One narrative trotted out by the state and powers that be about the states legitimacy in and over Kashmir is elections. That is, given that elections are held routinely in Kashmir, Indias claim and sovereign writ over Kashmir- the center of gravity of the state of Jammu and Kashmir- is legitimized. The implicit as well as explicit sub text is that these elections are free and fair and that there is no genuine counter narrative to this. IF this is true and correct, then Yasin Maliks- the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Fronts chairman- continued imprisonment gives short shrift to this narrative. (Malik has been in detention for many days now. He was released recently only to be imprisoned again). It needs to be stated here that Malik has been the most vocal opponent and trenchant critic of the BJP-PDP coalition and there appears to be a link between this and elections slated to be held in Anantnag constituency on the 22nd of this month. Given past pattern, Malik would venture into Anantnag and put forth his narrative or the ideology that he stands for. The state, led by the BJP-PDP coalition, in order to pre-empt this has shut him out from both public consciousness and stymied his stance and narrative.
Two and two, given the centrality of elections to the states narrative do not add upto four here.
If the state is confident about its narrative, then it should allow counter points and counter narratives; it should not take recourse to blanket bans and/or incarcerations to silence its opponents. The inference that can be drawn from Maliks continued incarceration is that the state fears his opposition and instead of engaging with the idea(s) and ideology that Malik represents and symbolizes, the state wants to stifle and smother it. But, both historically and contemporarily, smothering movements and ideas has always been counterproductive. Consider the case of Malik. The separatist leaders truculence and resistance to the states narrative, has not dimmed with the passage of time. He and his part may be weak in structural terms but the sentiment that he represents, -that of separatism- remains the dominant sentiment and narrative in Kashmir. Can the state smother this sentiment by dint of state power by shutting out people like Malik?
No is the answer. The name of the game is ideational. It is in the domain of ideas that any battle must be fought. Moreover, it is irony that the PDP trotted out the battle of ideas as its main and central axis around which the party forged a coalition with the BJP and formed the government. But, what Maliks continued imprisonment suggests is that the state has either back tracked from this commitment or essentially it was in the nature of an eye wash or mere rhetoric. Moreover, the states or the PDPs alleged commitment to a dialogue with all stakeholders now seems to be another canard trotted out to befool the people.
Either way, whether the commitment was merely rhetorical or the PDP has back tracked, it does not bode well for Kashmir. The Kashmir division of the state is in transition at many levels. The state either seems oblivious to this or like the proverbial, Ostrichs head in the sand, whereby the powers that be are ignoring a reality that stares them in the face. How long can this be sustained is an open question with the future of Kashmir hanging in balance?
Malik, if he were free, would have thrown the gauntlet at the state. If the state and powers that be were really earnest about their narratives then, Malik would have been allowed to air and articulate his views- even if they be oppositional. But , alas, the state by imprisoning the separatist leader has merely demonstrated its fear and paucity and bankruptcy if both its ideas and stance by shutting Malik out. This is a travesty which has both long term and short term implications. The state of Jammu and Kashmir- especially the Kashmir division of the state- will continue to be defined by a condition where the state sits atop a society that is estranged from it and the state merely is tied to this estranged society in functional and instrumental terms. Maliks incarceration merely illustrates this point.
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