Haseeb Drabu, Jammu and Kashmir’s Finance Minister, is either out of touch with reality or he is putting a spin on an “objective reality” that obtains in Kashmir. Drabu, in an article written for the web portal, Live Mint (reproduced by Kashmir Observer) has essentially castigated the Indian intellectual class for “shutting out Kashmir” from its mental space. This, more than anything else, implies Drabu , has led to an impasse in Kashmir. Drabu also draws attention to structural changes in politics- local (the changes in India’s federal structure, regional articulation of identity and ideologization of India’s politics and nationalism) and global the diminution of state sovereignty) - that have not elicited treatment vis a vis Kashmir. Drabu calls attention to the negligence of the Indian intellectual in terms of Kashmir and cites examples where outsiders (foreigners) have done stupendous work in various domains pertaining to Kashmir and concludes that it is this intellectual class (or civil society) that can reclaim Kashmir.
Drabu’s elegiac and doleful lamentations are likely to fall on deaf ears given the stricture and context of Indian politics contemporarily but this is besides the point. The real question is: Is Drabu right in his analysis and assessment? No. He is not. A less flattering interpretation would be that Drabu is being disingenuous; a more charitable explanation would be that he is out of sync with the “reality” of the times we live. Consider the man’s take on sovereignty and territoriality - both allied concepts owing their genesis to the Treaty of Westphalia. Sovereignty and territoriality are to the nation state form what oxygen is to life. The nation state form - the ultimate aspiration of those who seek political and economic form - was alleged to have been on the wane. Structural and meta-historical forces like globalization were said to have weakened the nation state form and its allied concomitants: sovereignty and territoriality. It was held by some that we lived in what could be called as the “post national age”. While there was an element of exaggeration and wheedling about the demise of the nation state , sovereignty and territoriality, it cannot be gainsaid that these constructs, forms and concepts reified in the quotidian practices of states and peoples , existed in a somewhat attenuated form. More open economies, capital flows, people flows (immigration), labor flows and other forms of relaxation of controls held to be the prerogative of states were held to be indicators of the attenuation of sovereignty and territoriality. The European Union was held to be the apogee of the post national age. All this was largely attributed to globalization - except to some extent the EU. However, globalization began to beget problems and issues of a serious nature (explication of these issues is beyond the scope of this essay). In the advanced world where the current form, nature and content of globalization was pioneered , a reaction has set against globalization. This reaction – exemplified as a reaction against the elite- is best typified by Brexit , Donald Trump’s appeal in the United States and growing populist tendencies across the Western world. While globalization is not entirely dead, what is happening is “deglobalization”- whose essence is the revival and recrudescence of the nation state. The nation state, sovereignty and territoriality are back.
This is, insofar as Drabu’s take on global politics is concerned. Locally, his assertion about the “emergence of new political forces” is mendacious or ignorant. If the reference is to the forces of Hindutva, reified by far right forces in India, then Hindutva has a long pedigree going back to India’s colonial period and history. What is being done or has happened in India is the re-ideologization of India’s politics and culture according to a tradition that harks back to more than a century past. This, axiomatically, has implications for India’s federalism and regional identities. Hindutva seeks to construct a narrative of homogeneity that attempts to subsume India’s diversity into a monolithic super and sub structure, denying space to and articulation of “ sub national identities” and “ethnic identities”.
Locally, his assertion about the “emergence of new political forces” is mendacious or ignorant. If the reference is to the forces of Hindutva, reified by far right forces in India, then Hindutva has a long pedigree going back to India’s colonial period and history. What is being done or has happened in India is the re-ideologization of India’s politics and culture according to a tradition that harks back to more than a century past. This, axiomatically, has implications for India’s federalism and regional identities. Hindutva seeks to construct a narrative of homogeneity that attempts to subsume India’s diversity into a monolithic super and sub structure, denying space to and articulation of “ sub national identities” and “ethnic identities”.
Last is the role of the Indian intellectual. Drabu’s castigation and indictment of the Indian intellectual class and its failing vis a vis Kashmir- are rich. Immersion into and understanding the subaltern, the ethnic, the esoteric or the exotic is a Western preserve. Non Western cultures – being self absorbed cultures for various reasons- are more interested in the parochial and the prosaic. This parochialism is laden with consequentualism: the non Western intellectual either looks inward or lashes against the “Other”- either past colonial masters or those held to be “Others”. This is true for the Indian intellectual as it is for others belonging to the post colonial genre in non Western context. Drabu then here is , to borrow a Nietzschean phrase and invert it, is “ peering into the abyss”.
All in all, then Drabu’s elegy is a vain exercise whose postulates stem from the pedestal of elitist intellectualism and rationality. Kashmir, around which Drabu builds his essay, is characterized by the forces of “irration” and emotion. It is on these domains that the issue needs to be confronted and resolved. All other approaches are unfortunately doomed.
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