-productive for India’s fight against terrorism. Transactions in Kashmiri shops and bank accounts in the country need to be part of the mainstream to keep an eye out for dubious flow of money, thereby letting the country’s intelligence track possible terror-funding.
The Centre advises the President in gubernatorial appointments. The onus is now on the Union government to at least condemn Roy’s anti-Constitutional stand, and thus pave the way for the president to act on his removal. Failure to do so will not only set the wrong precedent, it will also be seen as the Union government lacking faith in the Constitution.