Sunday, 17 August 2014

Revisiting Drabu-Bazaz debate

Apropos of Hasseb Drabu-Abir Bazaz debate on sovereignty, a few points need to be made in this regard. I first need to clarify why this debate is so important for all of us as Kashmiris. This is the debate about legitimacy of mainstream politics that takes more or less implicitly or explicitly re-integrationist view that states that our fate is sealed with India, that we must renounce the love for Houri called Freedom, that we own India and that alone will ensure our development.  However, more sophisticated versions would put it this way: given a globalized world and gradual irrelevance of concept of sovereignty in post-nation state discourse such notions as freedom that requires more defined notion of sovereignty need to be given up and we learn the language of merger or some kind of federalism. What is ordinarily presumed by disgruntled youth chanting slogans of azadi is idealistic or utopian notion of freedom or sovereignty that are now passee.
We also need to note that this debate is between an acknowledged professional economists and one of our best minds or intellectuals who is better informed about more philosophical issues at stake in the debate on sovereignty.   As the debate is on a philosophical conceptual issue, I think one needs the language of theory to clarify the issues. If Kashmir issue was expressible or solvable in purely economic terms though I personally grant that it is its subtext and of far more importance than has been recognized till now, Drabu would warrant our attention more than Abir. As Kashmir issue is also one of sentiments – there is a sentiment for Pakistan, a sentiment against India if not for Pakistan, a sentiment for freedom from historical occupation, a sentiment against dozens of betrayals and wrongs committed against Kashmiris from the alleged forging of questionable accession document, suppressing  pro-Pak faction of Kashmiri leadership, arresting Sheikh Abdullah, giving BakhshiGhulam Mohammad free hand for wholesale corruption and in fact using corruption as a strategy to occupy till date etc  –  all this means economism is no panacea to our ills.
And the question of Kashmiri aspirations, of political issue, of sovereignty is vital. Mainstream politics evades the question. Those who ask for freedom may be charged of selling dreams or idealism but those who want to speak on  behalf of Kashmiris, who have all the reasons in the world for feeling let down or betrayed or alienated, must recognize difficult questions need to be faced and answers are not simple.
Let us draw boundaries that seem to be blurred in technical abstractions of theory that Drabu brings forth. Drabu is an apologist for integrationist thesis (that Kashmir needs to be with India with all its soul, body and mind) that is official PDP (and NC) position despite what slogans of self-rule and autonomy would imply. Although original position of Sheikh Abdullah was some restricted sense of sovereignty for Kashmir, even he had to yield to the idea that involved its gradual liquidation.  Now follow a few questions that I think need to be taken into consideration while taking a particular position.
Kashmiris have made a fateful decision not to integrate with India, millennia before in cultural sphere at least.  Kashmiris have produced separate philosophical school whose uniqueness can’t be explained away or appropriated too easily in broader conceptual schemes of either orthodox Vedic or other heterodox systems of Indian philosophy. Kashmiris rewrote for themselves traditional canons as Ramayana and Gita. They have their uniquely stamped mythical genealogy, folk tales, cosmology, ontology, psychology and pneumatology.
Their elaborate rituals and festivals connected mostly with religious observances distinguish them from non-Kashmiri mainstream. They came up with a robust world and desire affirming worldview that challenges exploitative casteistic-Brahaminism and some of  its ritualistic scaffolding. In fact Kashmiris developed unique philosophical schools even in Buddhist period not to speak of Saivist period.
Of the cultural products like philosophical and religious aesthetic, we have been more autonomous than would ordinarily be imagined and have been better exporters than importers of a host of cultural products. Kashmiris have been distinguished in terms of nurturing history writing. For them temporality and thus history has been a vital question.  It would imply historical memory is not an irrelevant datum for them. What an irony that they alone should still be grappling with the questions of history and memory.
We need to consider an argument that has hardly been noted against integration that Sheikh Abdullah put forth through rejection of feudalism and historical and unique land reforms that alarmed both feudal and capitalist elements in India and probably questioned the idea of India that was getting consolidated despite socialistically oriented J L Nehru,which ultimately led to his arrest. Kashmir has given unique demonstration of communal harmony. Even Gandhi recognized this uniqueness.
Anderson’s idea of imagined communities may here be invoked to press the point that as Kashmiris we don’t oppose India as such but the corrupt idea of nation state that forcefully hooks people in service of imaginary boundaries that only facilitate particular class interests. Kashmiris don’t want another nation state. They only want right to self-determine their future. I would vote for a Kashmir that stands as moral-spiritual space, a laboratory of inter religious and cross cultural dialogue, an idea that takes Sacred seriously in a secularized world.
A related argument against integrationist thesis is Kashmiri aesthetics that operates on principles that are perceived as rather dangerous by non-Kashmiri India philosophical  systems. Abhinavgupta and Kashmir Saivism have been marginalized in Indian philosophy departments despite the fact that India has no figure comparable to Abhinavagupta to project as its key aesthetician.
There are many more arguments against integrationist apology, would follow in future columns and suffice to conclude here on the note that one can invent arguments for anything, even the worst tyranny or absurdity but the arguments that convince, that can bring catharsis, that can heal evergreen wounds, that can erase memories of humiliation, pain and death are not there. Truth and Justice  can heal. Can we tell the truth about ourselves? Who can answer the question: Where is Justice for Kashmiris, for the wounded lion, for martyrs, for orphans, for countless other victims of post-1947 games of occupation?

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