Retrospective Consent And Elections In Kashmir

The idea of 'Retrospective Consent' was brought to light by Franklin Giddings, a renowned sociologist, in his bloated yet unignorable thesis Democracy and Empires. The book is a comprehensive and loathsome thesis justifying the existence and necessity of 19th century North American and Western European empires. 

I first stumbled upon this fascinating idea while going through Edward Said's Culture & Imperialism. The essence of this idea is that the subject people (For Giddings, Indigenous people of the colonies) be first subjugated and then assumed to have consented to their enslavement, sometime in the past. This derogatory principle was an essential tool employed by imperial powers to ensue their reign of exploitation. 

The 'fictional consent' of native populations has always been used by foreign occupiers to legitimize their rule and undermine the resistance of the natives. Indian control of Kashmir is no exception. In Kashmir, retrospective consent is periodically given a new breath under the disguise of elections. The retrospective consent has two basic elements-Subjugation and then Legitimization.

It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to determine the level of subjugation that Kashmir has been facing under Indian controll, be it political, economic or military. Kashmir, the hot-bed of Central-Asian and sub-continental trade, has now been economically isolated from anything other than what comes through 'India'. The people have intentionally been made dependent on the institutions, regulated and maintained by Indian state, for their economic survival.

Agriculture sector has also faced a significant setback during the past decades. The increasing or let's say artificially increased unemployment rate is directly propotional to the percentage of votes being cast in the elections. A classic example of retrospective consent in action.

In political realm, subjugation is carried out by infinite means. Enactment of draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, disregard of basic human rights, even right to life, creates a paranoia within the populace. This usually works in absolute favor of people contesting elections. The contestants, disguised as saviors,

successfully deceive vulnerable natives in believing that they have an absolute authority over actions of state when they themselves are mere sentinels of the state. Another addition to voting-percentage. 

Militarily, the subjugation is more than evident. More than half a million SLRs, M-16s and AK-47s roam in Kashmir with absolute impunity granted to them by Indian state. The nozzles are sometimes directly employed to forcibly escort Kashmiris to polling booths. Highly productive for voting-percentages.

Subjugation successful, now come to Legitimization part. Legitimization is relatively easy because it's only an act of exhibition. 'Successful elections', flaunting of 'polling percentages' and 'elected government' fulfills this purpose and whenever the native population resists, which mostly happens in immediate future, the

retrospective consent (elections) is thrown at their faces and at the faces of handful of conscientious objectors. The fact that the whole process of elections was first accomplished by creating this morass of political, economic and military subjugation is largely ignored.

This cycle has been continuing untamed since Indian state buried its teeth in Kashmir and is bound to continue unless the so called 'elected representatives' or in other words collaborators dissolve into thin air. To use this instrument of retrospective consent and devoid Kashmiris of their political rights is akin to colonialism or, in words of Dibyesh Anand*, is sort of an informal post-colonial imperialism.

*See Professor Anand's paper -China and India: Postcolonial Informal Empires in the Emerging Global Order at

Umar Lateef Misgar –is  undergrad student of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University

Note: The views expressed are authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of Kashmir Observer

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