Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Abstract 2014 David Devadas

David Devadas, Institute for Asian and Africa Studies, Humboldt-University Berlin

Hierarchy as State Strategy: Feudatories in the Politics and Economics of Jammu & Kashmir

This paper describes how the State has deployed feudal and other hierarchical forces strategically to prevent restiveness among the followers of these patriarchal forces. Although Jammu and Kashmir had the most radical land reforms outside the Communist bloc, sectarian authorities who were among the biggest landlords during Dogra rule (1846-1947) were allowed to retain some of their vast holdings beyond the legal ceiling. On the political front, the State helped figures from these regal, tribal and other hierarchies to win seats in a series of rigged elections – ever since a Constituent assembly was formed in 1951 with 73 of 75 members `elected’ unopposed. The paper argues that these State strategies have strengthened these feudal forces, contradicting its stated objective to promote equality. Over the past 15 years, a grandson of the last Maharaja, the state’s leading Shia `pir,’ a scion of the rival Shia feudatory family, the son of the state’s leading Gujjar `pir,’ two Imams in Kargil district and the Imam of Doda’s Jama Masjid have either been ministers or held other powerful positions. A leading Rinpoche and a member of Leh’s erstwhile royal family represented Ladakh in India’s Parliament until the beginning of the 1980s.

This paper presents hitherto unpublished facts from the author’s field research over the past four years. It focuses the interaction of politics, geopolitics, economics and patriarchal culture on the matrix of religion, sect, ethnicity and caste in this state. It highlights the vertical and lateral structures of inequality which the State has in effect promoted. It not only interrogates the role of the State in propping up established structures of inequality in the political and economic spheres. It investigates the extent to which the State has, in so doing, deepened social divides and the consciousness of identities based on sect, ethnicity or religion. On the other hand, it goes into the pattern of repressive State responses to grassroots movements in different parts of the state since the 1960s. It demonstrates that, in trying to control sections of the population through such feudatory forces, the State has undermined egalitarian and homogenizing tendencies in society, as well as democratic institutions.

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