Ansari’s Convocation Address

by Dr Gull Mohammad Wani

The fact that Vice President of the Republic of India concluded his convocation address by quoting Edmund Burke that “the only thing necessary for triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” is an intellectual provocation to people in the arena of public life, academia and other sectors to explore multiple meanings of his convocation address.

The central idea of Hamid Ansari’s convocation address was to chalk out a vision for India in the 21st century in which he found that smaller identities have to coexist with the larger identity that India constitutes. He believes that in a composite nationalism, the smaller identities can only be integrated with the larger identity and there is no scope for assimilation. He examined the issues of deprivation and alienation and found that it is the powerlessness which drives out the smaller identities and pushes them into the alienation trap.

It would be apt to relate his discourse to Kashmir and find out as to what extent Hamid Ansari’s address can heal the political wounds writ large over the Jammu and Kashmir state. We believe that the deep sense of deprivation and alienation in Kashmir was generated by the Indian state in the post-partition era by not upholding the pledges which constituted the basis of Kashmir’s accession to Indian Union.

Jawaharlal Nehru had assured Sheikh Abdullah that as part of the Indian union, ‘we will bind you with golden chains’. Abdullah never minimized the threat of Hindu majoritarianism to Kashmiri identity but was sure that Kashmir’s linkage with India will put secularism on a high pedestal. He was also given to understand that the Kashmiri identity will get enriched in India which Hamid Ansari described as a microcosm of diversities.

Even for Gandhi, Kashmir was a matter of principle. He told Sheikh Abdullah that Kashmir would be title and test of India’s future. But unfortunately, after 1953’s dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah marked the inception of what Hamid Ansari called as the politics of manipulation. The official ideology of Unitarian nationalism and an official zero-sum national interest became the flagship programme of the independent Indian state.

Both autonomy and identity were sacrificed at the altar of the nation to which Kashmiris were asked to be loyal. What followed 1953 was a list of 42 Presidential orders which played havoc with Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional position.

It would be reasonable to draw a distinction between alienation and militancy as far as Jammu and Kashmir state is concerned. The militancy is only a post-1989 phenomenon. The alienation is centrally rooted in the post-1953 destruction of autonomy and identity. The alienation is the root cause of the problem and militancy is only its manifestation. The political protests in post-militancy phase continue to reflect deep-seated alienation.

The level of deprivation and discrimination can be measured by looking at the economic conduct of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Dr Haseeb Drabhu, the then economic advisor of the state, told us that every day Jammu and Kashmir spends 28 crores on salary, maintenance, interest on the loan, repayment of loans, security and administrative overhead. It leaves little money to build infrastructure for a viable economy.

The vice president referred to globalization while making a case for integration in the 21st century. He referred to the vision of interplay between identity and integration. Indeed globalization does not mean the end of geography. It does not mean that location and territory are gone. Globalization fundamentally means stretching of social and economic relations across space and time. Perhaps considering the importance of the convocation address, the Governor of the state desired that the subject matter of the address can be a topic of discussion within and without the Universities of the state. It is only with this intention that this article is being thrown in the public domain with a view that others may also explore its other dimensions.


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