By Saurabh Das:
“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” – Aristotle
There are several political institutions like the central government, local governments, the police, the law and many others who distribute and administer political power. People in these institutions hold specific responsibilities and have the right to command us to act in certain ways. Disobeying their commands can lead us to embarrass ourselves wherein if we are caught, punishment is certain.
A state uses legitimate power through these institutions to control its people. Legitimate power is a human creation, an artificial one. Maintaining the citizen’s sovereignty where one claims authority over another, it becomes indispensable to argue that the existence of the state is only justified if, “every individual over whom it claims authority has consented.”
Furthermore, there are several types of states like democratic, socialist, authoritarian, and totalitarian, but there exists a commonality between them. It is the ethos which remains the same, i.e. to act as a political entity. Subsequently, in the idea of the nation-state, a nation is often understood more as a cultural concept.
The present debate in the current socio-political milieu in India has been around the argument that India as a state can always be considered having more than one national identity. Practically it may sound utopian, however philosophically and hypothetically it is possible keeping the vastness, diversity of languages and the multitude of cultures in mind.
But then if on one hand, a state has the legitimate power in the functioning of the society, then it also has a vice. The state maintains a monopoly on legitimate violence that has before lead to ‘ethnic cleansing.’ The much haunted Holocaust in Germany lead by Secret Service officers under Hitler, Apartheid in South Africa and the atrocities committed against minority groups and Dalits in India, are the ones to be mentioned.
Much has been written and admonished on the attributes of India as a state and the methods the state applies to curb the crises in Kashmir, the Dalit uprising in Gujarat and many such incidents where there is a common occurrence of dehumanisation. Many have been strong critiques of the Indian state, especially political and RTI activists, who are raising their voices against the subjugation of the less privileged.
However, what becomes pertinent enough to be discussed is, what if there existed no state? In that case what could have possibly existed in its place? These questions tease us more than ever, keeping the recent attack on an army base at Uri, in mind. These questions tantalise us, hurt us, and put us in a spot where it bothers us.
In this piece, I attempt to understand the present tension in the valley by considering that there is no presence of the state, and when there is no state, there is no legitimate power to control the people, the borders, the law and so forth. The relevance of calling India and Pakistan as two states has diminished, and they act more as a nation defined either as a cultural artefact or as a geopolitical space.
This nature of living without any state is known as ‘state of nature.’ Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English Philosopher in his book ‘Leviathan,’ historicizes the ‘state of nature’ through the perils the people have gone through during the English Civil War.
It is argued that human beings whenever we have lived in a ‘state of nature’ as opposed to being present within the construct of the state, there happened to be more anarchism. So the existence of state walks hand in hand with the existence of human civilisation. “The state exists naturally in the sense of being natural to human beings.”
Life is not worth living without the protection of the state. Furthermore, the presence of a strong government is required for the functioning of the state as the absence of one leads the human nature to fall under the realm of conflict. The only presence of the ‘state of nature’ increases the quest of the human beings in achieving ‘felicity’ and to achieve it, one has to be powerful.
In Hobbes’ language, “There is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind while we live here; because Life is selfie is but Motion, and can never be without Desire” (Hobbes, 1651). So, there is an attempt of continual success, and it mostly caters to achieving the objects of desire. It is the quest for felicity which breaks war in the ‘state of nature.’
As Hobbes argued that in the ‘state of nature,’ the search for felicity would lead to war against all, similarly in the present context ‘Felicity’ is understood as securing the geopolitical space called Kashmir. It is one’s constant urge to have a big share of that space which defines the 21st-century felicity leading to a possibility of war. Power further mediates the achieving of felicity. Power can come from sources of wealth, reputation and friends. To achieve felicity through power, there is a continuous attempt to increase power which leads to competition.
In the absence of the state, the competition takes the shape of war as human beings tend to feel equal when it comes to strengths and skills. It is also to be noted that in the ‘state of nature’ there is a scarcity of goods and whatever one state may possess, the others may desire the same.
Power in a way attempts not only to gratify the present requirements but the future ones too. Hobbes argues that in the ‘state of nature,’ there can be three main reasons to attack – for safety, for gain and glory. But what also one needs to keep in mind that it is fear and suspicion which also leads to war, the thought that others may take what you have. The act of self-defense emerging out of fear and suspicion to secure the territorial boundaries is one of the primary reasons for war.
Law and morality which are the two major tenants in the proper functioning of a state lose their significance in the ‘state of nature.’ One is permitted to do anything, and there is neither a watchdog to monitor one’s actions nor a law to safeguard anyone. The notion of seeking justice seems to be a myth under these circumstances. The law of nature are not moral laws rather they are presented as theorems and the rationale behind its existence is to seek peace through it.
However, it contradicts to the attribute of the ‘state of nature’ as mentioned before which is significantly a state of war. So, in that context what becomes imperative to discuss further is the idea of individual and collective rationality.
Collective rational is an amalgamation of rationalities which serve the purpose of individuals acting in the same way whereas the individual rational gratifies the needs and the requirements of every individual. Collective rational functions for the greater good of the society, whereas an individual one looks into the micro requirement of an individual and may often lead to a state of war.
However, in the longer run the existing contrast between individual and collective rational falling under the realm of laws of nature, attempts to nullify the state of war. The major outcomes in the state of war can be destruction, destabilisation, disestablishment of the existing structure and so forth. What becomes important here, is to argue that the laws of nature should take effect, however, it is not always mandatory to obey because in the state of war one individual may disobey the laws and if I obey it, then I fall as prey.
In the context of the present scenario in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Indian-held Kashmir (IhK) there is a presence of state legitimising power for the geopolitical spaces to function. It is not like ‘state of nature’ due to the absence of a state. However, what becomes important to investigate and question further is the way the state has functioned. It is important to raise the question, whether both the states, Pakistan and India have been able to safeguard their citizens.
From both the lenses, it is the people of Balochistan and the people of Kashmir who sense misplaced identities. The citizens of that geopolitical space have been unable to relate to their respective states, and subsequently, the states have also failed to appreciate the aspirations of the people of that space.
The undermining of the aspirations and further legitimising violence to curb the protests about finding hope and peace have been critiqued quite heavily. Under these circumstances, fighting against the state has led to the formation of separatist leaders both in the PoK and IhK, viz. Brahamdagh Bugti and Burhan Wani respectively.
These developments neither can qualify to be a part of state or ‘state of nature.’ I consider it to be staying in a space which signifies a quasi-state. Further to come out of the hole of uncertainty where citizens are living a life of morally unambiguous nature, rather than retaliating through war it is much required that the civil bodies should press the respective states for dialogue to happen. If not a permanent solution, but at least a temporal success would matter a lot.