Kashmiris seem to be the most abused lot. Perhaps, the only people who are lambasted and lampooned ruthlessly. Usually by none other than their own people. The cliché has come to stay: After chameleons, it’s Kashmiris who are unpredictable! Beyond this, the tags of ‘traitors’ and ‘turncoats’ stand already attached to them; the ones who collaborate to bury their countrymen beneath snowy caves; those whose hands remain blood-soaked.
Of course, there is a mercurial deportment in our dealings. A strange kind of fickleness, in our viewpoints and our moods. The swaying stances, time and again, have earned us a bad name. All this apparently seems an embedded facet of our national character. However, the conclusion sounds implausible when the context of our collective behavior is analyzed keenly. The historical betrayals faced by this community have engraved an impression that works primarily on suspicion and skepticism. People do not trust anyone, not even any ‘representative’. Nor do they believe in any kind of sheer sloganeering. Anything that proves vain becomes equally pointless for them. The ‘captive ideologies’ of popular political figures has put them in a quandary since decades. The lack of principled politics and scrupulous politicians has held up their confidence as a decisive populace.
Moreover, the sly engineering by certain forces has fostered a situation that has kept people deprived of basic essentials of development. The ‘implanted’ corruption in public life and ‘sponsored’ economic enslavement have crippled the essence of vibrancy in people, rendering them hopeless.
All the same, the ‘intellectual inertia’ too is a factor that has been deliberately protracted by discouraging fearless voices to emerge forcefully. The honest narratives and perspectives from this place have been censored and reproached besides countered by half-truths in the form of books, movies and music. People, consequently, have somewhat stopped thinking critically as well as ingeniously.
Over the years, people have been put to death, both economically and intellectually. People have come to a finish, a cul-de-sac, where probably they see no immediate solution to long-pending K-issue. And given the changing dynamics at regional and international level; the ideologically divided and helpless separatist camp; and foul frigidity of mainstream politicians—people in Kashmir are actually reading and leading the disillusioned lives.
The participation in elections has turned into ‘right and wrong’ debate. The moral question attached to it seems absolutely unwarranted. Those who vote have a harsh logic to do so. Their vote is not to be misconstrued as a vote for K-issue resolution, as is projected by certain section of media and some politicians. People vote for good governance—water, electricity, roads and employment. The very basics of any decent living, which are an entitlement per se.
In fact, it reveals the failure of New Delhi in meeting simple requirements and needs of people here. The tall claims of pumping huge money into Kashmir stand exposed by general picture of under-development. There are miserable tales from far-flung areas not yet connected to towns and cities through proper roads, having no sufficient electricity and safe drinking water, not to speak of proper healthcare facilities lest babies are born on roads! All this braces the notion of Kashmir being treated as a wretched colony. By denying basic amenities to people, the rulers are spinning out the chronically impoverished status quo.
However, people still vote. They have been voting since many decades. Perhaps in a hope that their daily worries and woes will dwindle, and they can critically think over K-issue. It hasn’t happened so far. It won’t, in near future.
Misery in Kashmir seems never ending. And so remains the fate of conflict. Voting has in no way taken away the credence of the conflict we are in; it has rather emphasized the very wide and subtle nuances of K-issue. Over the years, the election exercises have incurred loss worth millions through undeclared curfews and protest strikes that paralyze life in the valley. The state exchequer also has to shoulder the cost of heavy deployment of troops and other polling staff for ‘smooth’ electioneering. All this, obliquely, vindicates the formidable nature of conflict in which people here are meshed in. Besides, it unravels the tough challenge New Delhi faces in Kashmir.
Bottomline: In coming days, people may again lead the happenings. Mainstream politicians may rejoice as well as remorse. Problems, big or small, will continue to toss the political landscape of Kashmir. The electoral politics will again witness a fierce pitch. Even as multiple agencies continue to work on various planks in Kashmir, the players (new and old) in the game will attempt hard to construct a shoddy scenario and make sure Kashmir bleeds. Endlessly.
Against this backdrop, there can be no final word about people of Kashmir. They are expected to display the behaviors that are sometimes draped in meaningful contexts and sometimes not. And, which can subsequently breed messages quite historical. The either way. The last flight to freedom or maybe last funeral to everything!