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Kashmir, Indian Army, and the election farce

Ashfaq Saraf

First published at Kashmir Lit

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” ― Karl Marx

Since its troops landed in Srinagar Indian state’s modus operandi in Kashmir has been in the likeness of a military expedition. From perspectives governing India’s claim on territory to methodology which is employed in ascertaining the claim it is the military which runs the command. While maintaining a hold on the main elements of power clout Indian military relieves itself of certain secondary, and to the same effect inconsequential power fractions. A space is thus created for other institutions of similar consequence which can be empowered with the fractions of power hence rendered available. Three institutions emerge permanent: ‘civil government’, police and bureaucracy.

As must be true for an expedition of such kind military processes are always an experiment, proven or otherwise, with the exigencies of control. Of the fragments which the military apparatus can relieve itself of, and hand over to other agencies one must always be skeptical. Looking at what such fragments have materialized into in Kashmir, however, one is forced to lend a serious ear. The whole institution of psyop is a rendering of what these fragments constitute of—a staggering proportion of possibility. It is an intriguing insight into the facets of military domain also: that which constitutes a simple operation of catch and kill in the act of war, is allowed to grow into institutions which are essentially a mechanism to veil the process of death and destruction as psychological warfare—is it not equivalent whether a man is killed or transformed so far as the persistence of his opinion viz-a-viz another party in control of the decision is concerned?
In territories where the intruding military power’s approach is buttressed by claims of integrating the annexed territory with its domain, the language is bound to harp on the grammar of inclusivity. What can be a better scheme than, say, holding onto some mythological construction with regards to the history of the place, without any consideration to the evolutionary process that accompanied people’s movement leading to the present of their history and consequently to the break that they seek from the occupier. The premise of inclusiveness necessitates a process where the native participation is needed, albeit customary, to give an impression to the outside world that the occupation in the territory is not entirely military; that democracy is practiced and people are given a choice to elect their representatives.

It is important to note here that the choice which is present before the native from amongst the available options is itself a filtered one. All the parties which aspire to represent the native in the government structure are actually an instrument of deception; they betray people away from the all-pervasive framework of military coercion and control, and push them to engage in perspectives of misleading kind.
The colonizing power takes account of what must be allotted to the occupied population so that its position as being the power controlling unit does not alter. There cannot be an area into which the native would be allowed if it challenges the dynamics of military structure. The genesis and role of the ‘civil government’ must be viewed in the same light. It is a structure in place well confined in its role and realizes its job well within the purview of the fragments let loose by the military clout.

The first thing that must be zoomed in on is the hoax representation these groups (read political parties) competing each other claim to possess. The idea of representation here is a borrowed idea. They cannot represent the native essence whose outlook is defined by its desire for freedom—a desire to restore back the nativity to its natural heir—for their jurisdiction is an assignment being carried out on part of the military structure. What is allowed to or proscribed for the native is a dictation from the military manual, these secondary structures merely play the part of cooling off the extra heat. Thus the foremost hole in the face of collaborating politics of this kind is a false claim to representation. If these people represent anybody it would be their colonial masters to whom they owe allegiance and on whose behalf they go to the native.

The idea is to look at the problem of military occupation from the perspective of a native, fundamentally. Its inception, the very point from where it starts is the one when occupier sets its foot on the native territory. Man is born free, so is the native. This act of setting foot robs the native of his nativity—because the native, albeit his desire to do so is not able to stop the march of the occupational forces (the reasons can range from a lack of responsive military structure to the absence of a unanimous political decision). Thus the very act of arrival of the occupational forces is an act of intrusion against the will (howsoever fractured) of the native—whatever follows from here is an extension of the same thread.

The occupational force takes away from the native what is duly his. To make available for people what is duly theirs must not be an equation determining power exponential, it is rather a matter of duty on part of whoever comes forward to assist in the task. The mode of this deliverance must also be a pure native decision. However in a case like Kashmir where the governing clout is a foreign military the rest of the possibilities are automatically rendered subservient to this clout (because this clout is an exact expression of aggression and a sabotaging of people’s will). The function of the civil government in such circumstances tends to be illusory. From the standpoint of the native the civil government is in reality up for a shameful task: offloading the military of some of its weight and at the same time veiling off the true nature of occupation by lending itself to a representation of untrue kind.

How does the native process what follows the command based on coercion and inconsideration when political sovereignty—the ability to make decisions as to what law might govern them, with whom would they communicate, where would they look for friendships, what kind of a tomorrow would they aspire for—of a people is maimed, there remains very less which can be wrestled away from the clutch of occupation until its very core is broken. Military occupation is a construction hinging upon an active assumption that military power i.e. crude machine power, with those who possess it, is a viable option against another man’s aspiration to be free. Thus it begins by trampling over the will of the native. This must be the basic point of departure for the native, as it is for the occupier.
The act of participating in the hoax election system where a native is thrown in front of choices, which were never his to choose from in the first place, is in itself a part of the occupational framework. Basis of nativity lie with the idea of freedom—a trampled debris in the eyes of the occupier—which has no takers in the ‘civil government’ structure, obviously as is reflected in the very nature of such an enterprise. Participation in the election process in this sense amounts to no less than legitimizing the aggressive expansionist policy of the occupier even if only to the extent of lending it a temporary face.

It must be noted and is incumbent upon the native to understand that the struggle for freedom is the struggle against usurpation, the struggle against monopoly, the struggle against unbridled power, the struggle to restore the nature of things, the struggle to give back to masses what has been snatched from them, and thus an essentially a demanding struggle. What the native is essentially trying to do is laying bare his capacities as a fighter, a thinker, a guardian of environment, a farmer trying to prevent his land, a teacher trying to equip children with the intellectual capacity by which to distinguish right from wrong and in all of this he is a vulnerable exponent in the face of tyranny. Most of the domains, physical as well as intellectual, he is trying to secure for his nation are from the clutches of military occupation i.e. with the inception of a coercive military structure taking away sovereignty of the native population the native is by default—as the only real subject of military occupation—turned into a protector, with everything that was his, now needing his protection. Land that was his is now a territory enclosed by a foreign military assemblage—he can anytime be asked to vacate for, say setting up of a military barrack or if the occupier wishes its military to have an easy connection to the mother country a railway line may be setup—no opinion of the native is considered. Water flowing down territory of his nation was always capable of producing electricity, that is what he always knew and dreamt of, but now any such project would need an approval. And if tragedy cannot be more magnified the occupier would—while incapacitating the native of assembling any considerable potential in this regard—bring in resources from its land, develop the infrastructure and loot away the power (output). It is a very precarious situation. The native now, devoid of any independent avenues to assemble infrastructure and money, is himself a potential customer to the resources being generated in his territory.

It appears that there are aspects in which a native is allowed no say at all, and there are aspects, of potential delegation, for which a filter is created, a barrier of passable kind which would need the native to pay a penalty before crossing it over.

Elections in the occupied territories are a farce of similar kind. The native must understand if he decides to pay a penalty he is not only paying a price to obtain what was already his, he is also allowing for possibility of a pseudo ‘civil government’ gaining ground which in addition to mutilating the truth of military occupation also legitimizes the occupiers effort for creating a sustainable filter—a positioned barrier over which native must always effort to go wanting to lay a claim, notwithstanding the outcome of the claim, over his own resources. It is a real danger, an easy acknowledgement that owing to his rejection of the election farce held under the tutelage of occupying army the native would be exposed to a scarcity of food, water and electricity too. The infrastructure around his township might not develop. But is the reality of military occupation any different from this? Isn’t this the real expression of what military occupation must do? If the native doesn’t budge military occupation will stay in its color. A possible success of the occupational machinery, from the perspective of the occupier, involves getting the native used to the dynamics and changes set into motion by the occupational power. The choice, thus, in front of the native is between letting the occupational structure stay as it is, true to its nature—naked and on the scene, or participate in the election process and help the military veil its presence—let it slide behind the curtains and function from there. The choice is blunt, but a bluntly decisive one.

Ashfaq Saraf is a poet and the author of “The Harkening.” He is based in Delhi.

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