The coming months will throw up biggest challenges to Kashmir leadership
‘Electoral politics, is the last thing that the flood devastated multitudes of the state are interested in’. It is writing on the wall that the “electoral-politicians” of the state and New Delhi refused to read.’ Caught up in multiple post flood crisis, people want to see their nests rebuilt and their livelihood restored. Historically, politicians of this tribe have been least concerned about the urges and aspirations of people. For strutting across the corridors of power this class of politicians, thriving on their loyalty to powers that be in New Delhi has a history of diverting attention of people from economic and social issues and conjuring alternative discourses for ‘defocussing’ popular narrative of the State.
Now when elections for the state assembly have been announced this old manoeuvring will find a new fillip. Many ‘dominant discourses that had taken back seat during the floods will be reborn. The woeful cries of the flood victims will get drowned in the cacophony of the ‘dominant discourse’ that not only have been shaping power structure in the state but have also been since fifties providing warp and woof to politics in New Delhi. From the day Kashmir ‘dispute’ was born the Congress party used Kashmir card to its political advantage. The right wing Bhartiya Jan Sangh, from its birth played up developments regarding Kashmir during early fifties for creating a space for itself and gaining political mileage over Nehru and the Congress. Its founder leader Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee ‘owned the divide in political aspiration between Jammu and Srinagar over ending of the feudal rule in the state “as his own”. To quote Ramachandra Guha, “Dr. Mookerjee had left Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet to become the founder president of Bharatiya Jana Sangh. His new party fared poorly at general elections of 1952- only three of its members were elected to Parliament. The trouble in Kashmir came at an opportune time for Dr. Mookerjee and the Jana Sangh. Here was the chance to lift the dispirited cadres to forget disappointment of the elections and reinvent the party on national stage”…’
Mookerjee questioned government’s policy towards the State. Ironically, Sheikh Abdullah ‘who had rejected the option of Independent Kashmir as impracticable and the option of Joining Pakistan as immoral’ was the target of the Jana Sangh agitation for his pleading autonomy for the state within Indian Constitution. Seen in right perspective, Nehru buckled to the pressures of the Jana Sangh and deposed Abdullah thus vindicating the stand of the Sangh. And also extended legitimacy to the agitation of the Praja Parshid that had raised slogan ‘Ek Desh may Do Vidhan. Do Pradhan, Nahin Chalange. Thus helped the Mookerjee’s party in catching imagination of the Hindutva mind set. Besides, communal politics, the Jana Sangh and its successor party BJP built its political castle by whipping up controversies about Kashmir problem.
The Communists, were not different from the Sangh Parivar in fishing in turbulent political waters of Kashmir. For remaining in good books of Russian Bolsheviks immediately after US co-sponsoring resolution of right to self-determination they raised the bogey of US conspiracy for creating Kashmir as its client state. In fifties after Sheikh Abdullah’s meeting with American politician Adlai Stevenson threatening discourses about American converting Kashmir into base in the Himalayan region. Sixty years history testifies during Parliament elections Kashmir related “hyper-nationalists” have helped Congress, BJP and Communist in improving their electoral politics.
For harvesting electoral gains the second quarter of 2014 also started with giving a new hype to Kashmir related discourses. One after another new Kashmiri related discourses were conjured from 11 Ashoka Road, New Delhi. Focussing on the Assembly elections after formation of new BJP government in Delhi these discourses were given a new hype stirring the political atmosphere in the state. After victory in the polls the BJP ministers bubbling with new enthusiasm raked up one after another issue. On the very first day a minister in PMO office announcing abrogation of the Article 370 of Indian Constitution, to creating ghettos for KPs and to politicizing places of pilgrimages the new government on daily basis created a new discourses to overthrow the popular narrative that for past sixty seven years has been running through Kashmir politics. In keeping with this policy, new government endeavoured to delegitimize the voices of dissent- spurning of the secretary level talks between India and Pakistan on the alibi of Pakistan envoy in New Delhi in keeping with past practice meeting the Hurriyat and other leaders. Many a political commentator had seen these developments of pushing the voices of dissent to the wall as a development fraught with dangers for exploding into a situation as explosive as during summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010.
After September 7 floods a lot of rhetoric of BJP about Kashmir that had dominated television channels and newspapers suddenly evaporated. Much reiterated discourses like, “Jammu and Kashmir was, is and shall remain an integral part of the Union of India. The territorial integrity of India is inviolable,” were not orchestrated by the party cadres. Slogans like abrogation of article 370, providing citizenship rights to non-state subject refugees from West Pakistan living in Jammu were neither raised in Jammu and Kashmir. The voices of dissent including the Hurriyat Conferences and JKLF that were agitated over the new government’s Kashmir policy, after floods had also bade adieu to sloganeering and counter-sloganeering and were fully engaged with rescue and relief works. Notwithstanding, tension building up across the LOC, it seemed that a peaceful and conducive atmosphere was building up in Kashmir- much needed for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Now when dates have been announced for holding elections in the state it is more than obvious that the “political siesta” that prevailed during past two months will not be there. And the worst causality of this political faux pa will be the rehabilitation of the flood suffers…thousands of shelterless will have to pass chilly winters in tents.
By all stretch of imagination the coming months will throw up biggest challenges to Kashmir leadership. To quote Albert Einstein, “they have to learn the rules of the game. And then to play better than anyone else.”