A state in a mess

In another bout of violence in the volatile south Kashmir, we lost seven civilians when they were fired at by government forces in Pulwama. It kick-started our cycle of mourning and reckoning – with thousands thronging the funerals and praying for the young victims, hartals, obituaries and so on. This is the ritual of mourning we have got accustomed to till more people are killed and more blood is shed. Caught in this bog of tragedy from which extractions seems impossible, we spend a lot of time on social media, fighting our “virtual war” by drubbing the politicians, parties and their supporters with whatever comes to our minds – abuses, swearing and even threats. The situation in Kashmir has changed completely with more and more people, other than Kashmiris, having an insight about the real situation in Kashmir.

Today, the situation may not seem to be as explosive as it was in 90s, but that is where most people are wrong. The number of killings due to violence has been increasing and the hate that is filled in the hearts and minds of people of Kashmir has become permanent. It won’t be possible to get rid of the estrangement by any government in the next ten to twenty years. Who knows what might happen next!

There are no crossfires or grenade attacks as were seen in 90s. However, there is no peace either. Loss of life on such immense scale as in tens of thousands has become a measuring scale. Few deaths, whether it is in encounters, road accidents or due to natural accidents, do not evoke that kind of response and anger as it used to. Some people say it is a ‘military policy’ to tire out the people, like they did in Palestine. However, Few hartal calls and curfewed days make people forget the miseries instantly. So how bad is it or it has been – there is no single straight answer. That is the worst thing to happen in the state – the uncertainty about almost all affairs, political, economic or of social character. In this uncertainty people of Kashmir have left it to fate, hoping that one day real peace would return.

In any conflict, political, as has been observed so far in different regions the worst hit are institutions. In most cases, education is the first casualty. What is surprising in case of conflict and its after-effects in Jammu and Kashmir, education has largely survived, except in few cases. Creches and pre-schools, tuition centers, schools, colleges, universities – they are mushrooming and the number of educated has significantly increased. Today, a good number of people of the state have academic degrees and training in their hands. But does it mean or be interpreted as return of normalcy? What violence didn’t strike, political inefficiency in the state has. The educated have increased but their education remains an investment gone wrong. Jobless and desperate, the educated are slowly becoming disillusioned. A year ago the debate as why a different class of “educated militants” was emerging was initiated and left to wane. The story would have been different if militants would have blown up a school, a small institution, to dictate their terms. When it is large scale failure, those responsible would not even be questioned.

State executives in the form of politicians of the class mainstream often in their precise verbatim pull out a list of accomplishments – which are all put under the term development. One of the greatest nuisances in a state where we have people of knowledge and wisdom is to take credits for anything supposed to be done. Beginning with what we mean by the government, most have misplaced ideas about it. The government is a body of select people among the whole population who are given the job and responsibility of governance. It is not a charity work and the politicians do nothing from their own purse or for free. It is always the public money, from which the politicians (ministers, legislators) too are paid their due salaries. Political leaders are viewed – good politicians bad politicians – on the basis of ideology and smaller achievements while in power and serving public.

Whether it is governance for the complete cycle of six years or issues of saving lives of people from occasional but repeating incidents, the performance of political leaders of mainstream class does not outshine that of their predecessors. One lot goes out of power and another lot takes its place.

The issue of protection of civilians against military has become a serious concern. In J&K state, which obviously is not a failed state, the civilian-military relationship is at its worst. The two seem to be on opposite ends of peace and reconciliation. From this perspective what kind of state would J&K qualify for?

The question as whether the elected leaders that come to power through the system of elections are suitable for the job is never raised in the six years of rule. Every government formed in J&K is likely to continue about six years, by hook or by crook, as once elected all their acts and actions are not subject to scrutiny. Their positions are fixed till they are voted again to power. Policies are not how politicians rate either themselves or their rivals but deals and conspiracies against the people of Kashmir. Winning is achieved by simply proving that the other is more villainous.

The regular work of ministers and their aide of bureaucrats who have to keep them happy and in good faith is a closed subject. They do what they can and no one is supposed to point or raise a finger. They would chair women empowerment programmes and abuse women in their chambers. They would talk about beautifying the city and let the concrete business entities be erected overnight. Courts would intervene with litigations. They would seal the city, only to take matter some time later and change the law. Or they would go with demolitions and make more money as the same houses and buildings are erected again and again.

Are these linked to the political conflict that has rendered opaqueness in the entire system of popular governance?