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How to Defeat “Hegemonic Discourse” Is The Question?



A Word with A Bibliophile


Z.G. Muhammad

 On the teacher’s day, I had posted a picture of my school teachers on the Facebook.  The post caused a phone call from a school time classmate, a surgeon who has returned to his native land after serving Arabs for thirty years- thus obviously not fully conversant with a harsh and seamy side of the contemporary political situation at his birth place. Starting with reminiscences of school days, hailing our teachers and their commitment towards students our long conversation tapered to the Kashmir Dispute, the political situation as has been obtaining in the state for past three months and the books on Kashmir. He informed me, that he had just finished reading ‘Kashmir the Vajpayee Years’ by one of India’s spy master.
It was him trusting every word of the retired spymaster in the book  as gospel truth  about the protagonists of the resistance movement  that intrigued me to think about the gullibility of not only common people but also ‘thinking minds’ in believing what Italian theorist and politician Antonio Gramsci has called as ‘hegemonic discourse’.  
In the bibliophile crowd of our society, my classmate is not an exception in failing to understand ‘undertow’ hegemonic discourse in such writings and books.  There are many others who are not only swayed by such books but also unintentionally to the disadvantage of the cherished cause of their people strengthen the hegemonic discourse by attaching credibility to such works. That after 1990’s have been published in a plethora- some with official patronage and some by writers of a particular mindset. For, a common bibliophile, without striving hard and reading between the lines it is hard to draw a line of distinction between an honest work and those meant to subvert a historical political movement. To know, how works like the one that my friend believed as a biblical truth one needs to understand the phrase ‘hegemonic or dominant discourse’, its dynamics and how it corrodes and erodes the people’s narratives and conjures alternative narratives and making gullible believe them.
It is those in power that create a ‘dominant discourse’. The powers that be repeat it viciously and vociferously from every available means of communication to them that it becomes the accepted way of looking at or speaking about the subject.  ‘The dominant discourse rarely includes ‘the perspective of the Other- the non-power other holding Other’. The powers that be, look for the collaborators from the same society for orchestrating the sweet sounding alternative discourses as the ‘new normal’.  But, for the willing partners from the same society, the “dominant discourse” can never succeed in conjuring alternative narratives, blurring, and distorting the people’s narratives at domestic or international level.
In 1947, first Prime Ministers of India, Jawaharlal used the services of the then National Conference leaders for carrying forward New Delhi’s “dominant discourse” in the state. Nehru in Delhi had warned Sheikh Abdullah not to think of going to Pakistan to meet Jinnah. “Any direct contact should be avoided” (SWJN2, 4 pp 318- 319). Nehru told Abdullah what he wrote to Sri Prakasa, his Commissioner in Pakistan that Kashmir will bankrupt Pakistan soon and it will crumble. Nehru also told him that he ‘on no account wanted Kashmir to become a kind of colony of foreign interest, he feared Pakistan is likely to become that if it survives at all.’ (SWJN 2, iv p 270-271)
Those conversant with Abdullah’s speeches in 1948 to 1951 will be remembering it was this “dominant discourse” that was orchestrated by the National Conference from roof tops, Radio Kashmir, State Field Publicity Organization and fully controlled media. Nehru utilizing the services of some important Bombay based communist’s writers had launched a pamphlet and poster war on the tiny population. Booklets, pamphlets, and posters in gaudy red color were published and glued to lamp posts.  An iron curtain was drawn against butchering of humanity in Jammu with the state immunity. Because of the then civil society failing to rise to the occasion and deconstructing the “hegemonic discourse” and telling truth about killing fields in Jammu for a couple of years, Sheikh Abdullah’s speech with famous one liner, “Pakistan does not have a paper pin”  had influenced public mind more particularly the peasantry.
Minus, Ghulam Ahmed Mahjoor’s poem “Azadi” that exposed the myths about so-called freedom there was no writer, journalists or poets worth his salt to deconstruct and demolish the hegemonic state discourse. Mahjoor’s verse like Nabir Sheikh knows what Freedom means, There’s restlessness in every heart, But no one dare speak out – do hold a mirror to the suffocating times but it was  some European writers and historians  who subsequently demystified tragic Kashmir story and largely deconstructed the  alternative narratives that the state had passed on as history of the Dispute. It was Ian Stephen’s 1955 book ‘Horned Moon’ that exposed the Jammu massacre of 1947 before the world leaders or Alastair Lamb, dug deep into 1947 happenings and deconstructed the ‘dominant discourse’ about the Kashmir dispute. It was a couple of years, Lamb’s research on the instrument of accession and were for the first time was augmented by historian Dr. Abdul Ahad in his book Kashmir Triumph and Tragedy and Late Pampori in ‘Kashmir in Chains (1819-2010)’.
Some weeks earlier another important book in proximity to this genre of Kashmir literature, ‘Kashmir Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative’ by Khalid Bashir Ahmed hit-the-shelves across India. The book, though largely focussed on the role of a particular community at different points of time in our history while exposing the mythical narratives does supplement the main peoples narrative by deconstructing the dominant discourse about the migration of Kashmiri Hindus and talking candidly about the dubious role played by New Delhi media vis-à-vis majority sentiment in the State. (The books call for a full-length review and a debate.)
True, a lot of young journalists and writers born in the eighties and nineties, have been documenting their story. But so far there no institutional effort for deconstructing the dominant discourse and prominently bringing the whole truth in the public domain at the state and international levels.
Published in Greater Kashmir on 11-09-2017












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