Lost in Silence
State government may have woken up to the need to act, but it lacks a political narrative
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
Post-Eid the state government has taken some deliberate steps to confront the current agitation. This includes first to disrupt the Hurriyat strike calendar by clamping curfews on the long awaited breather days. And second to get the education going by providing security to the school buses to ply through troubled areas. The initiative has been a moderate success with some cooperation from the parents too. And third, with a mandate from the centre, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has set about the job of getting the Unified Command to agree to a partial review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and some allied CBMs. In its meeting on September 29, UC unveiled some significant initiatives to take the process forward from the centre's eight-point package. The decisions include the removal of 16 bunkers in Srinagar and setting up a panel to review areas declared disturbed under AFSPA.
There is one more difference which outweighs in effect all other measures under the circumstances: the effort to prevent further killings and making it by and large possible. In the past two weeks, one person has died in the clashes between police and stone-throwers. Omar has also held a symbolic public meeting in his constituency Ganderbal and for once tried to give a proof of his presence on the scene. His speech was a one-off attempt to inject the perspective of the ruling party into the prevailing separatist discourse.
Compared with this new-found assertion, the pre-Eid phase of agitation was one of absolute cluelessness. State government was in absolute denial mode. There was a constant refrain that its own existence was not relevant to the larger separatist goal in Valley. It defended itself by arguing that the troubled situation in Kashmir directly confronted New Delhi and state government had little role. The argument for a good measure was also legitimate. The state government has always been incidental to the bigger fight of separatists with the central government. But the problem with this argument is that it was used by the state government to provide a cover to its own inefficient functioning. It preferred to hunker down and play dead, leaving J&K police to battle the seething rage on the streets and to horrible consequences. Around 110 died in almost equal number of days.
Post-Eid, however, things have changed remarkably. The government has made tentative efforts to resuscitate itself. Motto has been it can exercise power, therefore it exists. With a nod from New Delhi, the government has also moved to initiate an incremental process of the AFSPA review. And a conscious effort to prevent further killings cannot but be appreciated. But has government finally arrived on the scene. Or, to put it differently have all these steps made any great difference to the general drift of the prevailing situation in Valley. The answer is a big No. Kashmir remains in the full throes of an out and out Azadi upsurge and its intensity and duration have overshadowed any public groundswell witnessed in the past two decades. In fact, there is hardly any instance in the past six decades of the Kashmir conflict that comes even close to the current agitation. So, state government's inability to come to grips with it, let alone confront it, is understandable. But what is inexcusable is the government's lack of a personality. Its assertion has been predominantly through its security arm. Chief Minister for the most part has preferred to remain silent. He has almost come across as somebody either invisibly busy or at worst watching from the sidelines. In between there have been phases when CM has strengthened an impression of being completely absent from the scene.
This has done a terrible damage to the image of the state government and in turn the National Conference. The government, for one, seems devoid of any narrative of its own. And it is unenviably alone in this. The opposition has a more viable discourse in comparison which in turn is outweighed by an overarching separatist narrative. In fact, it is the separatist and to some lesser extent PDP narrative that direct the ongoing political discourse in the state. The government, on the other hand, has reduced itself to a little more than a loose governance mechanism. There is also no trace of NC as a political entity. The party has so indistinguishably merged in the government that it doesn't seem to have a political existence of its own. And this is odd given the fact that NC has historically pioneered a political narrative for Kashmir and has also once been a fountainhead of a Kashmiri consciousness. And this is also odd considering that the party has a robust political agenda in the form of a vision for the state's autonomy backed by a two-third support of the resolution of JK assembly. Moreover, the party has also expressed itself open to any acceptable political resolution of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which is a redeeming reversal of the party's stand in its previous stint in power. The party is also game for an engagement between centre and the separatists. What NC seems to have lost is a vocabulary to articulate it. Or, may be its silence is convenient, a ploy to appear mainstream in the prevailing predominance of hard and soft separatist discourses. But then NC has been equally non-committal even during its time in opposition in PDP-Congress coalition rule. In those six years, NC hardly championed a political agenda let alone indulge in a sustained grassroots political activity. It is the selfsame lackluster political worldview that the party has now brought to the government.
But in the ongoing turbulence in the state, this inability to talk and take a political stand on the situation has seriously hobbled the government's capacity. We may have a structure of governance in place but it lacks political articulation. What is even more worse, the government itself is least conscious of its own dumbness.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 6 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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