Ajat Shatru Singh, scion of the erstwhile Dogra ruling dynasty which ruthlessly ruled Jammu and Kashmir for about a century, betrayed both his feudal mindset and political opportunism of the worst kind when speaking in the Legislative Council he demanded the return of the state to what he described as its “real owners.” He was obviously expressing his disillusionment with the poor quality of governance and the performance of the government headed by the very party to which he belongs. If he really believed that the present establishment has failed to deliver and has been working against the interests of the people the right course for him was to quit the party and his berth in the upper House of the State legislature to which he was elected as the National Conference candidate. His suggestion for reverting the state back to his family as its fiefdom, claiming to be its “real owners”, was as ridiculous as it was ludicrous. One can understand the disenchantment of the people with the socalled popular or democratic governments after the abolition of monarchy. But it is height of stupidity to either think of the return of imperialism or autocracy in this age of enlightenment when the awakened people throughout the world have been asserting for their democratic rights and demanding their empowerment.
The struggle against fascist and anti-democratic policies of the political regimes established in different countries of the world and for the empowerment of the real owners, the people at large, is going on throughout the world. True, that the socalled democratic regimes in the world, particularly in South Asia, have failed to work for a genuine participatory democracy, a system which ensures peace, justice, equality, human rights and is based on the genuine political aspirations of the people and fulfills their needs and demands fully. But that does not mean or should mean that the liberated people in the erstwhile colonies, empires or feudatory establishments want to be slaves, serfs and subjects again. Still there can be no justification to demand going back to the dark age and archaic medieval era where the people were totally denied their basic rights, were considered as the property or subjects of the ruling dynasty. Treated as dumb driven chattel by those having established their hegemony believing in their divine rights to rule and enslave the people.
Like all other autocratic rulers, the erstwhile rulers of Jammu and Kashmir had established their empire through manipulation, subjugation of the weaker rivals or conquering the alien territories. While the subcontinent was struggling for freedom from the British empire which had established its hold through deceit and manipulations and by use of force, the people in over eight hundred princely states were fighting for the end of monarchy and establishment of people’s rule. The condition of the people living in princely states, with a few exceptions, was much worse even than the condition of people living in what was called as British India. The resources of the princely states were exploited by the erstwhile rulers for their own luxurious life, amassing wealth while the people suffered hunger, starvations, ignorance, disease and all kinds of disabilities. The princely rulers consolidated their power and authority by depriving the people of development, education, healthcare, sanitation, roads and bridges or any other kind of development. The people were even denied their basic rights and exploited in various ways. The end of monarchy brought a relief to the people and the revolutionary land reforms and some other progressive measures like the Debt Conciliation Act not only bestowed ownership of the land to the tillers but also thousands of poor people were relieved of huge debt burden.
The people are no doubt unhappy and dissatisfied due to the failure of socalled democratic regimes to deliver. Unfortunately those at the helm have failed to evolve a genuine democratic system of governance by fully empowering people at the grassroot level. That is still being resisted by those in power who have developed a vested interest to centralize power and misuse it for self-aggrandizement rather than for the welfare of the people. Instead of ushering into a democratic era and true democracy what we have today is oligarchy, a rule by a coterie or by a dynasty. Ajat is right when he says that the State must go to its “ real owners “ but where he goes wrong is that the real owners of the state are not the descendants of the erstwhile monarchical rulers but the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the people who should be made the arbiter of the state, they should be fully empowered by evolving a system of democratic decentralization. They must enjoy their democratic rights, all curbs on their freedom must be removed. Power to the people and not to a group, dynasty or coterie, for ushering into a real democratic era is imperative.