‘A Daniel has come to judgement’ on those who resist repression, in his GK article on 13th May and before he announces to move on beyond polemics, he fires these salvos in passing: “The exchanges in social media are of course between people but they are more about positions and perceptions. Bred in silos, a point of view propagated in an echo chamber results in the same voices being heard repeatedly. Nowadays they meet in the toxic environment of twitter” – these are the grand accusations or shall we say terms of endearment that the author uses for those who resist the repression. The dramatic irony of these can’t be lost on a student of literature who immediately visualises the sanitized silos and echo chambers of power from where the armchair intellectual speaks. Whereas we speak in the broad day light having an integral umbilical relation with our own people. The toxic environment on Twitter has been created by IT Cell of his friends. Kashmiri youth who responded to his views are well educated, politically conscious minds who have seen him in action and heard his ‘grand’ ideas when Kashmir was soaked in blood and the epidemic of dead eyes. The voice of truth can’t change colours like chameleon functionaries of the power who cross over from one position to other and yet another endlessly in search of, shall we say, a high profile life style, hence speak in new voices to suit new roles. The voice of truth is absolute and unchangeable and it will echo repeatedly as the power poses deafness to their cries for justice It can’t call repression democracy and tyranny development with the passage of time. It will raise itself till justice is obtained and rights are restored to people, in short till the end to repression. The voice of truth will be the same till doomsday. It is neither expedient nor contingent as you think it to be.
After launching himself from a militant platform and thereby directly responsible for death and destruction in his own logo, he journeyed to being a ‘trusted functionary’ of the govt and eventually close associate of the political hegemons in Delhi. After being used and thrown away, he is now coaxing them by manufacturing puerile narratives in the state to deliver judgement on those who have dented the dominant narrative by continuously raising their voice, speaking truth to power despite living in the midst of the threat of existential extinction.
He has proved himself truly half baked as he quotes Gramsci only by halves and conceals the crucial points that Gramsci makes to end hegemony of the ruling class. He is not to be blamed as he exactly represents his masters who destroy truth through distortion, exclusion and hermeneutic violence.
Let me now come to post mortem his ‘introspective conversation’ which begins with derogatory undertone, ‘sanctified intellectual’ in response to half baked mind which seems to have hit him very hard but he once again displays the same half baked understanding of Gramsci and literary Studies as in the advocacy of avoiding Arabic and Persian words. I will come to that in a minute. First, his allegation that I teach ‘secessionism from 5pm to 10 am while mispronouncing Gramsci yet works for a civil society institution controlled by occupational forces helping to produce compradors.’
Let me analyse his allegations and misperceptions by pulling them apart. The question of teaching secessionism does not arise as it is my firm belief backed by historicity that we have not been given a chance so far to determine our political future, hence the question of secession does not arise. In fact the entire movement is for the realisation of that right. I have been advocating against its use as it encapsulates the dominant falsified discourse. Appropriately being an avid supporter of dominant discourse, the author thrives on their dominant vocabulary. Adding the cheap masala of wrongly alleged mispronunciation of Gramsci does not make his charge any weightier. It only betrays his puerility in the absence of sound argument, a case of ad hominem! By trying to turn tables against me he quotes Gramsci by halves selectively to support his flawed argument which goes to prove his parochial half baked intellect coupled with nauseating arrogance of intellectual elitism. He poses as if he has been divinely inspired with a special understanding which is not available to lesser mortals like me. While Gramsci’s theory has two parts, first the exposition of the problem of how ruling class establishes its cultural hegemony on working class, and second his suggestions on what working classes should do to dent and subvert that hegemony even while working within the system. Conveniently singling out descriptive part out of context and then creating a false narrative to win a political point like his masters.
Gramsci is illustrating how it is not only State power like the security structure, the bureaucracy and judiciary which keeps the working classes under control in a capitalist system but they try to manufacture consent to their rule by making all civil society institutions like church, schools and universities, media, trade bodies etc., complicit in the ideology of the ruling class, thus creating cultural hegemony besides the political one. As an antidote to this, Gramsci suggests that working classes should create a counter hegemony by counter narratives through their own organic intellectuals to destabilize the ruling class ideological hegemony from within, even though in practice they can’t jump out of the rules and laws ruling class uses to govern their society. The author conveniently brushes aside the prescriptive part of Gramsci’s thesis which I had talked about when he heard me on Gramsci in 2 007 in a seminar which is, in fact, a blue print for radical change without using arms and ammunition. They wouldn’t have imprisoned Gramsci merely for describing the workings of capitalist class.
Therefore, even if the university is “controlled by occupational forces” but then what is not controlled by them in the valley? It never follows that individual teachers are complicit in the manufacturing of consent, if they are, then who is not in the militarised social landscape? When the entire political architecture of society is militarised, there is no escape from it. Its concertina wires encircle us, imprison us, decimate us not only physically but more dangerous psychologically. They control us wherever we are, whether in an institution cultivating intellect of students or at home vegetating and doing nothing, and as they say in a concentration camp everyone becomes complicit in his/her tortuous imprisonment by continuing to survive to which the only alternative is mass suicide!
Coming back to the argument, the colonial state of course does try to manufacture consent, but it never succeeds because the inmates of institutions carry their flame of resistance within them, they are paid to teach different subjects to students and not submission to the state. This flame enkindles not only the people around but demystifies the obfuscated reality manufactured through false narratives woven around them by ‘adjuncts of the state’.
Had the capitalist state in the west succeeded in embedding cultural hegemony, their universities wouldn’t have produced the likes of Edward Said and Noam Chomsky and several others who have struck the greatest blow to their cultural hegemony by demystifying its workings and whom the author is quoting to support his flawed argument. Or closer home Arundhati Roy or Banu Pratab Mehta, Sidarth Vardhrajan, R.C. Guha and a host of others who challenge the dominant discourse within India; who have established alternative media to bring about enlightenment. In our own blighted land, had the consent been there, three journalists recently would not have been able to break the concertina barriers and show the ugly face power to the world. Being in a situation where we can’t but follow the writ of the state most unwillingly though, it no way means we are complicitous with the state ideology and hence faced with moral dilemma according to the author. It is for this reason that Delhi fought for hearts and minds for a long time but miserably failed. Mind breaks the iron boundaries, unfurls the coils of concertina wire and leaps out to pose a challenge to the tyranny. It is the hearts and minds that remain undefiled even when body obeys grudgingly for survival. Ethics and morality are matters of mind and heart not of body which can survive only by adapting to situations in which it finds itself.
I quote Gramsci or resistance theorists to substantiate my perspective as to how we could weaken the false ideological apparatus of the coloniser, not to rationalise the death and destruction which according to him are caused by the non state actors only and others are distributing sweets here. Such ‘grand’ assertions can be made only by ‘the truthful author’; we are guided by our hearts and minds. Gramsci was only building on the Marxian premise that security structure controls people when he said that it could control only for a while. In reality, the ruling class perpetrates its hegemony through civil society institutions. Because whenever security grip is at the ebb, these only remain as testimonies of state power in the case of capitalist system. In our case we have seen these structures crumble down at first touch and ‘cultural hegemony’ evaporated into thin air whenever people come out to defy the state. What remains in the university are the loads of files sans humans. Had the consent been there, the students wouldn’t agitate and protest time and again. Sometimes these institutions are made to give the illusion of being perfectly in harmony with the state at the administrative level by inviting state functionaries and persons, like the author, to disseminate state narratives but there are no takers of their ‘pearls’. As they are devoid of truth.
Yes, I have thought about why youngsters go for government jobs. The colonial power saw to it that Kashmir never prospers. It imperceptibly destroyed local trade and industry which flourished here till 1947, it never gave counter guarantees to outside investors in power sector to boost economy, or tapped the rich natural resources that God has blessed us with and kept only one option for people to survive on, and that is government jobs. These jobs in Kashmir are nothing but chains of enslavement and it has been promoted exclusively to keep people in line. In the absence of any other avenue, the youngsters have no option but to go for what is available. Those who have talent and understand its implications, they move out and work in a freer atmosphere. The author in his different capacities over a decade has left no stone unturned to discourage local trade, commerce and industry and called businessmen thieves when they approached him for loans in the bank. As an adjunct of the state in his various avatars, he exploded the already shaken confidence of entrepreneurs working against all odds with over 2000 days of business interruptions and lack of conducive atmosphere in previous decades. He facilitated the community to land in a debt trap. On seeing this phenomena university graduates couldn’t feel motivated to take up entrepreneurship in a big way. As head of JK Bank, with majority deposits in the bank from the state, he concentrated on lending to outside businessmen obviously to get kickbacks, many of whom turned defaulters. He sabotaged many crucial projects, and is squarely responsible for the end of fiscal autonomy and facilitation of financial integration of the state with Indian union through the extension of GST law. After facilitating the complete disempowerment of J&K, he is now delivering sermons to people, to manufacture new narratives for the coloniser, to obfuscate minds and deflect attention from the grim ground reality.
Another piece of ‘enlightened argument’ in his ‘treatise’ is that since I teach literature, I help in establishing ‘hegemony of the colonial state.’ “Teaching of literature is linked to the consolidation and maintenance of British rule in India”, as he quotes a writer. Alas in his eagerness to prove his flawed argument that I am “aiding the process of moral and ethical formation of colonised minds in Kashmir ” he forgets that writer is talking about the literary studies in British India. He seems to be quite unaware of how there has been a cataclysmic transformation of teaching literature after the explosion of critical theories in the 20th century. After the arrival of Derrida’s Deconstructionist theory and Foucault’s various demystifying theories, poststructuralism, postcolonial. and feminist theories, resistance theories, reader response theories, psychoanalytic and Marxist theory and many more, no text is taken at the face value. Instead every text is deconstructed to force it to reveal its underlying ideology and to evaluate every theme and motif explored in any text in the light of those theories. Instead of being swayed by any text, we tear them to pieces with our critical lenses and hence are far from being colonised by any ideology whatsoever. Besides, the curriculum has expanded so much that old British literature is almost on the margins. New literatures of postcolonial, diasporic and resistance writers including Arab writers besides Indo-Persian and Kashmiri literature in translation are given preference. The author is still living in 18th century of Jane Austen whose work Said analyses to show its subterranean ideology to make his point of how cultural imperialism gets imperceptibly ingrained. I was born after the birth of theory and was still in school when Edward Said wrote his Orientalism in 1978 to show how Orient is a western construct. Culture and Imperialism came later as a practical illustration of his thesis. By the way, isn’t he doing the same to propagate colonial ideology by trying to show that I am complicit in colonization of minds? Said demonstrated how Austen humanised repressive colonial ideology (even though I have issues with him on this point ) and he is demonstrating how we could never overcome colonial forces and all our voices are in vain as we are being ‘hypocritical’ by living on two planes simultaneously. To him abject capitulation is the only option for he sees no scope of leaping out of this stranglehold. Not only I and the great masters, history of the world teaches us otherwise! Through our teaching of literary texts, we raise consciousness and cultivate critical thinking with the help of new ideas and the new vistas of imagination that have been thrown open by great thinkers who have demolished the basis of eurocentrism, logo centrism and western essentialism on universal matters or colonialism while being part of that world! If I am passionately opposed to colonial oppression or advocate respect to human rights and dignity, or am able to see through obfuscating narratives, the credit for that goes to my deeper understanding of literary texts besides my cardinal values, and the same understanding gets transmitted to my students. And if you still harbour doubt about my ability or its possibility, have a conversation with those students and scholars whom I have taught! Your ‘scholarly’ presumptions would surely fall apart! We don’t claim to shake the edifice of repressive structure, but we do interrogate it to subvert its false ideological structure. In the inimitable verse of Ghalib:
sheesha shikaste atibaar, rang be gardishe ustwar
ghar na mitain ye kohsar apto to sada Semaj!
The world breaks and reforms and beauty takes new shapes
If you can’t move mountains , consider yourself a voice but carry on!
Author is former Head, Department of English, Kashmir University.
(Opinions and ideas are solely author’s.)