Oh! They Have An Agenda Will APHC in its new avatar articulate public issues?

Prodding and prompting are not synonymous.Prodding gets on one’s nerves as against this prompting stirs the thinking process.I admire prompting by friends on the social networks but am averse to prodding. On the exposure of the examination scandal involving Education Minister, Peerzada Muhammad Syed, some friends on the social network persistently prodded me to write against the ‘tainted minister’ detailing all his previous scandals.  At the same time, prompting by some friends made me conscious about the   catastrophic impact of the scandal on the future of educational system in the state.

The scandal did provoke plethora of columns, some seeking intervention of the Congress Chairperson   but with scepticism reigning supreme, I was amazed if my writing about the scandal would make any difference. Having an understanding of the Congress politics vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir from the day th party set up its unit in 1964 in the state with a set agenda of extending many central laws to the state that included Article 356 etc, with all certainty I believe that the people of the state at no point of time have  been its concern.  It has all along been “loyalty” towards the ‘family’ that has overweighed the ‘image’ or the ‘performance’ of its ministers in the state.  The fact of the matter is that after Mufti Muhammad Syed siding with V.P. Singh and bidding adieu to the Congress the ‘tainted minister’ has been the face of the Congress in Kashmir valley. In all power, sharing arrangements whether it is 1987 N.C-Congress coalition or 2002 PDP-Congress combine or the 2008 NC-Congress partnership the minister in the dock has been part of the cabinet. The ‘exam-gate’ is not first of its kind of scandals involving the minister that attracted the headlines and filled up opinion pages, the indictment of the minister by the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission and exposure of   the Panchayat Ghar Electrification Scandal during the PDP-Congress coalition had been more ‘ferociously’ reported in the press. The media outcries and deafening outbursts by the opposition were dismissed as unheard by the Congress leadership in Delhi. The minister might have been as good as an embarrassment to the then Chief Minister as it is humiliating to the scion of the Abdullah family- who like his predecessors  seems having taken it with a pinch of salt. I will not be surprised if the Congress high command after the Assembly Elections in various states insists on rotational chief minister and projects ‘exam-gate’ minister as its chief ministerial candidate. Expecting the vox pop guiding the policies of the Congress Party in Jammu and Kashmir or attuning them with the public sentiment would be tomfoolery but crumbling of institution, decaying of systems and plundering of resources should be the cause of concern to all and sundry in the state.

In the bizarre scenario that has been, obtaining in the state there seems no light across the tunnel. The people who strode across the corridors of power for their non-performance have largely lost their standing. Seen in right perspective, so far giving voice to the public concerns about the rot and decadence that has set in public institutions are concerned there is no credible voice around. Out of desperation an old time journalist wrote on his wall on the face book- ‘Geelani Sahib and Mirwaiz Umar’ need to come forward and steer the state out of morass.’   In the given political scenario with most of the leaders engaged in electoral politics largely suffering from credibility crisis for their non deliverance the question that haunts the public minds is who is going to fill up the space.

It seems that All Parties Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwaiz Muhammad Umar Farooq is girding its loins to fill up this space. In its meeting on Tuesday the ‘Executive Council’ of this multiparty combines decided to move beyond the agenda as contained in its Constitution viz right to self-determination for the people of the state as guaranteed in the UN resolution or ‘negotiated settlement of the sixty three year old dispute to the aspirations and urges of people of the state.

Believing that it is high time for highlighting the economic and social issues confronting the people and telling the international community that the non-resolution of the Kashmir problem was affecting the common person’s life the multiparty combine seems geared to redraft its agenda. The envisaged agenda is likely to include campaigning against: the systematic and unabated loot of the water resources by the Government of India agencies like the NHPC; environmental degradation and plundering of forest wealth; for opening of traditional trade routes that connected the state with the Central Asian States before 1947; deliberate attempts at eroding educational system in the state and making cross border trade more meaningful. Fighting against the orchestrated religious discourses targeted at creating and widening sectarian divide in the majority community.

I am not going to debate here whether the new agenda could be construed as diversionary politics that could infringe the major narrative. It will be equally premature to suggest that if the APHC for seeing its agenda implemented finally graduates to electoral politics that would require it changing from a conglomerate into a political organization with its basic units all over the state. I am not also going to draw a parallel between the post 1971 phase of the Plebiscite Front and the APHC that had seen the Front instead of articulating demand for plebiscite focusing on economic and social issues and finally graduating to electoral politics first through proxy candidates then direct participation. Not contradicting the APHC leadership that the new agenda would strengthen the major narrative the question arises that if this conglomerate was going to take the new agenda beyond rhetoric and launch an effective movement for seeing its agenda translated into reality… the year 2011 will be year to watch the APHC in its new avatar articulating public issues.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)