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Rethinking Kashmiri Leadership


Kashmir has seen a proliferation of conflict, yet responsible leadership is not yet understood by many of the leaders representing us. Rather, the so called ‘electoral leaders’ are trying to project Kashmir, through their manufactured representative democracy, from a ‘conflict state’ to a ‘post conflict state.’ The rationality given towards this exercise is the relevance of economic prosperity replacing the genuine political aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

The requisite for the transition of Kashmir from a ‘conflict state’ to a ‘post conflict state’ requires immense reconciliation. Not just through realising justice, but also achieving the practical means to do so. For the Kashmiri leadership at the electoral level, the path of political accommodation through encompassing the mutual conciliation around competing political views and interests will help in minimising the conflict dynamics of the region. For this to happen, experience and competence in measuring the equity of true political representation and their decision making influence is of crucial importance.

Kashmiri leadership at the electoral level needs to understand the moral maxims, the cogent evidence of Kashmir in a conflict state – the historic political developments that still have a persuasive relevance today, which include:  secessionist organisations, the amount of time spent by activists in seminars, the literature produced, the barbarisms of militia, the human rights violations, the street protests recorded on media, the sacrifices of youth through blood, the corroborating evidence of arson against the Indian State, the diaspora who represent our nationalist stakes at the international level, the UN resolutions, and the amount of online dissent registered on the internet. All these objective realities make Kashmir still monumental to a conflict.

We, as Kashmiris, should pursue knowledge and proper decision making in deciding the people who lead us. Meritocracy is highly relevant to Kashmir because of the nature of our political ethos. If perceived talent is not demonstrated by leaders who demonstrate particular achievement as postulated by Micheal Young, then a failure of a democratic system rests both on the masses as well as the leaders representing them.

Historically, the electoral leadership in Kashmir has been based on elitism - a doctrine that divides people in the name of democracy. Our place is one of the worst examples of power elitism where power is centred in institutions for the leaders to enjoy. Decisions on political conundrums are not made on a genuine consensus through debate extensions, but rather on a domination, which is a struggle between haves and have nots. Our representative politicians encourage powerlessness for the deprived masses, when we talk of conflict dynamics perceived in our region. There is not even an encouragement on certain doctrines which these mainstream political parties in Kashmir have in common. Rather, these elites try to compete amongst themselves to achieve an even wider voting base for the enjoyment of power. Therefore, the conflict stays at status quo. Why should separation be taught when there is a greater scope in pluralism?

The doctrine of pluralism for regional strengthening is pivotal in reaching a coherent compromise between the leaders representing the country at the international level. American political scientist, Thomas Dye recurs: “pluralists judge society not by its actual equality but by its equality of political opportunity.” This indicates the important role of politics in the society. He further postulates that a society is dominated not by single elite but rather by a multiplicity of relatively smaller groups, some of which are well organised and funded. Therefore, the scholar likely hints a link between responsible leadership, the need for commonality, mollification and political ethics.

Politics of pluralism in Kashmir carries importance because its credos rest upon ‘the group theory of democracy’ visa viz ‘the pluralist theory.’ Under this epistemology, power is divided, no group is dominant and the scope to bargain remains intact. Importantly, the government acts as a referee to this process. There is also an underlying consensus between the general political ideals and goals of the society. Therefore, the importance of civil liberties and the goal of equal opportunity for all stakeholders’ likely results in a successful transformation of a society riddled in monolithic conflict structures.

In Kashmir as well, the representative democracy rests upon the decisions made by few people. We haven’t seen any genuine rapprochement between various stakeholders in our local political spectrums. Rather, pluralism which truly defines the democratic nature of politics by reaching a compromise on certain issues is not pursued by our local leaders. For a Dutch thinker like Arend Lijphart, “the politics of accommodation fits perfectly within the context of pluralist theory.” Lijphart uses the term ‘consociational democracy’ to refer to a political system characterised by the politics of accommodation. His work on building this theory guarantees group representation especially in conflict divided societies. Therefore, the various stakeholders in the Kashmiri society should influence governmental decisions, and our administration shouldn’t suppress their actions. That’s what true Libertarianism is. Why should we rely on failures through the functioning of democratic models ruling us?

Yehia Eliezer from Hebrew University of Jerusalem further postulates: ‘the process of accommodation in politics should be served by abandoning the principle of unilateral decision making, and a decision should reflect a balance between divergent approaches and interests.” Therefore, for Kashmir, pacification through realisation and conciliating various socio-political problems from the grass root level will uphold a moral success in terms of a conflict resolution.

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

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