Kashmir: Hegemonic Discourse And Azadi

kashmir azadi

Seventy-one years on we have become so used to the ‘hegemonic discourses’ that once a new one is churned out; people laugh it out.  Many an important political scientist like Antonio Gramsci have dwelled upon the subject ‘hegemonic discourse’ in great detail and come up with scholarly treatises on the subject. Instead of getting lost in the academic jargons in simpler terms it means the ‘dominantpowers’; ‘who have come to be or remain in this position, by shutting others up, by manipulating them, or by doing something else reprehensible’  conjuring  up ‘counter-narrratives ’ for silencing the voices of dissent, popular political struggles  and  perpetuating their rule.’

The past week, in two days fourteen sons of the soil fell tothe live ammunition fired by men in olive green and Khakis. Much before the darkest clouds of mourning would ephemerally vanish from the scene; two dominant discourses were set into motion by the powers that be in the state. One by the Chief Executive, Mehbooba Mufti.  New Delhi’s woman Friday in the State and another by Mr. Rawat four-star general heading 1.4 million strong Indian army ranking 4 (out of 136) out of the countries currently considered for the annual GFP review.

One discourse spoke of the olive tree,and another revolved around cannons and mortars.  Let us briefly recap the two discourses:

*On Wednesday, Chief Minister claimed that the unanimous decision of the all parties (in the legislature) meeting to call upon the Government of India to consider ceasefire during the month of Ramadan in Kashmir. Furthermore, efforts must be made to maintain environment so that both Eid and Amarnath Yatra are peaceful. Her alliance partner BJP to quote Tassaduq Hussain Mufti ‘partners in crime’ not all distanced itself from having beenparty to any such decision subtly denounced it as ‘anti-national.’

*The Army Chief in a long interview said to a New Delhi based newspaper, “I want to tell Kashmiri youth that Azadi isn’t possible. It won’t happen. Don’t get carried away unnecessarily. Why are you picking up weapons? We will always fight those who seek Azadi, those who want to secede. (Azadi) is not going to happen, never”. (Indian Express May 10, 2018)

Before, looking into these recently floated discourses by the powers that be in their contemporary context it is important to know to whom these discourses pertain to and what their genesis is.

The discourses triggered immediately after the two days killing which are not only dovetailed but are also symbiotic to each other in as much as for fortifying the hegemonic discourse concern to 18.3 million (some put the number as 20.00 million) population of the Jammu and Kashmir. When India and Pakistan were born as Independent dominions, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was not part of either of the two countries.  On the lapse of the British Paramountcy, the Jammu and Kashmir amongst  560 and odd princely states comprising at least one-third of sub-continental British Empire,  earned unique distinction of becoming an independent and sovereign country.It survived as such till October 27, 1947, when Indian troops landed in the state. New Delhi had justified its action by stating Maharaja Hari Singh had consented to it.

There is a big question mark if the Maharaja could have given such consent or not.  A couple of native and international historians have disputed the fact and the date of the ‘document.’Furthermore,   history also testifies that he had lost his legitimacy of deciding anything that would be in contravention to the wishes of the people of the State. In words of historian Alastair Lamb, “Where a Prince and his people shared the same religion, there was in theory at least, a sporting chance that given a helping hand by the British, such a State might survive as independent sovereignty. Where this communal harmony did not exist, a Prince would of necessity have to give away to wishes of his majority population, which in Indian practice would inevitably mean the termination of the rule of his dynasty.’ In case of Maharaja Hari Singh, it was not only that he did not share the same religion as 78 percent population of the state,butthe legitimacy of his rule had been challenged,and people of the state had been up in arms against him since 1931. Moreover, at the time of his ‘supposed consent,’ there was an armed rebellion against his regime in Poonch.  About sixty thousand  World War-II veterans that the Dogra ruler had disarmed had risen and launched an armed struggle for ending his rule.  The rebellion had caused unrest in deep inside the tribal areas- there were filial bonds between poonchies and tribal. None but the Maharaja and his Prime Minister Mehr Chand Mahajan had engineered ethnic cleansing in Jammu. Nonetheless, on 19 July 1947, about one and a half month after the announcement of the partition plan,  the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, in its General Council meeting had adopted a resolution supporting the accession of the State with Pakistan- with the state enjoying complete internal autonomy.Representatives from all over the State attended the General Council meeting of the party.

Notwithstanding, Nehru’s all Machiavellian designs since early 1946 for annexing Jammu and Kashmir, he knew that the purported document of consent would not stand the international scrutiny. That is why, the first Governor General of India, accepting the consent (“instrument of accession”)wrote to Hari Singh, “It is my governments wish as soon as law and order havebeenrestored the question of accession should be settled by a reference to the people.” This line in itself puts a question mark on Hari Singh right to have given such consent. It did not end there, four days after Indian Army landed in State, the Governor General of India visited Lahore for meeting with Governor General of Pakistan and proposed about deciding future of Jammu and Kashmir through a plebiscite held under the United Nations supervision.  Through a Radio broadcast on November 2, 1947, Nehru virtually sought approval from his nation for granting the right to self-determination to people of the state. Then, took the matter to UN Security Council. The UN resolution bound the two countries for granting of the right to self-determination. Through its 1957 resolution, UNSC sealed all option other granting of the right to self-determination as the resolution of Kashmir. And over a period of time the word “Azadi has become a one-word substitution for the entire exercise of the right to self-determination.

It is primarily this narrative authored by New Delhi that people of Jammu and Kashmir have been articulating. Moreover, it does not matter how this narrative was manifest or which leader articulated it what time- whether he compromised or lived for till last,  its real strength lies in its acceptability by general masses- it is the masses that have steered it through high tides of oppression.

Historically, it was neither, Ho Chi Minh and   Fidel Castro who defeated USA super-power nor Ahmed Ben Bella who made France quit his soil lock, stock, and barrel,but it was the triumph of the narratives of their nations that made most powerful countries to quit.

Columnist and Writer


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