Nudging the common man out

One great source of exploitation in Kashmir is elitism

Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad
Publish Date: Nov 12 2012 12:00PM

“The elite must lose if Pakistan has to win”… This was the concluding sentence and probably the quintessence of ‘Creative Destruction,’ a long column written by Fahd Husain from Pakistan in the daily The Nation on 5th Nov. 2012.  The well known Pakistani journalist not only deconstructed the problems Pakistan is facing, but also demystified some of the brutalities of traditional narratives and future realities. The writer in his beautifully delineated piece argued that if Pakistan wants to envision a better and bright future then all the old and traditional narratives (although constructed by elites and others) need to be destroyed. More importantly he emphasized that the elitist capture of the Pakistani State must be smashed. Inspired by Fahd’s column, I tried to contextualize and connect Pakistan’s “elitist predicament” with our “elitism”. Do we really have this ‘elitism’ problem in Kashmir too? Do we also need to unshackle and emancipate ourselves from the capture of the rich? Do we really need to destroy all those institutions and structures crafted by the rich for the rich? And more importantly, the real question which always goes unasked: How do we counter, and question the newly created ‘Americanized’ elitist discourses on Kashmir? The answer to all these questions is a big yes. Yes, we need liberation from all such vicious structures and discourses which the elites have imposed on us. We also need to destroy some traditional as well new narratives (biased) reverberating along the counters of Kashmir. 
Dogras are gone, Afghanis are not seen, but the damn exploitation with our artisans and weavers has aggravated badly. Why? Precisely, our own ‘elite merchant’ has well replaced Dogras and Afghanis. Today, our weaver cannot chop off his fingers, because the cobweb he is trapped in will never allow him to commit such acts. The exploitation and expropriation of resources (both human and mineral) have taken a different shape and direction. And the powerful elite are in no mood to democratize their businesses.   
Tradition, culture and language are increasingly assimilating American colours. From local we are growing global. The pressure to urbanize, industrialize and modernize is badly messing up the ‘aam admi’. The western models of education, religion, culture, democracy and secularism have blindly overtaken our homes, our lives. A handful of ‘royal radicals’ who have managed to reach American Universities on State fellowships are hell bent to obfuscate many simple discourses. Indeed, we have reached to a perilous stage, where this elitist western mentality devours upon all our valuable assets. 
Our farmers, artisans and subalterns are pushed to ghettos, with no one to listen to them, no one to help and console them. And, why should they be listened, and helped, when they are born to live in squalor, with excrement their food and pollution their oxygen. Rightly reflected by Fahd “I own this place. I run this place. How? Because, I’m better than the rest. I’m richer, I’m more powerful, often I’m more educated and I make the rules that others follow. In fact, oftentimes, I am the State”.
In Kashmir all important decisions are taken considering the fancies of the elite, be the merchants or the American educated intellectuals. Millions are excluded from the ‘uneconomic’ economic policies; thousands are muzzled everyday under the exploitative and unethical business practices. Our water bodies, Dal and Wullar, are now sewage dumping sites, Gulmarg and Phalgam are already sold to the elites. Who cares, and why should we give a damn to all these issues? Yes, they ‘elites’ have already engaged us in many problems and issues, which are like mind-boggling complexities. Salfism, suffism, Rishism, Astanism, Whabism, Marxism and Capitalism - every type of ‘ism’ is doing the rounds in the valley. And, this all is probably the manifestation of the ‘elite-nexus’ which is increasingly creating, shaping and designing our new society. A society, with many layers, with many classes, with many isms’, how sad, but true.

(The author is a full time Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be reached at