In a pluralistic society it is a great challenge that is often faced by the State and the governing institution, the challenge to ensure social equity or impartiality. There are a number of identities, cultures and communities that make the overall society in any region highly intricate and dynamic. While some identities, cultures and traditions associated with social formations and groups have history with their birth recorded decades or even centuries ago, new formations always take place. It is because the face of the society is constantly evolving. Social fabric in this schema is not permanent. For instance in J&K state there are a number of communities and social groups affiliated to unique ethnicity, cultures, traditions and customs. These sub-states within the state collectively form the larger social state – the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Other than the regional variations, noticeable or unnoticeable, one thing that is easily noted is in terms of numbers or proportion. While the state’s ethnic composition has predominantly few communities, there are a number of small denominations, sometimes classified under castes and tribes.
J&K government is the apex institution of governance in the state. So while governing, it has to ensure that there is equitable growth and development of all communities and social groups, no matter how small their number is. This axiom in the ordinary sense stands on merits of socialism and secularism, the principles on which the body of laws of a modern state rests.
The difference in numbers often lead to intra-conflicts with one community or social group trying to assert while pushing back others. A community with a lesser number (populace), often called a minority community, can become a victim as their representation as well as rights is ignored. This leads to a communal-tension which hampers not only the growth and development of a particular community but the entire State.
This also reflects on the performance of local governments who find themselves more engaged in resolving community conflicts than on pertinent issues which can lead to progress and prosperity. There is a lot that has been said and unsaid about communal politics and its impacts on the people, groups, inter-relationships, etc.
In Jammu and Kashmir there are tribes, castes and other social denominations that existed even before the establishment of the state and continue to exist. Therefore, before coming up with any legislation the legislators have to understand the legitimacy inadequacy to move against the fundamental rights of minorities.
Jammu and Kashmir has a history of tolerating communities, irrespective of the fabricated narratives that have served different political ideologies and paid their dividends. The best example of the co-existence and mutual respect of communities in the state is that despite the eruptive valley being caught in the political conflict and violence, there have been no serious threats felt by any community, except when a certain perception was pushed again for political goals. If we consider the situation outside the state in the last decade or so, there have been dozens of incidents of brazen attacks on minorities in full public view. Not just this, some of the incidents were deliberately filmed and distributed on social and other media so as to send a message. There have been protracted debates on intolerance, including religious, in the sub continent and beyond. In India, Muslim and Christian minorities are finding the atmosphere difficult to express their faith and even survive. From assaults in the disguise of vigilantism to forced chanting of slogans, the Muslims in India have a lot to be insecure about. The Christians are in no better position with increasing attacks and case of vandalism reported in the last few years.
The proof of shrinking specie for secularism in India was provided by none other than two state guests – former US President Barrack Obama and recently by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Their observations cannot be ruled out as having “vested interests” or being sponsored by an enemy. Instead, it should be taken as external feedback, and the state itself should try to find out how to deal with it.
In Pakistan, only recently the government took some steps to address the issues put forth by the minorities their – the Hindus. Although the country is still far from building an atmosphere of co-existence and equal rights, but they seem to have realized the importance of pluralism.
In Myanmar, again the minorities and blatant violation of human rights are variables that have brought disrepute to the country. It is short of international sanctions by a thread. The government has squeezed itself and the state will not prosper on the track they have chosen. International community closely watches the developments in almost all parts of the world. Sooner or later the Burmese government will have to pay. The retardation will not follow only by the isolation by international community, but also by the political conflict and uncertainty that will linger for years.
Drawing lessons from how states have fared by taking radical path, the government and the people must rethink before setting the future course. Good politics need to be separated from the bad politics. The first has the future, the latter has the doom. People whether they are in politics are out of it have to choose between the two social contracts – based on competence and fear or based on co-existence and fulfillment.
Jammu and Kashmir as a unit has preserved distinct cultures and traditions, so should be the case in future.