US elections are gaining momentum amidst the COVID19 with its First Presidential Debate turning ugly and indecent, followed by the news that the First lady and President Trump are hospitalized for COVID 19 virus. It has an overriding impact on the health of the republic. The new phase of globalization of health, disease, regional and religious identities is churning. Nothing is pure category anymore. It is corrosive of national boundaries with imagined communities playing a generative role in the formation of hybrid internal and international politics and the formation of new power group affiliations. In the threshold of Europe and amidst Asia, Turkey, Pakistan and China are on one plane. Iran yearns for proximity to this affiliation. Their effort to loop Russia in the axis has brought the emerging fault lines to the surface, where Russia supports the ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast’ and Turkey, on the other hand, backs Azerbaijan without recognizing Armenia. Turkey recently declared unconditional support to Muslim-majority Azerbaijan. Russia and Turkey are also in the opposite camp in the civil wars in Syria and Libya. Turkey tries to delimit the Russian influence in the region. Pakistan, along with Turkey, has not recognized Armenia to irk of France and Russia, while India recognizes Azerbaijan as well as Armenia. Since the conflict has involved The ‘Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’ (OSCE), the Minsk Group, France, Russia and the US to mediate for Armenian interest, the Chinese regional calculations are sure to receive setback in the larger frame of power block polarization. With intrinsic suspicion, pure origins frame cultural essences that are ‘de-essentialzing to invoke political conflicts on strong classificatory systems’.
The political projects of 19th and early 20th centuries manufactured legitimacy from disciplinary matrices for race formation through scientific racism with culturally assimilatory thrust of the nation states. It was racialzing the body and conceiving of groups having commonality of ‘phonotypical features’ and then creating hierarchy of races, where non white population would rest on the lowest rung of the ladder. Imagine when Canada claims to be multicultural country, where all cultures are at par, a rainbow cultural mosaic. Notionally, it is acceptable but in reality it is worse than US in its hierarchical markings. It is liberal in immigration, because its menial jobs suffer. The reason, above all, is that the fertility rate amongst the white is dismal and in reality white men and women hardly do the cleaning and sanitation, which are the lower job rungs. Therefore the record shows Canadian immigration policies as liberal and multicultural, where as its preferences in its social landscape are clear and obvious, stating from English Canadians and French Canadians, followed by western Europeans, and then eastern European and Chinese. Indians and Pakistanis are at the bottom of the ladder. US, despite its assimilation thrust through the melting pot thesis, lives in racial segregation with imagined community syndromes. No doubt, with the advent of the new century the social landscape from scientific racism has changed to new forms of inferioritization, discrimination and exclusion revolving around sexual differences and cultural codes of social class differences. There is no wonder that there has been a resurgence of racism which combines genealogy with culture taking forefront of religion and region affiliations. The leadership in the western countries no longer seems apologetic in such rhetoric. This is happening in the election campaigns now. A few years ago, Derek Beackon, elected as Councilor, openly argued for “racist mobilization to return Britain to British and cleanse the streets of “rubbish”- that is, the Asian communities”
The new racism in the west and US has come with the third wave of migration towards western countries. The Arab Spring has prompted the one-sided flow. In Asian countries it has been the uneven growth and uneven distribution that caused migration from villages to towns and from towns to the cities. Caste class nexus and communal divide in Indian political culture are few of the formations that are day by day increasing in leverage. Caste in its ritualism of purity and pollution must have withered away, but titles keep it live for social identity and access to political power. In Kashmir, we do not have castes but new caste system on the lines of rural-urban divide and linguistic differences are historically more ascribed to genealogical differentiations and more severe than the caste and class and religious divide. The formations of ethnic identities are played as racialization when it comes to share in power and resources. Srinagar’s downtown is supposed to be the referent culture in phonetic nuances and in physical features when gazing the gait of a person. It is heavily gender valued. It needs a huge cultural repertoire and individual maneuvering for rural girl, as a bride, to get adjusted in the city social milieu, for the boundary formation is invoked of ‘shaped origin, kith and kin and quasi linguistic worldviews. This was common in both Hindus and Muslims in yester-years. Now it is increasingly sharpening up; with rich people migrating from north to south on the peripheries of the city. The city no longer remains as a homogenous whole, but enclaves with the notional and world view enclaves of segregation. It undermines affluence material distinction and is overlaid with difference in phonetics and language discourse. The social and political history of Kashmir has a continuous trajectory on city oriented centric politics. The spilt emerged in insurgency leadership, which reveals the code of breeding of this mind set. North Kashmir, Kamraz, has saturated its urge to identify with the holistic agenda and has come for reconciliation with city-centric leadership. The south is late and therefore, competing on radical realm of religion, is violent. The non-city new rich and myriad others who had forged in long struggles for recognition, entitlements and cultural parities very often move in notional orbit of religious oneness, which on churning and political dynamics breaks to core skeleton of cultural differences. The city core politics, whether on surface or delinked from the prophecy, shall remain power deciding cradle in the primordial politics of Kashmir. Kashmir has a distinct cultural terrain with its discrete historical existence. As long as it interfaces with religious and imposed provisions on cultural acceptance, it will flourish or else it shall remain a cursed land. It has to evolve through its organic growth without ruptures. The post COVID-19 world has integrated micro-level process with macro-international politics. Nothing is hidden and left to rhetoric. What is needed is to have parity in power and resource-sharing, which is possible through regenerative politics and not through antagonistic postures against the state, or else we are prone to witness struggles between forms of micro-ethnicities on “ethnic absolutism” on the one hand and attempt to build border coalitions to context racialzed disadvantages through the religious lines, on the other hand. The choice is with the city-centric leadership to wheel round neo-rich classes of rural Kashmir, so that Kashmir politics could be reoriented.
Ashok Kaul is Professor, Department of Sociology, Banaras Hindu University,