ore than a year has now passed since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked and the erstwhile state bifurcated into two union territories on August 4, 2019.
A day before, the unionist political parties in the region formed an alliance — People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration — with a claim to ‘defend’ the trio of identity, autonomy and special status.
Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Valley, has always been a troubled affair for the Indian state. It is a place marred by political strife. Politics is a “first-order activity’ here. Whatever is political is existential, pragmatic and empirical. The rest is ghostly and abstract.
On the one hand, the signatories of Gupkar Declaration flaunted to witness the ‘watershed moment’ in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, but there was a flip side: The Indian State constitutionally had their movement restricted to essential errands. The dawn of August 5 made them realize that the ‘Political Apartheid’ was finally meted out to them as well.
The special status of J&K was revoked. For many people, it was the beginning of a new era. The abrogation was set to open new avenues of ‘development’ for the people of J&K in general and the Valley in particular. The special status was done away with from being a development dampener, yet a look into things prior to the revocation suggest otherwise. Anyways it helped in the revival of the political activity in the region.
Earlier, the Valley suffered a political freeze and halt. A number of actors worked to let loose the freeze by merely “playing the acts”, thereby concealing the true nature of the political environment in the region. A political vacuum was created and a stagnation reached. The moment was asking for some spare work to be done. Political invigoration was the need. And who else than the Indian State could have arrived at the scene to take the lead?
It would be mean and cheap to call this act ‘hegemonic’. It was a ‘prestige’ move by the Indian establishment as far as the policy dimension of the ‘political’ act is concerned — a policy that aims at power demonstration.
Prestige is devoid of the organic connection with the realities on the ground. It is a policy aiming at rejuvenation and invigoration. It aims at inventions, retreats and persuasions. Prestige respects the interplay of the expectations of benefits, the fear of disadvantages and the love for institutions.
It is not the first time the Indian state has resorted to the policy of prestige and it would definitely not be the last. Before the abrogation, the political activity here was based on ceremonial rules, mostly on empty formalism. Its contingent element was utter uncertainty, and it created more presumptions against than in favour of its soundness.
Abrogation of the special status ultimately led to an increase in the authority of the State. The power of indigenous political actors plummeted. The political parties in the region had previously pursued policies that aimed at the reinterpretation of the reality — the reality of their deprecation. These parties usually acted alone, worrying about their own greed. Always carrying a certain series of considerations directed towards the past actions and serving the justifications for the present ones.
For causes known or unknown to us, the indigenous political parties began to hack and chop each other. And that was accompanied by justification in the expressed wills of certain actors who declared it essential for the good of J&K for the cause of identity and autonomy. All this grandeur was reduced to heck. The Indian establishment had kept the regional parties ticking the boxes.
It was intentional on part of the Indian government to deprive the regional actors of any consent in the abrogation of the special status and make them irrelevant than before. It was purposely done to bring order and meaning to a mass of phenomena. Mass of phenomena being the story of the contest between the regional political actors, differing fundamentally in their conceptions as to what constitutes the desired political activity. It all took India’s prestige to bring order to a mass of phenomena. It was a realization of “everybody is on the same page”. Indian establishment had done much to get the regional actors in agreement. Indian state played an act.
From a vantage point, the Gupkar Declaration is a product of the Indian state on behalf of its signatories to produce preserving conformity to the redefined dictates and obligations. Thus it is vain to exclaim against the depravity of consent of the regional actors on account of August 5 scenario. For its survival and relevance in the region, Indian State made the regional actors unify under a common banner.
The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration is a testimony to the revocation of the special status. The alliance also provides the Indian establishment with avenues at disposal to constrict the horizon of demands set by the signatories. Striving for the permanent solution of J&K is a distant dream. It is all about the revocation of the not-so-special status for now.