“Conspiracy Theory”

No academic discussion on future of Kashmir without a reference point

Is our narrative outlandish, irrational and unfounded bordering on conspiracy theory? Are we truly paranoid people? These questions bothered me at a recent seminar broadly on ‘finding solution of Kashmir within the federal structure of India’ organized by Kashmir University and attended by a battery of teachers of political science from within and outside the State.

In this column, sometime back I wrote that it is encouraging that Kashmir University of late is coming out of the academic inertia by striding across hitherto forbidden turfs – such as discussing the future of Kashmir but largely so for, it has been conforming to the ‘dominant discourse’ and ‘official narratives’.   Noam Chomsky in his essay, ‘the function of the university in a time of crises,’ has rightly pointed out that “the university will be able to make its contribution to a free society only to the extent that it overcomes the temptation to conform unthinkingly to the prevailing ideology and to the existing pattern of power and privilege.” 

It is not part of debate, if our academia has overcome the “temptation” or succumbed to it.   However, truth remains we are yet to throw up scholars that could be iconic in as much as   in not joining the orchestrated discourses shorn of historical realties and contexts.

My belief is there can be no academic discussion on future of Kashmir without a reference point.   For any fruitful discussion for finding out the solution of the problem, the poser is what should be the reference point. Should it be 1865, that saw the first revolt by artisans of Kashmir against the brutal tax system by the Dogra rulers.  Should   the 1924, revolt in Srinagar Silk Factory form the reference point. This revolt had culminated into  presenting of a memorandum   against the legal apartheid and discriminatory brutal tax system to Lord Reading the Viceroy of India.  Should it be 1932 that saw the birth of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference with its charter of demands? Or it should   1946, Quit Kashmir Movement be the reference point for discussing resolution of Kashmir problem.  The National Conference in the year had  called for abrogation of the obnoxious 1846, Amritsar Sale Deed and challenged the authority of Maharaja Hari Singh to rule the state. The Quit Kashmir movement that had delegitimized the Maharaja’s rule is relevant in discussing his authority in signing of the “Instrument of Accession”- the existence of which has been doubted by some Kashmir and British historians. (It however was recently handed over to Archives Department in Delhi).

True the history of the struggle from 1865 with its trough and crests strengthens the Kashmir narrative. However, ‘with the passing of the British Indian Empire, the Paramountcy lapsed; and the States (particularly those which were fully empowered including Jammu and Kashmir) thereby became to all intents and purposes Independent” and the reference point for discussing future status of the state shifted to 1947.  It was only after 1947 that the two newly born dominions, India and Pakistan, became part of the Kashmir narrative thus changing contours and complexities of the story.  It now ceased to be a story of fight against brutal discriminatory rule and abrogation of the sale deed.  In the post 1947, lots of Kashmir related development took place between the two dominions that included: 

  The governor-generals and the Prime Ministers of the two countries exchanged correspondence about future status of the J&K State. The Maharaja signed a   ‘standstill agreement with Pakistan’. Thousands of formerly British soldiers rose in revolt against the Maharaja in Poonch.  Tribes’ men from neighboring Frontier areas descended into the state. Indian troops landed at Srinagar airport at the behest of the Maharaja. First Prime Minister of independent India Jawaharlal took the Constituent Assembly into confidence for deciding future of the State through a referendum under supervision of some international organization.( India Foreign Policy by Jawaharlal Nehru page 446). The GOI took the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council. The issue of future of the state assumed international dimension after the United Nations passed Kashmir related resolution. Seen in right perspective the 1947, in fact is mother reference point and all others reference points i.e. 1953, 1972 and 1975 are subservient to it.

Majority of the teachers from outside Universities in the seminar took an exception to making 1947, as a point of reference for any discussions about future status of the state even with the federal structure of India. Their logic was that ‘revisiting past was not pragmatic.’ The reality should be accepted that   ‘in 1947 India was an infant nation and today it is superpower. The leadership of 1947 was no more on the scene and now country has a different crop of leaders that has nothing to do with the baggage of history. Making full use of academic clichés these teachers unanimously advised the participants for forgetting 1947 and accepting  2012 as hard reality. Instead of   building   outlandish narratives on “conspiracy theory” should be “realistic.” 

To understand the polemics of these ideas one needs to know the meaning of the trite phrase that over a period has acquired different meanings. In mid ‘sixties the phrase acquired a derogatory meaning, implying a paranoid tendency to see the influence of some malign covert agency in events.’  In post 9/11 situation it acquired newer meaning that with all its implications has been discussed by Clare Birchall in his book, “Knowledge goes pop: From Conspiracy theory to gossip.” In his words:  “In its simplest terms, conspiracy theory refers to a narrative that has been constructed in an attempt to explain an event or series of events to be the result of a group of people working in secret to a nefarious end.”

Even by this definition or the definition before the narratives built on strong historical pedestals and supported by international covenants by no stretch of imagination can fall within the realm of the ‘conspiracy theory.’ In fact, such discourses are played upon to delegitimize the history and change the narratives and strengthen the hegemonic forces…

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)