But can we really make a cocktail of it?
Democracy and dictatorship are two different ways of leading the civilization. One is by collective leadership evolved by mindful introspection and the other by grabbing power brazenly all through overt and covert means. Even after experiencing flawed democracy for decades most people in the sub-continent cannot find an alternative to democracy— the people’s authority. Kashmir has a turbulent history of governance, full of subjugation and ruthlessness. However, after the departure of British, the aura of empowerment and emancipation became quite visible in Kashmir. Political baggage and issues aside, Kashmiri people after centuries of suppression feel some respite from tyrannical rule since 1947.Undoubtedly, late maharaja Hari Singh the autocratic ruler of Jammu And Kashmir State was better out of all Dogra rulers. His keen interest in good governance, healthcare and education of his subjects, and infrastructure development within the state cannot be denied. But at the end of the day, he too was an autocrat. In Kashmir history, many rulers in the past have been kind and empathetic to their subjects and governed the state even better than modern day politicians. But that does not place them above popularly elected system of governance. Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin the fifteenth-century ruler of Kashmir even after five centuries is remembered as Bud Shah (the Great King) by people of Kashmir because of his just rule. But that does not qualify him to be at par or in comparison to egalitarianism. We have nothing personal against late Hari Singh, his dynasty or the community he belonged to. But we have every right to put his period of rule and that of his ancestors to scrutiny.
The present system of governance in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its leadership professing democracy have only one rule book to adhere to strictly, that is ‘people are the fountainhead of power’. All our representatives derive their power from this basic rule of democracy. Anyone that goes against this basic principle of equality, if not, condemned, but surely is not to be acknowledged at any cost. Anybody indulging in glorifying autocrats is an enemy of people’s power. That is what I and my fellow countrymen were made to believe and have visualized out of Democracy— the much-cherished achievement attained after a huge sacrifice by our elders. The recent act of our worthy people’s house to recognize the contribution and admire last Dogra ruler Maharaj Hari Singh and declare his birthday as state holiday cannot be challenged in public domain, that too by a lesser mortal of my status and stature. However, this whole exercise puts a question mark on our freedom struggle and sacrifices of our forefathers. If Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule was not tyrannical, then what for we observe the martyr’s day on 13th of July (incidentally a state holiday) when in 1931 Maharaja’s forces killed several people outside Srinagar central jail? On this day state’s administrative and political leadership lead the national in observing the martyrs day and pay rich tributes to people who laid their precious lives for our safe, prosperous and empowered future.
Kashmiris have invested a lot in blood for their freedom struggle under the able leadership of late Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Pages of history are full of sacrifices, inflicted plunder and cruelty. How should we describe all this under present situation of blending democracy with autocracy? I won’t dare to put a question mark on the contribution of Late Sheikh and his associates in our struggle for empowerment, but such acts will definitely put doubts in the minds of people vis-à-vis freedom struggle and democracy. Several people (some intellectuals included) will surely bat for late Maharaja Hari Singh for his role in keeping both India and Pakistan waiting at the time of partition in a bid to create independent Kashmir, however that was not his love for people of Kashmir, but his grief for losing a state and power.
In this august house of wise people, where most of the politicians have their roots in the freedom struggle, they have to draw a clear line between democrats and autocrats, irrespective of colour and creed. We have to bear in mind that Late Maharaja was a Maharaja— an autocrat and should respect him as an erstwhile ruler of the state, fulfil all his legitimate commitments and wishes.