Ideological and Political Convictions in Politicians in Kashmir (or Lack Thereof)

Getting to know one’s ideology is a work in progress. Ironically, it was in the United States – a country that prides itself on the power of its military-industrial complex – that I cultivated the drive to study the South Asian politico-cultural matrix, particularly the intractable Kashmir conflict. My commitment to pedagogy and scholarship has been unflinching, and my faith in the critical focus that education can provide has been unrelenting. Whether people see eye-to-eye with my stated positions or question them, any one would be hard-pressed to deny that I have a firm political ideology and conviction. So, writing about the lack of ideological and political convictions in the current breed of mainstream politicians in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) didn’t require much research, because I have spent a lot of time and energy delving into the erosion of indigenous politics in the state in my earlier work. Writing on this theme enabled me to go back to my earlier work and realize that it was still relevant. I chose to build on my previous work for this article.

How capable are mainstream politicians in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) of bringing about much needed systemic and structural changes in conflict ridden, politically and socio-economically decrepit polities in South Asia, like J & K? Has the Government of India been assiduously working to engage young people in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) in the processes of democracy, to acquire skills and knowledge that would enable them to effectively participate in decision-making and political processes, to recognize the importance of standing up and being counted as well as the value of the vote? Is there a recognition of action civics in the higher echelons of power at the federal and state levels when it comes to facilitating the growth of political processes in Kashmir?

J & K is a conscripted space that has been inscribed upon several times, yet the previous texts have been imperfectly erased and, therefore, remain partially visible. A history of unfulfilled pledges, broken promises, political deception, military oppression, illegal political detentions, a scathing human rights record, sterile political alliances, mass exodus, and New Delhi’s malignant interference have created a gangrenous body politic, which hasn’t even started to heal. The various political, religious, and cultural discourses written on the politico-cultural surface of the state may have created alternative epistemologies but without an epicenter.

On the one hand, lavish sartorial and epicurean preparations are annually made for August 15th, the day India was declared independent, on the other hand, there is a legitimately disgruntled segment of the populace which really hasn’t experienced the trickle down effect of India’s burgeoning economy or flourishing democracy. I have been hoping, for a long time, that political actors of various hues in the state do not inter the victims of military and police brutality to the catacombs of history in their ardent desire to ingratiate themselves with the puppeteers in New Delhi and Islamabad who are adept at manipulating marionette regional representatives. August 14th and August 15th are entrenched in world history as the days the then dominions of India and Pakistan gained independence and routed the British colonial master, but in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) they remain days that reinforce the fragility of an ill-defined democracy.

As I’ve said at several forums, civil society and political institutions are closely interconnected. In order to create democracy, there must be a minimum of participation and adequate pluralism in a society. A consolidated democracy has to be open to diverse opinions; dissent and differences of opinion on policies is an important element of every democracy. This issue needs to be not addressed just in J & K but across South Asia as well.

As I’ve said elsewhere, the non-legislative reforms/ changes that we require are new efforts and new forums not just in J & K but in other parts of South Asia as well for the germination broad based coalition politics that transcends organizational divides, and give our citizenry the space and leeway to make important political decisions. Given the volatile situation in Kashmir, millennials or the Net Generation in the state are unable to employ effective strategies to successfully resolve issues that they are invested in; they lack access to their representatives/ legislators/ decision-makers in order to implement their recommendations; and they lack the space to reflect on their strategies, challenges, the processes of negotiation, dialogue, and accommodation required to reach some kind of fruition.

In the current situation, the local community is unable to exercise any clout and is unable to think constructively about structural change. Politics is an an abstract notion for the young people in our state, and not a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on.

Unfortunately, the Government of India and its appendages have insidiously inserted themselves into political structures and organizations in the state since 1953, which is the reason that mainstream politicians no longer feel the need to establish their credibility through ideology, conviction, perseverance, and working for the well-being of their electorate. Instead, they have become complacent and rule with carte blanche, which is why electoral politics has been stigmatized.

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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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