The formation of new administrative units and the reactions to it were a great learning experience. Rather, a re-learning experience. Because the more such pageants are organised by the comprador government in the state, whether on its own or on the directions of its masters sitting in New Delhi, the more their hollowness becomes manifest.
Such pageants are not new. When the National Conference assumed power after the help of military-sponsored elections in 1996, it soon showered a bonanza of jobs. In what has now been largely forgotten, the largest recruitment of Kashmiri youth took place in the police, a regressive, repressive force. The police force nearly doubled during the NC regime and the PDP wanted to increase its size to 1.5 lakh (currently, there are nearly 100,000 policemen) so that it can replace the Indian army in crushing the resistance.
Now, there are more than 4 lakh employees in the state, which makes the police among its top three recruiters, in the same league as the education department. Only teachers outnumber them, thankfully. This force currently matches the Indian army and paramilitaries in sustaining the occupation. It has murdered protesting school-kids on the streets. But over the years, when this lethal force was swelling, we never witnessed the kind of outrage we are witnessing over the establishment of tehsils and sub-divisions. Though the natural thing would be to stop such a cannibalistic force from increasing among our ranks.
What has the police come to signify in Kashmir? An enterprise that drains us economically, that has pitted brother against brother, that can be used to kill a Kashmiri using a Kashmiri and occasionally parry the blame that goes to an Indian soldier. Remember, the Indian army is essentially blaming the police for Pathribal. Going into this force has, however, become a way of living for Kashmiri youth. An MBA who could very well be leading a company chooses to become a DSP. Sad. But things move on. And miraculously, from this inherently repressive force, a policeman decides to wage a lone battle against the state.
When asked what the greatest benefit the British Empire derived from India was, noted British historian David Cannadine said that it was the Indian army. In fact, Winston Churchill was against granting India independence because he said that losing India would mean losing the Indian army and hence the power the Crown wielded in its colonies. The same army that enslaved the world and its own people, that fired at its own people in Jallianwala Bagh ultimately helped Bharat secure Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim and Mizoram by force.
According to Cannadine, the Raj was also a pageant marked by coronations, awarding titles and elaborate ceremonies of pomp and show. The residues of that pageantry still exist in India, which itself has become an empire. And while the British knighted Indian princes and those whom they liked, we have the Indian Empire awarding Padma Shri to Momma Kanna and organising Republic Day parades on dog-infested streets, film shoots and Zubin Mehta concerts.
The new Empire is emulating its predecessor. And one important aspect of the empires is that they are not concerned about the costs of pageantry. So it appeared laughable when people were shedding tears over the Rs 300 crore recurring annual cost of sustaining the newly-announced administrative units. Equally laughable was the concern shown over how people have forgotten Azadi and were going mad over tehsils and nayabats. This is a very narrow and shameful way of looking at the resistance.
History has shown us that pageantry has been the defining aspect of the Indian occupation from the very beginning. From Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad to Omar Abdullah, it is only a story of pageantry. Bakhshi gifted away huge plots, jobs, built a stadium, organised boat races, Jashn-e-Kashmir and Shab-e-Shalimar and bandh-e paethar; Sheikh Abdullah made eunuchs dance during shows that came to mark the Martyrs Day; Farooq Abdullah danced with Mamta Kulkarni, while presiding over a murderous police force; Mufti Sayeed revived the numaish and, almost became serious in this business when he started his rule by demolishing shop-fronts; Omar Abdullah brought music bands, film festivals and monstrosities in the name of artistic fountains at intersections.
What has survived through this unending combination of brutal military occupation and pageantry is the same resentment they sought to control by way of force and by way of distraction. Only that the clowns who staged these shows lost their reputations. You can abuse someone by calling him a Bakhshi. Sheikh Abdullah’s grave remains guarded. Farooq Abdullah looks a clown to his son also. Mufti Sayeed’s healing touch was rendered into a joke when he handed over forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board and paved the way for a carnage of enraged Kashmiris. And the latest of the pageant queens, Omar Abdullah, takes refuge on a micro blogging site.