“Thirty years after becoming eligible to vote, I voted for the first time in the just concluded parliamentary elections. I had not voted till now on political and ideological reasons; elections in J and K have sought to legitimize pre-determined choices and do not offer the alternatives that the majority of the people stands for,” writes Haseeb Drabu in an article published in a Srinagar newspaper on May 8.
To vote or not is a purely personal choice, and Dr Drabu is entitled to exercise that individual freedom. But after voting for the first time in thirty years, he wants to celebrate his act intellectually and politically as well. The problem is that the arguments he has advanced are incoherent and lack substance. I have been, like many others, cherishing Dr Drabu’s articles, particularly because he is considered an expert on economics.
Amid conflict under occupation, the economic argument forms the core of colonial control and mentality. Hence, educating people on economic issues during times of conflict is immensely helpful in liberating from colonial mentality. We are not parasites, but instead our resources are looted by way of the NHPC, and though countless other means. New Delhi has mounted economic arguments against the people of Kashmir right from 1947 to control and belittle the Kashmiri people. In this context, Dr Drabu’s articles contribute in a meaningful way, though on a much smaller scale. But he has jumped into the political arena and wants that people should like his choice intellectually as well.
But the economist is incoherent and unconvincing in his arguments. First, he conflates his self too much by casting his vote in the recent parliamentary elections. I agree, though for different reasons, that the boycott policy elevated to the level of political religion is harming the long-term interests of people of Kashmir. The Hurriyat leadership has failed to translate such policies into tangible political advantages, and is yet adamant on repeating this useless process. But this is not enough to hide the writer’s shallowness. He says that his reasons for voting are purely emotional. He further adds: I voted in anger and angst. I voted with disgust and disdain.
But at the same time, he also contradicts himself: It was a vote against that form of politics which is only about display of awesome power. Moreover, he adds, his voting had solid reasons of “attitudinal arrogance,” “ethical impropriety,” and “moral decadence.” So his “emotional” voting is guided by political reasons.
His patronizing attitude shines through his disconnected arguments, “me and my community,” and his ethnic nationalism, and sovereignty, all unexplained terms and issues. Though a non-political entity, he seeks the annihilation of his political opponents. He launches his arguments from a nonexistent political self, going at least by what is known of him. He is very concerned about his ethnic identity, something which has never helped Kashmiris. This was the ideological and political; plank which Sheikh Abdullah used to ruin his people. His one vote means nothing, only the valorizing of his own self which has no ground to stand upon. If he sees Jammu dominating Kashmir politically and administratively, his voting will not change that, because the long process of disempowerment is now a gigantic process, aided and abetted by his supposed political redeemers, during their rule.
Presently, the sub-regional ethnic identities of the Buddhists, the Pandits, the Gujjars, the Kashmiris, the Paharis are fully used by the deep state to divide and disempowered people. This is not the way to empower ethnic denominations. Dr. Drabu appears grossly misled on this count. It seems that he is fighting shy of talking about the real issue of identity at the core of which is the religion of the people of Kashmir which again people think is the major cause of their being treated as “the other,” and disempowered.
The writer claims that his vote was an act to cleanse his conscience and a balm for the bruised identity of any self-respecting Kashmiri. This is too pompous a claim. A vast majority of 72 per cent people, including hundreds of intellectuals, cleansed their conscience by not voting because they thought it simply empowers the collaborator class who act as New Delhi’s agents of disempowerment. One such intellectual arrested by the police was Dr Ghulam Qadir Lone of Hadipora, a widely-known and respected Islamic scholar. Thus Dr. Drabu’s voting stands diametrically opposite to the thousands of people from Ananatnag to Baramulla-Sopore, who I suspect do not share his bogus arguments.
The writer is mistaken in the belief that his tone of writing (it was a vote) is as if he voted and the desired macro-change happened. Nothing has happened, nor will it ever. The voting of a single person, who frames his politics and ideology around ill-defined ethnicity, means nothing
It would have been far more honourable of Dr Drabu had he, as an intellectual, joined his voice with the likes of Amartya Sen and Arundhati Roy, and many others in the world, who have expressed disquiet on the prospect of Hindutva communalism taking central stage in Indian democracy. But by casting his vote, he has gone along. An intellectual should be a rebel and resist the powers that are exclusivist, quasi-racist and subversive. By joining in, one’s conscience tends to get muddier, not cleansed.
I suspect many would view his article as a bid to rehabilitate himself with the political masters of his choice, should they come to power. I think his real contribution would be to write on economic issues to enlighten people rather than on his voting which, after all, should have been his personal affair and not something to flaunt intellectually.