I had previously expressed my doubts regarding the presence or active role of intellectuals in Kashmir. I was countered by the statement that in conflict situations intellectuals are silenced. I agreed to an extent but my questions still remain. I present a few points for further consideration.
Mainstream parties plead for elections. Geelani opposes. Others declare it a non-issue. So what is going on? What should people do? Who will analyze and give an informed advice if not intellectuals? What else is the role of intellectuals if not concrete analyses, concrete answers in questions where one may find chaos or fail to choose rightly for want of understanding? I don’t propose any analysis on my part. I have attempted to learn from Socrates to ask questions. And today I ask them to intellectuals or who believe themselves to be intellectuals and were hurt when I complained about where they were. So I think the following interrelated questions and issues are relevant while approaching the key question.
Does democracy as conceived here work? Is there a substitute to it? What should we teach the new generation in curriculum? Is the party system indispensable? What about critiques of the existing model of democracy by the great thinkers, from Plato to those of today? What about other models proposed by thinkers for dealing with the evils of the current model that primarily stands tilted to favour the elite who buy votes through a costly campaign and are compelled to dance to the tunes of the corporates and the wealthy who provide election funds or remote control economy that sinks but resuscitates political players. Politicians are players tied with invisible strings to forces that control them from seemingly remote economic centres. Price rise sinks a government. So does financial crisis or bad relations with the big powers or ‘Centre’. Crashing stock markets change the fortunes of politicians overnight. It doesn’t need a Marx to bring home the point that politicians are pitiable creatures enjoying only small freedom for big decisions. They are constrained to play the game as per the rules, and the rules and rewards are not ultimately set by them.
Once we have addressed the question of democracy, we need to ask for a precise calculus capable of predicting in concrete terms the cost of one’s vote (or saying no to vote). Voting discredits our cause for self-determination according to one argument. No, goes the other argument, it is a short-term question of planning our governance and not of the ethics of getting co-opted into the so called ‘mainstream’ (that is, pro-India) of the relevance or irrelevance of the larger cause. Insights of political theorists need to be brought in to explain to people what means what.
The question is also regarding education or lack of trust in people of which the leaders complain. Why has trust eroded? Is it because people have been betrayed time and again that they no longer trust anyone or see value of trust as such? Have people betrayed leaders or is the opposite the case? I propose deep analysis of the question of erosion of trust and whether it can be restored. From Sheikh Sahib to Geelani Sahib, we have heard a complaint that people are not dependable – the same question of trustworthiness. They can be easily bought or silenced. The same accusation has been labelled by people against almost all leaders.
The question is also regarding linking voting, accession and the debate on sovereignty. India has argued that votes mean faith in India. Pro-India politicians have tried to make the point that votes don’t imply anything that can go against the larger cause of the political issue of Kashmir. People have their own convictions regarding India’s resilience to heed seriously to the argument that a boycott will speed up the train to Pakistan or Azad Kashmir or Freedom. Almost everyone feels powerless to act even dream. Vote or no vote becomes then a calculus of conceding advantage to one or the other party that might benefit from the boycott. So the simpletons may ask the intellectuals to explain the predicament and give suggestions of achieving a better future. I recall Allama Iqbal:
Ilahi, tere ye saada-dil banday kidhar jayen... Darveshi bi ayyari...
Let the intellectuals come up with some concrete analyses so that an agenda could follow. At least they could explain whether they don’t find anything worthwhile to pursue in a situation where the bigger players are already playing the Kashmir card for other interests and mean to sell uncertainty, chaos, cheap electoral or anti-electoral rhetoric, or why the whole debate is futile, how we are already sold one way or the other and have hardly any choice.
I wonder. Why not try alternative models of governance that bypass politicians and voting?