Governance and Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir: Measuring Public Trust in Formal Institutions

DOI10.1177/23210230211043080
Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
Governance and Democracy in
Jammu and Kashmir: Measuring
Public Trust in Formal Institutions
Aijaz Ashraf Wani1 and Muzamil Yaqoob2
Abstract
The common association of political trust, legitimacy and participation within democratic states has
engaged scholars to answer questions like: what are the bases of trusting the state and its institutions?
And how enculturing trust can strengthen democratic governance? In this direction, institutional trust,
which is invariably linked to political legitimacy, is critical to measure the health of governance. This
article reflects upon the state-centric approach to governance, by exploring the interplay of institu-
tional trust and public legitimacy in Jammu and Kashmir. The study of the state of institutional trust, as
reflected in the post-2002 empirical data, enriches the theoretical discourse on governance in a conflict
region.
Keywords
Democracy, elections, governance, institutional trust, Jammu & Kashmir, legitimacy, political leadership
Introduction
In the backdrop of the growing centrality of governance within democratic theory, along with many vari-
ables, ‘trust’ was introduced as a conceptual variable to analyse citizens’ perception of state institutions
and to measure the performance of the government including its viability, stability and vitality (Warren,
2010). The debates on decentralization and democratization have mostly revolved around measuring the
efficiency of governance mechanisms so that the institutional viability and public legitimacy could be
effectively synchronized to build a robust polity and bring vibrancy. It is in this regard that scholars glob-
ally tried to establish indicators that could be universally applicable to measure various aspects of gov-
ernance. Among many others, public trust in formal institutions has emerged as one of the main indicators
measuring the public trust levels in state institutions.
Article
1 Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India.
2 School of Public Policy, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Hauz Khas, New-Delhi, Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Aijaz Ashraf Wani, Senior Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar,
Jammu and Kashmir 190006, India.
E-mail: ajazwani@uok.edu.in
Studies in Indian Politics
9(2) 192–207, 2021
© 2021 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
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DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043080
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Wani and Yaqoob 193
The current study is at the intersection of democratic theory and public trust. It provides an analysis
of public trust in democratic institutions, groups and leaders with a focus on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).3
It situates the empirical analysis of all the post-2002 assembly elections in a historical setting to explain
how the discourse on ‘misgovernance’ within the larger political crisis continued to shape public trust in
the institutions of the state and concludes that public trust in institutions and satisfaction levels with the
central government have witnessed a huge variance overtime. The inferences are drawn here to delineate
the debilitating trends in both spheres.
The article also highlights the regional variation of trust—more trust deficit with central institutions
in Kashmir and state institutions in Jammu. The study is based on Lokniti-CSDS data, collected in the
last two decades, providing a significant empirical anchor to analytically debate the various facets of
public trust and political participation both conceptually and empirically.
While locating institutionalized trust within democratic theory, we will briefly explore the historical
trajectories, which have shaped public trust in institutions in Kashmir, to buttress the empirical analysis
of trust measurement over the last two decades. The article would also highlight the limited scope of trust
and participation theories to understand the case study of J&K. While the theories of democracy would
argue that increased participation enhances institutional trust, the article not only reflects upon the need
to study within case differences while understanding institutionalized trust but also highlights that
despite greater participation and vibrant elections, there has always existed a considerable institutional
distrust in the state, which would require a greater theoretical engagement.
We develop three broad hypotheses: First, while historically there has been a low level of trust in
formal institutions across J&K, however, there are visible regional variations. Second, there is a strong
correlation between the overall political opinions in regions and their trust levels in formal institutions.
Jammu region, particularly its Hindu majority, right from 1947 evolved a narrative that was in contrast
with Kashmir region, based on the notions of anti-autonomy, complete merger with Indian Union,
Kashmir-centric politics, regional discrimination, etc. Therefore, while the Jammu region has shown a
great deal of trust in the central government and its associated institutions, the situation has been com-
pletely reversed in the case of Kashmir, where people have shown considerable interest in the local
government and other local institutions. Third, whenever the political situation has improved or any
leadership (or even individual institution) has shown a willingness to work towards restoring public
trust, people generally have responded, as the occasional surge in public trust levels would reveal.
However, such phases and attempts have generally been short-lived.
The first section, in the light of theoretical discourse on governance, debates the democratic deficit
and institutional trust in J&K historically, to explain how the institutional distrust took roots in J&K and
how it impacted the state–society relations over time. The second and third sections empirically measure,
based on Lokniti-CSDS data, the institutional and leadership trust post-2002, respectively. The last
section provides political propulsions that shaped the politico-electoral history of J&K throughout.
Democratic Deficit and Institutional Trust in J&K
J&K represent the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of Indian democracy. It is the reflection of the larger and growing
crisis of political institutions. Given its peculiar political context, J&K witnessed the ‘state-centric rela-
tional approach’ (Bell & Hindmoor, 2009) to governance where a hierarchical governance structure
3 J&K here refers to the geographical area as it existed before the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of State on 5 August
2019. Further, term ‘State’ is used throughout the article because the study refers to the time frame before it was converted into
two Union Territories.

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