Moment for change

The growing culture of protests and agitations in Kashmir –not only around the big political developments but also about routine and mundane matters (like frequent power outages) – are more than anything a sad commentary on the state’s dysfunctional systems.  Irrespective of how the state chooses to look at, understand and articulate these agitations against it, fact of the matter remains that for the common people there is not much reason of hope in the current system. So while there is a visible urge among certain genuine civil society groups here and in mainland India that something needs to be done to create a sort of buffer to absorb the stresses of common people’s frustrations, those who could really affect any change remain in the state of absolute denial. This is indeed the major worry.

On one hand is a state which seems in no mood to accept its follies, and is, as such, far from rectifying any. Because the state does not want to get down to the roots of the problems, it has retreated into a sphere of trivial, superficial ameliorations. So judging the governments both here and in New Delhi by their lack of commitment and resolve and also a policy and direction, people too have started believing them as insignificant. A real people’s government would have calmly accepted the overwhelming fact that all problems in Kashmir are related and that they are the progeny of certain fundamental causes and issues. 

If we free ourselves of the shackles of wordiness, the statement of purpose for the governments is clear and simple: the job is depoliticizing the political by looking at the issues as people’s issues and concerns. As long as they continue looking at things only through the colored glasses of selfish politics and militarism, nothing is going to change. Kashmir, after all is a human tragedy and it needs to be seen as such. It is neither a fiefdom owned by a political family or a party, nor a corporate business enterprise that should be manipulated at the whims of its CEO or board or directors or fixers. It is about the people of flesh and blood, who like their counterparts elsewhere, have genuine needs and urges; they too nurse grievances and grudges; and it is the prime job and responsibility of the governments to ensure that these needs are met, problems addressed, grievances redressed.  If they do it, their mandate and worth stands justified. If they don’t, they are an unnecessary burden on the state exchequer, and a source of constant heart-ache for the people. 
If only the state realizes its follies, it would understand that its purpose is battling all of those forces, both physical and unseen, which converge to make Kashmir into a human junkyard full of frustration and despair. Of course the kind of politics that has all along been played here is the main culprit, but then politicization of even the basic and mundane too is a cause of huge frustration. When even fundamental needs and rights of people — means of livelihood – jobs, exgratia relief, even widow and old-age pensions, healthcare facilities, roads and streets, and even drinking water and electricity are doled out as a ‘political concessions’, fallout is bound to be nothing but popular frustration, disenchantment and a sense of abject disenfranchisement. Now cap it all with widespread and institutional corruption protected both openly and stealthily by a general culture of unaccountability, the recipe is a deadly cocktail of angry rage, which could incinerate everything to ash in no time.

On the other extreme, there is also a huge pile of political deadwood, which despite having rode to name, fame and wealth on the waves of popular anger and resentment, has miserably failed to give people any sense of direction and hope. Instead of acknowledging their culpability in making Kashmir into a cesspool of human suffering and misery, this lot prides itself, and its disoriented techniques and disjointed talents, for being “representatives of popular sentiment”. Instead of showing any viable roadmap towards their jargonized cliché of “logical end” – which everyone knows they don’t have – these so-called leaders reach out to the people through press statements and from the pulpits of mosques, under the aegis of goodness and benevolence and appeal them to continue living in hell and like it too so that their political enterprises continue to thrive and prosper.

In such a situation, the only hope lies in the people who dream of, and try to create shock-absorbers within and without to safeguard Kashmir in its entirety of physical and human geography. And surely there are people who have learned to look at issues dispassionately, without fear of coercion or greed of collaboration. This is the class that could deliver Kashmir and its people from the clutches of traditional political and power enterprises. Now it is for the common people, the ordinary have-nots, to see what could be and should be done to help this class to take lead. With elections round the corner — first for Lok Sabha polls and then for the State Assembly – it will be really worthwhile to think if it could provide a window of opportunity to replace the old war horses to bring in a lease of fresh blood and air into the otherwise stinking polity of Kashmir. – See more at: