Siesta Politics’ How will it be like in the year to come?


The mails popping up in my mailbox for quite some time have set me thinking. Also made me to look back. Streams of statements, press releases and pictures from various political organization and their units flow into my mailbox, like that of mailboxes of other scribes and journalist.  Some automatically are marked as spam and they find way to the trashcan.

The mails from various political organizations tell their own tales. Those subscribing to finality of accession of the state with Indian union and calling for revisiting the arrangement by demanding ‘greater autonomy’ or ‘self-rule’ tell stories about the power gamble. They speak about the rat race amongst political leaders for gatecrashing into the corridors of power. Statements from some other parties in these genera sufficiently tell woeful tales about the dissensions that have been afflicting their lower rungs. Equally, the mails from the organization that don’t believe in finality of accession of the state and demand ‘right to self-determination in conformity with 1948 and 1949 UN resolutions are also indicative of the mood in these organizations. These statements also provide an insight into the state of mind of the leaders heading the conglomerates and dozens of other pro-freedom parties. 

 These mails, for any discerning research scholar are a good source material for understanding the nuances, shades and subtleties of the political situation as obtained in the state during the year 2011- the year to become history after five days.  The mails also enabled one to gauge the mood of the leadership.  During the year bulk of mails in the boxes used to be about the political leadership offering funeral prayers of kin of a leader or a political worker or leaders visiting the bereaved family or condolence messages.

These condolence mails from the political parties were    reminiscent of the activities of the Plebiscite Front leadership when it suffered worst kind of quandary- a state of to be or not to be.  The failure to reach a political consensus at the 1968 All Parties State Peoples Convention for furthering the cause of right to self-determination and New Delhi’s and disappointment with the liberal Indian leaders like J.P had cause a kind fatigue in leadership. This disappointment found its manifestation in its decision to plunge into an electoral battle. However, the Front was banned under a Machiavellian design and   ironically, other organizations including the Jammat-e-Islami and Awami Action Committee was wooed to participate in the elections. The Front called a boycott of these elections and the call had an overwhelming response. Syed Mir Qasim in his autobiography very subtly takes credit for creating this division in the ‘freedom camp’, but the 1972 elections sapped the esprit de corps of the Front leadership. It lost its enthusiasm to pursue its goal of plebiscite; its activities were confined to funeral meetings, condolence statements and statements about lack of governance. Instead of raising slogan of plebiscite, it started howling over governance and dissipating the resources of the state. The much-trumpeted slogan was about bankruptcy of the state and it mortgaging civil secretariat to the state banker. It was switchover from   struggle for plebiscite to what I prefer to call as ‘Siesta Politics”. This ‘siesta politics’ continued with the Front even during its dialogue with New Delhi, that ended up with the dissolution of the Plebiscite Front, abandoning the demand for plebiscite and Sheikh Abdullah’s return to power.
Looking back at early seventies, I see some parallels in the then political scenario and that during 2011.  The year departing was largely a year of ‘political siesta.’ Unlike the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 the state could did not attract much of media attention at the national and international level.  Eerie silence largely prevailed on “pro-right to self-determination camp. True, the movement of Syed Ali Shah Geelani during the year was mostly restricted and some   important leaders of his combine arrested during 2010 continued to remain behind the bars. His activities largely revolved around holding seminars at his residence on various issues like “Dogra Certificate”, “Change of Demography”, “Mass Graves”, human rights and other issues. A fellow journalist very aptly described 2011, as year of seminars on his facebook wall. Notwithstanding Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq participating in many international conferences on Kashmir and articulating with clarity stand of his organization on the Kashmir problem and raising issues confronting people at his Friday meetings, majority of leaders of his faction hibernated during the year. Other groups except occasional show offs largely also maintained low profile during the year.

Seen in right perspective, it was not the ‘azadi’, ‘greater autonomy’ or ‘self-rule’ that stole the headlines during the year gone by but the ‘dominant discourse’ during the year was about AFSPA and activities of MHA appointed interlocutor triumvirate and their report. The interlocutors report, with all selective leaks to the press failed to generate any debate. As against this, the sterile debate between the state chief minister and various GOI agencies on the AFSPA not only attracted editorials in newspapers and made columnists of all shades and statures to pour out millions of words but also emerged as an alternative discourse.  True, it did not get same amount of attention as what New York Times   described   “intifada” in 2O10 in the international media. The 2010 situation had caused over two thousand columns in major international newspaper but by its own reckoning, the debate over AFSPA can be described as the ‘2011 Discourse’ that successfully pushed other major discourses to backburner.

Now when 2011 is nearing its end – the question remains what will be the dominant discourse during 2012. If pointers  provided by APHC (M) at marathon meeting on Thursday and address of Umar Farooq on Friday suggest anything- the 2012 debate will revolve around  good governance-that perhaps also portends a paradigm shift from the boycott to participative politics.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterk