By Ashamsa Mathew
Throughout my explorations, I acted as a critic, using the system I developed to take on a rhetorical position.
We were tasked with creating the beginnings of a sovereign identity system in a technological future for an imagined state (Peterson, 2017). Throughout my explorations, I acted as a critic, using the system I developed to take on a rhetorical position.
I chose Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), a northern state in India, as my contemporary faction. J&K has been engaged in a struggle for peace for many years. In my scenario, the state breaks away from India to become a part of Pakistan, in the hopes of establishing stability.
To contextualize this imagined situation, we must first understand the state’s complex history. The end of the British rule in India was a time of both independence and separation. In 1947, part of India elected to break away from the nation and form Pakistan. Every princely state was given the option to remain part of India, join the newly formed Pakistan, or become an independent nation. While the Maharaja of J&K was making this decision, the Pushtoon tribe and citizens from the western districts invaded the state with support from Pakistan. Initially, the Maharaja fought back independently, but eventually requested military assistance from India. The government agreed to help under the condition that the the J&K Maharaja pledge temporary allegiance to India. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. The Indian government accepted the accession, but stated that it was provisional, as only the people, and not the Maharaja, could decide J&K’s fate. The public would formally make the decision once the state was freed from the invaders.
Thus began a series of wars which turned the beautiful state into a bloodbath. A special United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) negotiated the withdrawal arrangements to establish peace, but Pakistan refused to remove its forces, stating India would stay once it had left. Likewise, India refused to leave until Pakistan withdrew its troops.
Since India acquired J&K as a provisional accession, the nation gave J&K certain privileges. The state had its own constitution under Article 370, and its flag held the same level of significance as the Indian national flag. Indians from other states could not purchase land or property in the state. Additionally, “under Article 370 of the Constitution of India, according to which no law enacted by the Parliament of India, except for those in the field of defence, communication and foreign policy, will be extendable in Jammu and Kashmir unless it is ratified by the state legislature of Jammu and Kashmir” (Makkad, 2012).
After years of bloodbaths, rape, and countless other horrors, the war has ended. The UN finally negotiates a peace treaty in J&K, to which both India and Pakistan agree. The public must now decide if they want to remain independent or join one of the two countries. Monitored by the UN, the people of the state cast their vote.
The world is shocked by the final verdict (Figure A), although J&K’s population is not surprised. They explain their reasoning, noting that:
- The majority of the populace are Muslims, meaning the community is a pro–Islamic nation.
- Over years of war, India conveniently forgot that J&K was a provisional accession and took away the autonomy the state enjoyed.
- The Indian army was not a noble protector. They raped women, harmed citizens, and committed countless other horrific acts.
- The state is not strong enough to function on its own, especially after decades of conflict.
The state agrees to be a part of Pakistan, provided Pakistan’s government allows the public to maintain their secularist ideologies and does not discriminate against minorities on the basis of education, employment, and religion.
J&K and Pakistan claim to accept each other’s differences and present a united front; sadly, in my scenario, this symbolism is only theoretical.
The new state flag (Figure C) symbolizes unity. J&K and Pakistan claim to accept each other’s differences and present a united front; sadly, in my scenario, this symbolism is only theoretical.
- Moon – The moon acknowledges Pakistan’s Islamic ideals.
- Lotus – The lotus represents the newly joined nation’s 3 main religions and signifies how their differences create a beautiful entity. The lotus is also the state flower.
- Stars – The 3 stars represents J&K’s 3 regions. There are 22 districts in the new, shown by the 2 seven pointed stars and 1 eight point star.
- Red – The red background represents the martyrs who shed their blood to protect the people of the J&K.
This new identification system subtly promotes discrimination by playing upon people’s preconceived perceptions of certain religions and regions.
The government assigns emblems to every citizen based on his or her religion, gender, and region (Figure D). The mark masks any favoritism by combining all symbols into one tattoo. This new identification system subtly promotes discrimination by playing upon people’s preconceived perceptions of certain religions and regions. Subconsciously, people behave differently toward individuals based on their respective emblems.
The personal emblem functions similarly as fingerprints or social security numbers (Figure E). The ink mixes with DNA and can only be applied and removed by government officials. The tattoo gives people access to their phones and official information, but also makes it easier for the government to track citizens’ activities.
The state emblem depicts all regions, religions, and genders in an attempt to promote peace and harmony (Figure F). The government prints the image on all its documents and certain officials have it tattooed on their skin to provide them access to confidential information and restricted areas.
The government uses personal emblems to control what information citizens receive through the media. This feature allows the government to push its own propaganda, altering people’s opinions by playing on their emotions and fears.
Aim: To convert the public to Islam and maintain control over the country through these shared beliefs.
Strategy: Manipulate the public’s emotions to instill a pervasive sense of fear.
I have designed the propaganda system in this imagined scenario to be implemented well into the future, when the internet and apps primarily utilize virtual and augmented reality.
The government subtly fulfills its agenda using human psychology.
Figure G is the news as seen by a man with a significant woman in his life, such as a daughter, wife, or sister. The government wants to prevent women from going outside late at night. To promote this agenda, it shows this user a news story about how a Hindu girl was raped while out walking late. The VR landscape also projects a 5% drop in rape amongst Islamic women, implying that there is a correlation between that statistic and conservative Islamic ideals. The male user views his government-generated news feed and fears for the women in his life and does all that he can to prevent them from going out at night. The government subtly fulfills its agenda using human psychology. This way, they are never seen as the villains.
As I designed this sovereign identity system, I began to question how we might avoid government surveillance as the world moves towards a technology-driven future.
My proposed scenario is a far cry from democracy and secularism. As I designed this sovereign identity system, I began to question how we might avoid government surveillance as the world moves towards a technology-driven future. Even today, we face countless cybersecurity scandals, from social media giant Facebook misusing private user data to the US government listening to citizens through wiretapping devices. As designers, I believe we possess the tools and training to collectively design systems that are both inclusive and protective. The question is, how we maintain a balance between the two.
Peterson, M. (2017, October). A modest proposal. Content included on poster template.
Makkad, R. K. (2012, March 27). Why special status to j & k? – Constitution – Constitutional Law. Retrieved from www.lawyersclubindia.com/forum/Why-speical-status-to-j-amp-k–54474.asp.