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A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




The Politics Of Panopticism In Kashmir

By Ghulam Mohammad Khan

31 July, 2015

“This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all the events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of writing links the centre to the periphery, in which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which the individual is constantly located, examined and distributed among the living beings, the sick and the dead—all this constitutes a compact model of a disciplinary mechanism”, writes the French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault in the context of complex modern state, which is constantly supervised by a powerful disciplinary mechanism. To understand the amount of truth and practicality of the Foucauldian assertion, an analysis of the anatomy of social and political system in Kashmir would be considerably a better option. If Kashmir be the ‘enclosed, segmented space’, the nature of its political power, historically a hegemonic institution of social oppression would be it’s, what Foucault calls ‘disciplinary mechanism’. Every Kashmiri unwittingly participates in this mechanism, which had over the period of time produced a powerful discourse of knowledge of its own in the form of laws, of policies and manifestoes.

The political nature of our states’ ‘ceaseless inspection’ and the ‘ubiquitous surveillance’ over the immured social structure is radically different than other states of India. What makes the ‘mechanism’ of our state not only different but terribly strange is its historically anti-human tactics of institutionalizing the element of fear and psychological insecurity among the common people. The intense fear of the gun, of encounter, of protest, of massacre, of a sudden explosion, of belonging to a conflict-ridden state, of being the target of suspicion, and finally of being a Kashmiri are deeply embedded in the collective ‘psychic residue’ of Kashmir and again the credit goes to the political ‘disciplinary mechanism’ of the state. The promulgation of an apocalyptic defense strategy and the degenerating armed aggression has poisoned the rich and diverse pre-conflict religious and cultural ethos of Kashmir. It is the criminal political culture of the state that is responsible for the muddled and disoriented psychological growth of the inhabitants of the land. The growing pattern of our state and its psychic orientation are such that I could easily identify a Kashmiri English newspaper in hundreds of other papers written in the same language. The reason is the bulk of difference in content and mentality. The spinning and the implementation of the state sponsored ‘discourses’ that comprehensively help in the generation of this type ‘content and mentality’, are absolutely powerful, so powerful that the subject mostly remains clueless to how the same structures his overall consciousness. The usage of the terms like ‘firing’, ‘curfew’, ‘crackdown’, ‘ambush’, ‘grenade’, ‘encounter’, ‘strike’, ‘military’, ‘blast’ and ‘camp’ are quite common with the kids and adults of Kashmir. It is only here in Kashmir that I find young children mimicking the army men by making wooden guns and slinging them around their shoulders and chasing each other and taking positions and then crying aloud ‘thak’ ‘thak’ ‘thak.’ This is a practical example of the impact of the state ‘disciplinary mechanism.’

The dismembered and disunited electorate is yet another terrible achievement of the state political machinery. The people are so nourished by the state administrative mechanism that they are actually at a loss to understand the simple truth of why and for what type of government are elections contested? How can the confused common sense of a Kashmiri not fall to the sententious rhetoric of a politician, who promises to build a bridge even where there is no river? It reminds me of these two lines from a beautiful Shakespearean sonnet:

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower.

The state agency implants and nourishes the political consciousness of every individual. An individual consciousness is borne by the state before the individual is born. The individual merely acts as a consumer. The example could be the externally chosen identity for a Kashmiri before his birth. Naturally no Kashmiri is born a ‘suspect’ but each has to live as one in the collective Indian context. A powerful discourse, supported by the as usual-political system, defines a Kashmiri as something or someone close to Pakistan, close to militancy and close to unconstitutional secessionism.

The best-seller book ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’ by the former RAW chief A.S.Dulat, which has currently generated an intense readership curiosity in the valley, is again a roundabout representation of the same overarching political machinery. Dulat, though not divulging a convoluted pattern of political history extraordinarily, highlights a ‘segmented space’ smothered by an oppressive state surveillance. The famous Indian lawyer, historian and author A.G.Noorani’s analysis of the book is worth mentioning, “The book reveals all too clearly how in Jammu and Kashmir the intelligence agencies subverted the democratic process with intrigue and the electoral process with bribery, and debased the quality of political life.”

The idea of questioning the power and the existence of such a disciplinary mechanism would be like indiscreetly barking at the moon, because this mechanism and its power is indispensable to any society in the world. The problem with this mechanism in Kashmir is its contaminated nature and the impact of the same on the individual. In developed Western countries the internalization of these mechanisms is based on the collective good, rather than terrorism and fear-psychosis as in our case. What worsens the whole affair even more in our case is the conscious manipulation of the brutal power by the political administrative body. The solution to this overall mayhem is not modification or reconditioning of individual consciousness, but a complete remodeling of the state disciplinary mechanism based on the collective good of people. To conclude, we can say that the internalization or incorporation of an intolerant disciplinary mechanism can only produce a confused and intolerant community. If, at all human good is the ultimate goal of any such ‘mechanism’, in Kashmir it needs a desperate alteration then.

Ghulam Mohammad Khan is PhD Research Scholar at Central University of Haryana Email Id: [email protected]


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