How absolutism is killing trust of people in Kashmir

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Kamran Ashraf Bhat

t has been almost four years that Jammu and Kashmir is under the Lieutenant Governor’s rule and the whole system is run by the bureaucratic establishment, therefore mass public representation is at the 3rd tier level and the state assembly is not functional leaving a major vacuum in a democratic system. What is most important here is that the vacuum has not only damaged democratic values but also lead to a trust deficit between the public and institutions of the state.

I am not going to comment on or discuss any political controversies rather my contention is about ‘system collapse’ in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Some of us will not buy this argument that a system that has been prevailing for almost 70 years in Jammu and Kashmir will suddenly fall apart with so much resistance in different sectors of state establishment. It’s correct, by the collapse of the system I want to argue that if a system is not providing a space for public participation on a general level where they are solemnly given authority to choose their executive authority the subordination of that foundation will never be able to survive the legitimacy.

I will discuss the current setup in Jammu and Kashmir and analyse its stability following with my independent opinion. The main discussion will be about the idea of absolutism and its impact, how it is condemning democracy which ultimately becomes a source of disintegration within the dimensions of the ‘Republic’. Moreover, I will examine the reasons which are used as arguments to make Democracy irrelevant. It will be purely a critical research discourse without any partisan commentary.

The One-Man Show

The current Lieutenant Governor administration backed by the union government is enjoying absolute authority in Jammu and Kashmir and does whatever he wants with his interpretation of the law. One of the disturbing things about the administration is how quickly it changed the systematic outlook of governance in Jammu and Kashmir. It went from democratic influence with its legislative Assembly and elected members of the cabinet to one unelected executive power with absolute power and influence. Most of us had thought that the Republic of India has now left bitter memories of the past and is progressing towards a new age of democracy. And the democratic values weak or strong in Jammu and Kashmir are strong to be easily dismantled. In many modern democracies, we can see evidence of indifference and pervasive feelings of helplessness. There is low voter turnout and an assumption that things will be the way they are no matter what an individual does.

But now the situation and way beyond our expectations, and we can see indifference and pervasive feelings of helplessness among people. Those who are defending any autocratic set-up or any imposed system come around with the argument of voter turnout in local body elections as the will of people and trust in the prevailing system. We have failed to understand this phenomenon of local village-oriented politics and their urgencies for daily-based needs. Any participation in such exercises will never be called majoritarian democracy because still the shows are run from the hierarchy of L.G, Chief secretary to Deputy Commissioners along with security establishments.

The local political class is being presented as a fool, stupid, fraudulent, and incompetent and consider themselves as saviours who elevate people from darkness. People are being indoctrinated with media and motivated by political trials that the former political class was a representation of the bourgeois. When Satya Pal Malik was governor of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, every day he used to target political parties in Kashmir calling them corrupt and looters. At a public meeting in 2019, Satya Pal Malik said that terrorists should “kill corrupt politicians who have looted the entire wealth” of the state” rather than innocent people and security personnel.

“These boys who have picked up guns are killing their people, they are killing PSOS (personal security officer) and SPOS (special police officers). Why are you killing them? Kill those who have looted the wealth of Kashmir. Have you killed any of them?” Satya Pal Malik said at an event in Kargil.

The Governor of state who has ultimate executive power at his disposal can make such statements, who was stopping him to investigate these political parties and putting them behind bars? It was just as Satya Pal was leading a political campaign for elections. There is a hidden pattern in such political statements which are motivated and consciously issued as a process of legitimating their administration and demonizing the local political class.

Such stunts are part of attempts to isolate people who already feel isolated from political parties. When people in any state of republic feel disconnected from the system around them and the political representatives it has, when you are mad to believe that neither your vote nor opinion matter and any struggle to change it is futile, then it is not too far for citizens to feel that their very self is unimportant and helpless. This is the feeling which is been indoctrinated by a system influenced by absolutism which manipulates with a random terror and ultimately damages the network of the democratic system. The absolutism in Kashmir now demands an unalterable locality of a citizen without any dis-course or accountability- such loyalty can only be expected from the people who have been forced to feel isolated. Absolutism is always struggling to perpetuate its relevance and existence; the fear is built that anyone going against an imposed system will be dealt with serious consequences. The fear of consequences is what keeps a singular system, which doesn’t come under public security, alive.