The ideology that has been propounded by the governments of India and Pakistan reflects and produces the interests of state-sponsored agencies and institutions on both sides of the Line of Control. These establishments have couched the debased discourse of exploitation in the language of culture and religion. The phenomenon has led to a relegation of the subjectivity, historical understanding, and traditions of the subjugated Kashmiri populace. As the eminent Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said notes, “AII human activity depends on controlling a radically unstable reality to which words approximate only by will or convention (ref. Culture and Imperialism, pp 29)”. The representatives of the privileged centre of the discourse of power silenced the voices that were on the fringes of society. A configuration of the colossal power glorified the dominance of these privileged centres of power. In order to achieve this outcome, the dominant order created structures that catered to its unquestioned authority. These privileged centres of power have always constrained reality by imposing their ideological schemes on it, which underpinned their powerful “positionality”. Their ability to conjure images and restretch boundaries that served their set of beliefs, has rendered them a force to reckon with. These ideas were expounded by the powers to attribute to the subjugated Kashmiris an inferior intellect, a lineage, and a mystique that allowed the dominant regime to manipulate them. Show them as a stereotypical and predictable entity. The rebelliousness of the Kashmiri subject was to be contained by a recognition of his nature which was said to be structured by contradictions: savagery and obedience, cunning and innocence, mysticism and manipulation. This portrayal of the Kashmiri subject was foregrounded by an imperial agent of the British Raj in Kashmir, Sir Walter Lawrence, Settlement Commissioner of J & K, in his The Vale of Kashmir, published in 1895. That stereotype has been reinforced by the policies of the governments of India and Pakistan vis-à-vis Kashmir, which is why the authority of our democratically elected representatives has always been curbed by the central government.
For instance, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah reigned as the Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir from 1948 to 1953. When the pledge to hold a referendum was not kept by the Indian government, Abdullaha’s advocacy of independence for Kashmir led to his imprisonment. He was shuttled from one jail to the other until 1972 and remained out of power until 1975. During the period of his incarceration, Congress Party-led governments in New Delhi made their covert arrangements with the puppet regimes installed by them. For over three decades, in return for their endorsement of an accession of Kashmir, these selected politicians received the most generous grants-in-aid, disbursed by the Indian centre to any state (ref. Mridu Rai, 2004: pp 289).
In its initial years, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullaha’s National Conference enabled the emergence of a well-educated, politically aware generation of Kashmiris. But in the 1970s and the 1980s, Indira Gandhi’s Congress regime characterized every demand for local empowerment as potentially insurgent, discouraging the growth of a progressive generation of Kashmiris. The strategy deployed by Indira Gandhi’s Congress regime, which has been reinforced by successive regimes, needs to be countered by engendering the possibility of political and social activity that can produce change, instead of pleading at defunct fora that are concerned with invalidating opposition and dissent. In order to firmly entrench its hegemony, New Delhi has always found it easy to exonerate its political bigwigs who have been guilty of orchestrating mass exoduses, genocides, and the state-sponsored denigration of an ethnic or religious minority, but has not adequately addressed the needs and interests of a larger number of groups.
(Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is Assistant Professor at Department of English, University of Nebraska, Kearney)