Mainstream political parties as partners in the manifold tragedy of Kashmir

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Financial Express: Both leaders (Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti) of Jammu and Kashmir have heavily criticised the centre for this decision. (file photo)

Representing Delhi in Srinagar, but sadly not the other way round has been a spectacular betrayal by the mainstream parties to the people of Kashmir

The issue of the role that the mainstream politicians in the J&K state have played ever since 1947 when the first civilian government was installed in the state merits a dispassionate reappraisal against the backdrop of the ongoing general elections, both in the J&K state and mainland India. The point is that if it had not been for a long regime of dirty tricks manifesting themselves in a variety of ways including especially in the massive rigging of elections in the state by the Central government and its agencies, the situation on the ground would have perhaps been a lot more different. In the lines that follow, it is sought to provide a small sample of the instances of the monumental perfidy that has been committed upon the people of the state by the Centre by using and abusing their lackeys masquerading as mainstream politicians in the J&K state.

The low and ignoble level to which politics has been allowed to stoop conjures up the image of a politician as being the most dangerous creature on the planet? To quote Markanday Katju, ‘with some rare exceptions, they are unscrupulous scoundrels who trade human grace, dignity and blood for votes’. That description is by no means over the top, considering that the modern day politician is known to be dispensing politics of the most devious kind as we have seen, especially over the past few years.  

This description applies as much to the politicians in mainland India as it applies to those dispensing politics in Kashmir. The hypocrisy in their ranks cannot get starker as the mainstream politicians are seen to flip flop between representing one capital in the other, depending upon whether they are on or away from the seat of power in Srinagar. The predictable noises being raised by the party apparatchiks from any of these political parties are merely a replay of what has been the favourite line of the adversary political party, depending upon whether the statements were made while they were savouring the spoils of office or were closing their heels in the opposition. To wit, consider how the PDP supremo has been conducting herself now after losing power that she used to do exactly when she was in the opposition in her previous innings, having earned the sobriquet of rudali for her commiserations with those who had lost their dear ones in armed confrontations with the security forces. Contrast this with that unsavoury ‘toffee’ comment that she had made as CM when some young boys were killed during firing by the government forces upon civilians a couple of years ago. And not long ago, recall how the senior Abdullah had hailed the role of Hurriyat as the genuine champion of the freedom struggle of Kashmir while even going to the extent of offering his services for its cause, even as only some weeks later what he had said elsewhere amounted to a volte face on that position. For the record, let us recall that famous autonomy resolution passed by the state assembly in 1999 while he was at the helm of affairs as the CM that was submitted to the Central govt. headed by A B Vajpayee for discussion in the parliament. The fact that the central government chose to reject it with utter contempt and distain sadly did not cause much consternation in the ranks of the state government, beyond some inaudible murmurs of protest. The indignity and humiliation that was thus meted out to him as well as to his government should have caused him to put in his papers as a mark of protest at this treatment which obviously was ham-handed and over the top.

The uncanny similarities between the two mainstream political parties in J&K and how New Delhi treats them when they dare to stand up, should not be lost on those who may wish to look at the two parties differently. Their lack of enthusiasm to do their bit in resolving the K-issue on the one hand and a failure on their part to provide good governance in the state on the other have merely helped exacerbate the deadly cocktail of violence that has turned this place into a towering inferno! Of a piece with this monumental betrayal by our mainstream political leadership in the J&K state there was, not long ago, this piece of news involving ‘promises versus performance’ where the MP’s representing Jammu and Ladakh were reported to have performed better in the parliament by highlighting the issues of their people than their counterparts from the valley who have been found wanting on that count. Incidentally, that should also serve as a lesson for those smaller parties in the state who are in awe of New Delhi and who now owe allegiance to a party which, for all it has achieved in Kashmir in these past few years, has turned it into a living hell.

Apart from what has been a long regime of misgovernance by our political leadership, we in Kashmir are left to contend with the double whammy involving this crop of generally unconcerned and ill-informed gaggle of top bureaucrats who are dispatched to Kashmir from outside as top government functionaries to dispense governance in the state. Leave alone the bureaucrats, we now have the state governor whose action and utterances do not inspire much optimism in his understanding of Kashmir or the Kashmir problem, or else his ‘periodic fits of wisdom’ on the nature and the genesis of militancy in the valley would have yielded space to action on the ground in terms of concrete measures to stop this killing spree involving young Kashmiris at the hands of the security forces. Although the office of the state governor is supposed to remain above politics, his actions betray otherwise. How else does one make sense of his outlandish decision not to allow civilian traffic to ply, ostensibly to facilitate the movement of convoys of security forces on the national highway connecting Jammu to Srinagar which cuts across several towns and cities of the valley? In equal measure, how does one account for his earlier action involving the alacrity with which he had got himself to act and dissolve the state assembly to scuttle the prospects of an NC-PDP coalition having staked claim to form the government following the withdrawal of support by the BJP from the government? Doesn’t that call into serious question his credentials as the true custodian law and of the constitutional propriety? Of a piece with this skulduggery was his politically motivated move to set up a separate administrative/revenue division for Ladakh, a decision which may have been constitutionally valid but remains ethically unsound. This is so because such important policy decisions with far reaching consequences on the future of the state are supposed to be the preserve of the state government which is not in place at the moment. Earlier, it was under his tutelage that the joke of local body elections was foisted in J&K which has thrown up candidates who had won either uncontested or by polling a measly 8 out of a total of 9 votes which were cast in a certain constituency. What sort of a democracy is being played out in the state where 95% of the electorate in the valley had boycotted the polls? Some rare exceptions apart, that has been the trend in all the elections having been conducted in the valley since the mid nineties and there is no indication in sight if the forthcoming Lok Sabha and the assembly elections may register a different trend. 

The fact remains that whether there or not there is enacted this subterfuge of elections, the situation on the ground in Kashmir is doomed to remain as it has always been- uncertain, unpredictable and violence-prone, made  worse by rank misgovernance! This bids fair to be so, not necessarily because very few people would turn up to vote, but mainly because only those individuals/political parties would be allowed to occupy the hot seat in the state who would do the Centre’s bidding, or else a re-enactment of the coup d’etat of Nehru(1953), Indra Gandhi(1987) or Narendra Modi (2018) would not be long in coming! Hark back to the great betrayal by Sheikh Mohd Abdullah in 1947 by falling for the bait thrown at him by Pt. Nehru which compares favourably with the colossal perfidy by Mufti Saeed whose strange idea of closing ranks with the monster called the BJP has been the last nail in the coffin bedecking the graveyard of Kashmir! For all that we in Kashmir have learnt- and learnt the hard way – and witnessed with horror, the manner in which the mainstream politics has been playing itself out over the past seventy years leaves little room for optimism involving its role in addressing the K-issue on the one hand and in attempting to provide good governance on the other. It is a pity that our own gang of snollygosters have not learnt their lessons as they continue to curry favour with those at the helm of affairs in Delhi to get their pound of flesh in the spoils of office in exchange for doing the dirty work assigned to them. It is also true that the J&K state stands apart from other states in view of the over-arching influence of the Indian deep state in Kashmir which places certain impregnable limits beyond which the mainstream politician cannot hope to deliver in Kashmir! In such circumstances, the best- though an ideal – case scenario that would test their good intentions towards the people would be for the two largest mainstream parties in the state to mend fences and close ranks with each other in order to keep at bay the dirty machinations of those dictating terms from Delhi. That’s the least they could do to save themselves further ignominy in the eyes of Kashmiris on the one hand and spare Kashmir the agony of a fall into further chaos and hopelessness, on the other. Finally, this gaggle of new kids on the block or those well meaning Kashmiris who are reported to be contemplating a plunge into active politics would do well to learn a lesson or two from the contempt that the people of this place have reserved for those who have sold the soul of Kashmir in a bid to achieve their political ambitions. Let them note that the time for such histrionics is long over!