December 2016 News

Can Kashmir Overcome The Deceit Of Its Leaders?

24 December 2016
Salman Nizami

Srinagar: If there's something in Kashmir that won't let it break free from the ghost of its troubled past, it is the bewildering politics of its local leaders who have a long history of changing their political discourse to suit their interest. When they are in power, they inch closer to New Delhi so that funds and perks flow in smoothly from the Centre's coffers. When out of power, they lean towards a covert brand of separatism, inciting the youth to press for autonomy. This not only disturbs the law and order, but also severely dents the Centre's efforts for reconciliation. Let's face it. A section of the Kashmiris are at dispute with the Centre over some political questions. But as their participation in state and national elections suggest, they are also willing to approach these questions with an open mind and be receptive to what the Centre has to offer. Disputes over boundary or sub-national identity politics are not alien to modern nation states. History tells states can solve them over a course of time, by focusing on meaningful engagement with the people. Scotland, for example, voted to continue being a part of the UK. But Kashmir's local leaders have ensured that the pot keeps boiling there. Unrest suits them. So long as people are in the street pressing for Kashmir solution, all that the local leadership needs to do is fan the feeling, present them as advocates of this cause, and gain at the expanse of the national parties. There is no obligation to prove merit. Look at the present chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir for instance. While she was the opposition leader between 2008 and 2014, she missed no opportunity to highlight the need for Kashmir cause. Her door-to-door canvassing, inciting resentment against the then coalition government of National conference and Congress in J&K, was in fact responsible why impressive schemes such as 'Umeed', envisioned by the then UPA government to generate rural livelihood in the valley, or Sadbhavana, failed to connect people to the mainstream. While the local leaders gain power with such negative propaganda, the youth of Kashmir suffers. The young people, indoctrinated by the pro-Kashmir theatrics of Kashmir's local leaders, drop out of schools. They end up as street rebels, with no hope for education or jobs. Shockingly, these leaders move on. The People's Democratic Party (of Mehbooba Mufti), for example, joined hands with the right wing BJP, a party hated in Kashmir for its exclusivism. Having attained power in an alliance with the BJP, Mehbooba Mufti even closed her eyes to the increased goondaism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the saffron party's ideological mentor. The father and son from the principal opposition party in J&K is no different. When the National Conference was in power, it adopted strong arm tactics to silence the summer unrest of 2010. Now, they are touring the length and breadth of the valley, reigniting the demand for autonomy and canvassing for Pakistan's inclusion in an all round dialogue. People come under their influence easily, as they have an established network and manpower. A section of the press supports them, too. This is what I meant when I earlier used the phrase 'keep the pot boiling'. Pakistan too has hoodwinked the Kashmiris through the past many decades. With a show of affection for the Kashmiris, both Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif) and People's Party of Pakistan, two principal mainstream political outfits in Pakistan, continued to win elections. In July 2016, when the unrest started over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif made a big spectacle out of it and threatened to 'expose' India at international forums, including the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). What followed was a clean sweep for the PML(N) in polls held in Pakistan administered Kashmir or what they call Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter, it was business as usual for Pakistan. The Hurriyat champions popular protests in the streets. They forced people to streets, gained headlines, brushed up international connections, and finally betrayed the people by calling off strikes unilaterally. People should see through their tricks. They should see that once the protests are over, they do not even pay courtesy visits to the parents of dead children or take up the cause of those left handicapped in police repression. People should recognise the merit of performance-based politics rather than issue-based politics. It is not that Kashmiris do not recognise that. Even now, among all the mayhem, the chief-ministerial tenures of Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ghulam Bakshi Mohommad, both Congress leaders, are fondly remembered since they had focused on job creation, poverty alleviation along with improving the health and education sectors. It is time Kashmiris focused on developmental politics.