Mere mention of the Kashmir Bar Association conjures images of hundreds of black coat wearing lawyers shouting full throat slogans, facing baton charges and arguing in the courtrooms’ cases of human right violations, enforced disappearances and custodial deaths. Time and again, for past twenty five years by arranging free and frank debates on issues confronting the people’s political movement the bar has been shaping collective consciousness of the people. Couple of days back, in the backdrop of change of guard in New Delhi and Kashmir related alarms, like abrogation of the Article 370, creating separate and insulated colonies for migrants and providing citizenship rights to the non-state subject refugees from Pakistan, emanating from the raisina hills, the association had arranged a one day seminar on “New Challenges to the Resistance Movement".
Sitting under the canopy of old majestic Chinars, on the lawns of the Sadder court complex and listening speaker after speaker, my mind was struggling with a newly learnt word “tacenda’ – perhaps it had something to do with my past nightmarish experience after writing an analytical column some political developments my best ability. Caught up in the “Hamletian syndrome”, over a couple of speeches reflecting disappointment and “fatigue” that has overtaken some in the ‘vanguards’ of the movement, I was thinking if ‘tacenda’- things better left unsaid, could be the right approach. The historic lawns reminded me of the galaxy of lawyers and leaders that I visited on these lawns as a young nineteen year old student. These leaders had baptised our whole generation in politics of the “Plebiscite Front” and later on “fatigue syndrome” had afflicted had them. That in fact pushed a whole generation, after us into a more dangerous period of uncertainty and mayhem.
History is replete with instances, when in political struggles like that of ours leaders suffered disappointments and fatigue. And despite suffering disappointment at occasions they succeeded in their missions. In their moments of fatigue these leaders unlike our leaders did not invoke alternative narratives, instead, they preferred some kind of political siesta or total withdrawal from the scene. To illustrate this point, in the sub-continent we have two important examples. Mahatma Gandhi-man who religiously believed, ‘strength of character can conquer any kind of strength’ also had his moments of disappointments. The example of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah is most befitting for our contemporary situation and an example to be emulated by leaders and men suffering from “fatigue syndrome”. It was his gloom over the goings on, inside the Muslim League and outcome from the Second Round Table Conference in London that had made him to live apolitical life in London for four years. In the words of his biographers Stanley Wolpert, “There was nothing to tax his talent, no challenge to his life.” It was on the bidding and persuasion of Iqbal that he returned to India to lead the Muslim League. In a year or so he emerged as the “sole spokesman” of Indian Muslims and succeeded in raising a new country through his ‘indomitable will.’
In their moments of gloom and disappointment, if the two great leaders of the subcontinent had invented alternative narrative matching their ‘fatigue’, perhaps the struggle of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League would not have succeeded.
In our case, the leadership suffering ‘fatigue syndrome’ out of desperation destroyed year’s long political movements- that were internationally recognized as genuine political movements for the rights of people. In the drumbeating of the alternative narratives they pushed the main narrative into the oblivion to the total disadvantage of the movement. In creating secondary discourses in conformity with the “dominant discourses’ with short term objective of getting into corridors of power these leaders perpetuated the dispute and suffering of the people. Exuding with pessimism, the fatigued leaders often coin a new phraseology to make people believe in their new discourses or narratives. Even at a cursory scanning of the contemporary history one finds leaders having introduced phrases like “ground realities”, “pragmatism”, “changed geo-strategic situation”, and “social decadence”, to strengthen counter narrative and personal agendas. The ‘alternative narratives’ and discourses conjured by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah preceding couple of years before the Indira –Sheikh Abdullah could be a good example to illustrate the point that how alternative discourses, instead, of bringing political stability to the state caused a new phase of uncertainties.
In 1964, Sheikh Abdullah, sailing on the crest of the Holy Relic Movement was invited by ailing Jawaharlal, nursing wounds of China’s aggression for working out a solution of the Kashmir Dispute. Lacking clarity about his goal, he could not convert the gains of the January 64 movement into resolution of the dispute. Staying in PM house as personal guest of Nehru for five days as he had stayed in October 1947, he failed to tell Indian Prime Minister, the lasting solution lied in implementing his pledges. Proceedings of the three member advisory committee constituted by Nehru testify it. Sheikh by all stretch of imagination was fatigued by 1968, and the State Peoples Convention’ for finding alternative solution for the Kashmir Dispute was its brazen manifestation.
Many a student of contemporary history including myself see the State People’s Convention as a prelude to the 1975 Indira-Abdullah Accord. The tone and tenor of the Plebiscite Front discourse changed. It was punctured with phrases like ‘ground realties’ , ‘moral decay’ , ‘changes in geo-politics’ and bad governance In fact, Sheikh engaged himself fulltime in the reconstruction of the Hazratbal and targeted the Congress government. In seventies, instead of talking plebiscite, he succeeded in making corruption in the government as major component of public discourse.
In 1973, the Front discourse underwent a radical change, instead of plebiscite it coined a new phrase “no dispute over accession but quantum of accession”- this phrase password for power in 1975- and beginning of another period of uncertainties soaked in blood.
The fatigue syndrome is infectious. In 1977, it caught entire leadership and everyone in political struggle jumped over Janata Bandwagon and finally drowned in political wilderness. History is the best teacher- it has best lesson for the ‘fatigued….’