Just A Moot Point
Had leadership analyzed the failures, it would have been a different story
Smaller Default Larger
“Those who write contemporary history know that the reader is not a passive vessel to receive the text placed before him or her. The reader is also a citizen, a critical citizen, with individual political and idealogical preferences.” These lines from the prologue of Ramachandra Guha’s recently published book ‘India after Gandhi’, as student of contemporary history set me thinking about the challenges the present-day writers of Kashmir are confronted with while writing about current political happenings or the political events of the recent past.
There can be no denying, ‘the closer one gets to the present, the more judgmental one tends to become” but this should not cause ire in political leaders or key players of a political struggle but rather drive them into introspection. Our eighty three year old struggle is story of indiscreet decisions, ‘wrong decisions at right moments’ and largely failures. It is a story of failures – one leading to another to another. In this column, it may not be possible to tell the whole story; how faux pas after faux pas and failure of leadership to learn from their mistakes drove us from a gorge into an abyss.
The struggle for freedom born with a bang in 1865, at Srinagar found first organized manifestation in 1922, in Jammu in the revival of the Young Men’s Muslim Association with Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas in the lead. However, what could be seen as the beginning of the organized struggle for freedom started after the happenings on 13 July 1931 in Srinagar followed by birth of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference at a three-day convention in the middle of October in 1932. This was first ever-statewide organization that brought Muslims- the overwhelming majority of the state on one platform for waging a heroic battle against discriminatory and unjust feudal rule. Nevertheless, barely few months later it cracked with birth of splinter group Azad Muslim Conference. Despite the Azad Muslim Conference surviving only for a brief period, this crack provided sufficient opportunity to the authorities and the forces inimical to the interests of the Muslim majority to operate and cause division amongst the people. The authorities succeeded in fragmenting the Muslim society more particularly in the city of Srinagar- nerve centre of the struggle.
Had the leadership at that time heeded to saner advice from people like Dr. Iqbal, many other well-wishers or cool mindedly introspected perhaps the chain of events like birth of the National Conference in 1938, and providing ample space to the Communist ideologues to change the political narrative of the state could have been prevented. Had the Muslim Conference, as it was born in 1932, not suffered ideological mutation the division of state would not have perhaps occurred all. History of the sub-continent would have been different.
Historically our leaders have been ‘bad students of politics’. Is it tragedy or travesty, they have been learning lessons hard way only to unlearn them. Immediately, after 1947, Sheikh Abdullah learned many a lesson. The honeymoon between Sheikh and Nehru in 1950 started heading for a precipice, immediately after the ‘maps of government of India claimed entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as part of its territory.” Corridors of power in New Delhi were rife with question: “Abdullah was anti-Pakistan but was he for India?” Nehru was “frustrated” at Abdullah’s vacillation – his frustration is manifest in his letters to his sister Vijaylakashmi Pandit. Abdullah was equally frustrated at Nehru backtracking from all his commitments to him in private and public. Sheikh, despite enjoying absolute power in silencing and tormenting voices of dissent and crushing his detractors started feeling New Delhi’s pinpricks right in 1949. These pin pricks graduated to his deposition and imprisonment in 1953. Floating on the crests of popularity from 1953, he led an organized movement for right to self-determination. Nevertheless, for his being a bad learner in politics in 1975, none but Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter stumped him- to die a “remorseful person”.
For their failure to learn from history in the post-1975, scenario, every other leader supporting ‘accession with Pakistan’ or ‘demanding right to self-determination without giving much thought jumped over the ‘bandwagon of blunders’ by joining or supporting the Janata Party that was pitted against Sheikh Abdullah in the elections. Intriguingly, same Prem Nath Bazaz who in 1938 had been instrumental in changing the Muslim Conference into the National Conference that succeeded in wooing Kashmir leaders to the Janata Party- a right wing conglomerate. Even footnotes of Kashmir history are now denying space these leaders.
If Sheikh Abdullah died a ‘remorseful person” or not but for his not learning from his political mistakes he opened floodgates of miseries and suffering on people he led for fifty years after his death. Had not Indira-Sheikh agreement for Abdullah’s return to power taken place the young men perhaps would not have taken to arms? Ostensibly, there would not have been bloodbaths and destruction of such a magnitude.
It is not only Sheikh Abdullah, who refused to learn from his goofs, if one makes an honest appraisal of the role performed by the post-1990 bunch of leaders their bags are also full of boo-boos. History did through up many an opportunity to these leaders to show their political foresight and ingenuity for giving a direction to the ‘people’s movement’ that would bring it near its goal. Nevertheless, every time it was lost.
Commenter’s counts the years 2008 across the globe as the years of transition in the contemporary history of Kashmir. The transition was maturating of the political movement to a take off stage that needed a visionary leadership for translating it into success. It, by all stretch of imagination was people’s movement that held promise of bringing dividends to their expectations. For leadership goofing, many believe it ended without meeting people’s aspiration. Notwithstanding “blundering” in 2008, historical forces that are behind political changes caused 2009 and 2010. The year 2010 is counted as good a benchmark in Kashmir history as 1931, 1947, 1953 or 1990. The year with all its subtly brought Kashmir under focus at the international level, after a gap of decades it caused a rethinking in New Delhi, the visit of Parliamentary delegation was an open manifestation of changed thinking…
It is a moot point, had leadership analyzed the failings in 2008 perhaps 2010 would have proved catalytic in meeting peoples political aspirations.