John Dalberg-Acton has said Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Add to this the word Kashmir and the quotation changes to, In Kashmir, power and authority not only corrupt but also makes one think of themselves as Gods.
In Kashmir, the great leaders, especially those in power, mostly maintain a master-slave relationship with the general masses and their sub-ordinates as well. Though I am fully aware that nothing can be generalised but my experiences have taught me that this is mostly what happens. In our Valley, an authority figure, like the Chief Minister, Ministers, MLAs, a Judge of the Court, a bureaucrat etc consider themselves as kings, having divine right to rule, to feel immortal, to ridicule opinions and ideas and sometimes in order to boost their ego,to even dishonour others.
Though the people of the subcontinent have liberated themselves from the colonial rule and Kashmir too has come a long way from autocracy and slavery, the colonial practices, autocratic mind set and master-slave behaviour continues to prevail. This is easily reflected in our government policies and bureaucracy. Letters addressed to the officers need to start with I beg to say or other similar phrases if one wants them to be considered. Subordinates cannot sit with their bosses, discuss their ideas with liberty or express their opinions frankly. They have literally been reduced to the status of untouchables or slaves and are sometimes even ordered to do such things for which they are not employed. Common people are only to be ruled, ridiculed, dragged out of the offices and to be yelled at. They are like the puppets in the courts which make the rulers feel like kings.
We all know about the VIP mindset, VIP culture and the VIP protocol in our society which has made the lives of the common people miserable. A VIP driving a vehicle means a red light for the public. How many times is the traffic halted completely just because a VIPs convoy of vehicles has to pass? If they are really among the common people (as they claim to be), why then do they get a special treatment at the cost of a common mans convenience? Why we are still held slaves by the same colonial mindset that we fought to overthrow years ago? One of the reasons for this might be our collective low self-esteem. It seems like we went from abject humility to outright arrogance without the usual interval of healthy self?esteem. The colonial and autocratic collective mindset that we have inherited from our ancestors has deeply corrupted our minds. Most bureaucrats are no better than Colonial British in their behavior. Their body language, tone of voice, actions and their whole persona reflects only arrogance and abnormal pride. Why is it that the bureaucrats in Kashmir think that they own the chair that the common people enabled them to sit on? What makes these officers think that they are immortal, that they will forever hold these offices? What makes them not understand that they too will be blown away, one day, by the winds of time? What makes them forget that they will one day be buried in the same earth that they so callously trample over?
You may have heard about Firoun (Pharoah), the ancient ruler of Egypt, who claimed himself to be a god (Nauzubillah: I seek refuge in Allah). As a child, whenever I heard the tale, I would wonder why would a mortal being claim to be a god or even want to be one. The answer can be found here, in Kashmir. The grandiosity of Pharoah can very easily be empathised (ironically though) if not appreciated here. When a mere officer with limited powers behaves like a king or a queen, why couldnt Pharoah, an extremely powerful king have considered himself to be an immortal God?
Human psyche is funny. We live in illusions. When we are in good health, alive and thriving, most of us forget death, even though it is imminent. It is because when going gets fine, we tend to forget about our mortality, about our proneness to ill-health and dangers and about the transitory nature of this world. When Pharoah was a king, he thought that he would never die, that he was an immortal and confused himself with god. Similarly the powerful people across the world, the bureaucrats and the elite in Kashmir, feel the same way. They too feel like they will never see downfall or ever have to answer to a divine will.
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