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Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration

The question relevant to my purposes here is that is the “executive order,” not “bill” permitting the issuance of Dogra certificates to the Dogras, Hindu and Muslim, of Jammu province along the lines of Sir Owen Dixon’s proposition of the trifurcation of the State along religious and communal lines? This issue surfaced in 2011 and has led to further exacerbation of regional divides in Jammu and Kashmir, restricting the slogan of “self-determination” to the Kashmir Valley. Why is this vestige of British colonialism still given legitimacy? The Dogra Certificate was initiated by the British colonial government to facilitate the recruitment of the Dogra royals into the armed forces? Who does it apply to now that Indian royals have been incorporated into the citizenry? Why do the young people of Jammu require certificates proclaiming their allegiance to one particular province of J & K and one ethnicity in order to be eligible for recruitment into the Indian Central Reserve Forces? Now that the concerned Tehsildar has the power, vested in him by the State, to issue such certificates to “to eligible desirous persons irrespective of his/ her ethnicity, religion, cultural background and mother-tongue,” is the pluralistic and diverse population of J & K going to go through systemic homogenization or systemic divisions?

I quickly attempt to connect Sir Own Dixon’s proposition of the trifurcation of J & K with the controversial Dogra certificates. In the interests of expediency, the UNCIP appointed a single mediator, Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations representative for India and Pakistan, Australian jurist and wartime ambassador to the United States, to efficiently resolve the Kashmir conflict. Dixon noted, in 1950, that the Kashmir issue was so tumultuous because Kashmir was not a holistic geographic, economic, or demographic entity, but, on the contrary, an aggregate of diverse territories brought under the rule of one maharaja. In a further attempt to resolve the conflict, Sir Owen Dixon propounded the trifurcation of the state along communal or regional lines, or facilitating the secession of parts of the Jhelum Valley to Pakistan.

Despite the bombastic statements and blustering of the governments of both India and Pakistan, however, the Indian government has all along perceived the inclusion of Pakistani-administered J & K and the Northern Areas into India as unfeasible. Likewise, the government of Pakistan has all along either implicitly or explicitly acknowledged the impracticality of including the predominantly Buddhist Ladakh and predominantly Hindu Jammu as part of Pakistan. The coveted area that continues to generate irreconcilable differences between the two governments is the Valley of Kashmir. Dixon lamented:

“None of these suggestions commended themselves to the Prime Minister of India. In the end, I became convinced that India’s agreement would never be obtained to demilitarization in any such form, or to provisions governing the period of the plebiscite of any such character, as would in my opinion permit the plebiscite being conducted in conditions sufficiently guarding against intimidation and other forms of influence and abuse by which the freedom and fairness of the plebiscite might be imperiled.” (The Statesman, 15 September 1950).

Sir Owen Dixon nonetheless remained determined to formulate a viable solution to the Kashmir issue and suggested that a plebiscite be held only in the Kashmir Valley subsequent to its demilitarization, which would be conducted by an administrative body of UN officials. This proposal was rejected by Pakistan, which, however, reluctantly agreed to Sir Dixon’s further suggestion that the prime ministers of the two countries meet with him to discuss the viability of various solutions to the Kashmir dispute. But India decried this suggestion. A defeated man, Sir Dixon finally left the Indian subcontinent on 23 August 1950. There seemed to be an inexplicable reluctance on both sides, India and Pakistan, to solve the Kashmir dispute diplomatically and amicably. Sir Dixon’s concluding recommendation was a bilateral resolution of the dispute with India and Pakistan as the responsible parties, without taking into account the ability of the Kashmiri people to determine their own political future. Is this the anachronistic policy being toed by the governments of India and Pakistan in 2011?

Unlike the generation of Kashmiris that grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, the innocence of the generation that grew up in the 1990s and 2000s in J & K was cruelly ripped by the forces of armed insurgency and counter insurgency; the romanticized image of Kashmir fails to hold a lasting appeal for these children of an internecine war; the sense of peace and security historically provided by a democratically elected government has eluded these denizens of a paranoid State; the machinations of electoral politics, including the issuance of Dogra certificates, have vitiated the sociopolitical fabric; this post-lapsarian generation has never known the allure of a political edifice built on a well-defined ideology; it has been bereft of a nationalist and political discourse within which it could blossom; its scarred psyche is yet to be healed. In a democratic set-up, however flawed it might be, the will and aspirations of the electorate are ignored by politicians at their own peril. The youth in J & K clamors for democratic rights, efficient governance, a stable infrastructure, a much less fractious polity, which the coalition government is yet to provide.

I would posit that for the masses of J & K, not the handful of missionary-school educated, English speaking professionals, the coalition government lacks a representative character and richness of appeal. The electoral principal is discussion, not autocratic decisions. Once the successors of popular leaders, who established their credibility through ideology, conviction, perseverance, and working for the well-being of their electorate, become complacent and rule with carte blanche, electoral politics become defiled. The prominent cult of personality and deification of leaders in mainstream political organizations in South Asia thwarts the rise of new leaders from the ranks, thereby increasing the dependence of the party cadre on a “dynasty.” Much to the chagrin of those of us who have idealistic notions of democracy, in addition to the killings and maiming of non-partisan civilians, the non-elite cadres of the National Conference, the Congress, and the People’s Democratic Party are still unprotected and vulnerable.

The political bigwigs in J & K have not been able to create either conceptual frameworks or political and sociocultural discourses in which the young people of today would be energized and persuaded to actively participate. The current regime has been unable to revive, let alone reinvigorate, civil society institutions that could initiate uncoerced collective action around shared interests, values, and purposes. For those of us who have learned to respect the strident potency of the voice of the people, the unequivocal and pitiful assumption of mainstream politicians in J & K that power unilaterally flows from New Delhi reeks of a reprehensibly unrepresentative character. I underscore that Kashmir today is split into two nations, the plutocracy and the plebeians, with a lackadaisical middleclass between the two, which lack ideological unifiers across class and other social divides, and icons of national unity in the face of political and military oppression.

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Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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