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Revive Democracy in Beleaguered Nations

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Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is a regular contributor to Red Dirt Report
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Editor's note: This opinion piece originally appeared at Counterpunch.org.

EDMOND, Okla. -- Amidst that pandemonium of 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was the first state in the newly freed Indian subcontinent to have its own written constitutional plan. The constitution guaranteed enfranchisement of all adult citizens, men and women, and took particular care to protect the dignity and religious freedoms of minorities. The admirable egalitarian and democratic quality of their achievement was partially a result of the political dissidence and collective consciousness that grew in retaliation to oppressive monarchical institutions, which had curbed their freedom for generations. The people of Kashmir were able to bridge religious and class divides to further the nationalist consciousness of a society in the process of self-determining.

A people newly emancipated from the clutches of an oppressive and rigorous monarchy blossomed. In that euphoric atmosphere, no force seemed powerful enough to militate against the dream of a democratic and emancipated society.

The armed conflict and counter insurgency in Kashmir changed political combinations and permutations without either disrupting political, social and gender hierarchies, or benefiting marginalized groups. The social, economic, political and psychological brunt of the armed conflict and counter insurgency has been borne by the populace of Kashmir since 1989. The uncertainty created by several decades has pervaded the social fabric in insidious ways, creating a whole generation of disaffected and disillusioned youth.

With the arbitrary revocation of the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and its reduction to a union territory on August 5, 2019, lack of faith in the Indian polity has caused Kashmiris to cultivate an apathy to the electoral process, promised by Prime Minister Modi and his cohort. It is a given that persons best suited to carry out New Delhi’s agenda will be installed in positions of political import, regardless of public opinion.

With the detention of elected legislators, parliamentarians, and separatists, the earlier enthusiasm that accompanied electoral politics seems totally futile in the current political vacuum in the state.

Lack of accountability among the current J & K polity, Governor, and bureaucracy has caused a large number of people to toe the line by living with fundamental structural inequities and violence, instead of risking the ire of Prime Minister Modi and his totalitarian regime.

With the arbitrary arrest of grassroots workers of political organizations in the Valley, regional politics have been paralyzed and are in a moribund state. There seems to be an unbridgeable gulf between figures of authority like Home Minister Amit Shah, who claim that “the entire world had supported the move to abrogate the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir,” and the people of Kashmir, who have been deployed as pawns in the devious political game being played in our neck of the woods.

The glaring lack of civil liberties and closure of educational institutions in the Valley makes demoralization pervasive and underscores the redundancy of the educated segment of the population. The incarceration of several youths in Kashmir by Indian military and paramilitary forces is cruel, and has further alienated the disillusioned populace. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has legitimized the forces of masculinist nationalism and enabled virile hatred for the “other” to irreparably mutilate the fabric of Kashmir so systematically that the process of healing seems like a far cry as of now. Political opportunists and carpetbaggers have destroyed political autonomy and, in the aftermath, created institutional paralysis.

The political apathy, military high handedness, moral turpitude, and tattering of society in Kashmir is reflected in my conversations with family and friends. Most of those conversations are about a present blemished by the torrent of right-wing populism, lack of civil rights, and the nebulousness of an unforeseeable future.

Home Minister Amit Shah has been claiming with braggadocio that Jammu and Kashmir will become the most “developed region in the country” because of the revocation of its autonomous status. But, contrary to such tall claims, there will be no sustainable development until the institutional politics of governance is merged with the politics of mass mobilization to promote demilitarization and democracy.

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of TransnationalismIslam, Women, and Violence in KashmirThe Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She also writes regularly for Counterpunch and Red Dirt Report. Residing in Edmond, Oklahoma, Dr. Khan can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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Nyla Ali Khan

Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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