Political history can also be composed of anecdotes. Such as, for example, the Kashmiri research student in New Delhi, some years ago, when asked what he was working on, tersely replied ‘humiliation’. The latter, of course, is also an integral facet of — call it what you will: hegemony, occupation and, consequently, the colonialists showing the natives their place – a regime of power. This doesn’t always have to be Indian troops, under the command of the British, subaltern or not, firing in Jalianwala Bagh and getting away with it. It also means, at the other end of the same spectrum, though a tad earlier, a Thomas Babington Macaulay, in the “Minute on Indian Education” (1835) saying “I have never found one…who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.” Transposing that idea to Kashmir, it will not take an arcane astrophysicist to work out that, both, killings in Kashmir and the denial of even basic ‘literary’ agency is a facet of what things are. Then, of course, there are the supposed non-subalterns, the ruling classes of Kashmir who seek to sweeten this bitter pill, oft getting bit themselves. The pro-India politicians of Kashmir, habitually, are humiliated. Indeed, that is the structural nature of things. Old-time local bureaucrats, for example, speak of times when India’s Patel, encountering a Sheikh Abdullah seeking to assert himself as ‘I am not called the Lion of Kashmir for nothing’, with a “Well, in that case you must decide if you want to be caged or sent to the jungle.” He was sent to both. The same “Lion”, it is related, after his death, was denied even a commemorative postage stamp by the Indira Gandhi regime. It is also said that Indira, at a meeting in the state, in the presence of the Sheikh, as he pretended to closely examine the minutes of the meeting, made a blistering speech about how some leaders ‘have a foot in the grave, but still want to cling on’. Humiliation can also become a habit.
And it is no different now. The PDP is also being shown its place. Sure, in their defence pro-India politicians in Kashmir can say that they are crippled. Crippled, in short, by the very logic of their existence. But that is a lame-legged excuse. It might just be time for them to re-examine the fact that elite bunkers are no protection against history, or servitude. Or, for that matter, humiliation.