Words that change our political discourses
Words have played wonders in Kashmir politics. Words have many times played Machiavellian in taking wind out of sails of mighty and powerful and made them surrender and submit. On occasions it has been spin put on words that has proved deadlier for Kashmir politics than guns that spew mortar and fire. It is a story of words- that is how many times I have looked at contemporary Kashmir politics.
My first acquaintance with magic of words in politics was during the movement for restoration of the Holy Relic at its original place in 1964. The lifting of the vial containing Moie-Muqadas hair of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had stirred the state and put not only the state government but New Delhi also out of gear. It had smoked out hibernating Kashmir leadership out of caves and also thrown a new leadership to play good, not good and bad role in the state polity. As very correctly said by Altaf Gauhar author of Ayub Khan, Pakistan First Military Ruler, “ Kashmir at this time was in the grip of the worst political crisis since 1947.” It was not only the local population that was up in arms but Pakistan and other Muslims countries were drawing into it. In Pakistan as Altaf writes, “Many Pakistani senior military officers that time had come to liberate Kashmir, a job that had been left unfinished”. The apprehension with New Delhi where manifold one that the reigns of people’s agitation should not go in the hands of “extremist” elements within the state that would give an opportunity to Pakistan military ruler to intervene- as had become evident from the then Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s speech on January 1, 1964. Moulana Muhammad Syed Masoodi who was in the vanguard of this movement at this juncture introduced a new word in the lexicon of Kashmir politics- Hushar (Be Aware). This word Masoodi explained was meant to caution people against the agent-provocateurs. His illustration was so wonderful that it left an indelible imprint on my tender brain that till today I remember the explanation vividly. On the face of it the word was to caution people against the handiwork of Indian agencies in derailing the movement but a section believed that it was double edged word that meant both to caution people against ‘Indian agencies’ and ‘to prevent movement failing in the hands of elements who would convert it into volatile agitation that would enable Pakistan to intervene’. It is for historians to find out the real genesis of this word that undoubtedly has passed on as the key word of 1964 Holy Relic Movement.
Liberalization is another word that gained entry into lexicon of Kashmir politics in 1964. The word was introduced by the then Chief Minister, Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq – and it was in fact bible of his politics. The word was a tongue twister for me but the word was so much used in daily discourses on barber’s shop- which then used to be hub of political discussions that it had intensified curiosity in me to know its meaning. I asked my uncle what this word meant which had now become a cliché and a part of people’s discourse. Quoting G.M. Sadiq who then had a few prominent supporters- named after great communist leader Lenin and Stalin at my birth burg he said that ‘it meant to give Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah so much freedom that he would become irrelevant and would fetch vegetables for himself from the market. Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad and Nehru made a hero of him by imprisoning him and filing conspiracy case against him. The Conspiracy Case made him international political personality. It refurbished his image in UN leadership with Sir Zafrullah had made quisling word stick him like a masticated bubblegum sticks to clothes and cannot be removed through many washings.’ Not understanding political connotations of the word, I took it in literal sense that Sheikh Abdullah was going to fetch vegetables for himself. It so happened that the next day I saw Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who then owned an Ambassador Car bearing number JKB 8282 in front of butchers shop in our locality. And over a six feet giant of a man dressed in Shalwar-Kameez standing in front of butchers shop (Then Sheikh lived at Soura). I immediately rushed back home and told my uncle with a bated breath that Sheikh Sahib was really getting meat from the butcher outside our home. The butcher still sells meat in that locality.
The stick and carrot policy of Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad had only hardened stand of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and provided him power to gain strength from strength. Despite Jawaharlal Nehru operating on a second tract through Mirdullah Sarabhia to win over Sheikh and his family the detention was adding an aura around him. I remember as child I looked at Sheikh Sahib as an El cid in his kingdom and a phantasmagoria- an untamable lion. History proved that fangs in the word liberalization were so toxic that they slowly worked on the Lion making him realize that he was not now of much a consequences to politics. Looking objectively at the period, Sheikh did digress from politics and looked for alternatives- the construction of the New Hazratbal Shrine, Medical Institute and Affairs of the Muslim Auqaf Trust became his main concerns and the movement to right to self-determination was relegated to the background. He started doubting the politics that he had plunged into after his deposition in 1953 and started looking for alternatives through holding meets like the State People’s Convention. Sheikh Abdullah for this State Peoples Convention invited his best friend Jay Prakash Naryan popularly known as J.P. The words of J.P worked as a catalyst for speeding the reaction started through words like liberalization and it culminated into 1975 Indra-Sheikh Agreement that brought him to power in most unconventional way it has happened in democracies.
In 1990 some young leaders rode the crest of popularity- the media weaved an image that set me also thinking and believing that perhaps the man we waited for has come to deliver the state of political uncertainty. Little did I understand then that it was just an effervescence which would never solidify- but evaporate without even leaving its traces in the air. Some brains in New Delhi very subtly worked on these young leaders and made them believe that they were the tallest amongst tall affixed titles of the greatest leaders of twentieth century to their name- sharpened their megalomania- the way it had been done with Sheikh when he had met Nehru for the first time. Some new words like ‘pro-people’, ‘people centric’ and ‘citizen leadership’ were coined for them and spoon-fed softly- till they lost their relevance to the Kashmir situation.
Kashmiryat was yet another word that found a place in the contemporary dictionary of Kashmir. This word which caught attention of a section of Kashmir leaders and intellectuals was working as an effective keel to change the direction of Kashmir politics till people from outside started dabbling in it and it emerged as merchandise for making quick bucks. It was some young students working as an antidote who made it look as an ‘anti-Kashmiri discourse’ at a seminar two years back. The word has not lost its punch as yet.
The power of words can be well understood- it were words moderate and extremist drilled with dexterity in the minds of Hurriyat Leaders that divided this conglomerate not only vertically but fragmented it. It is only division of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front that has been intriguing me- is there some word that divided this organization representing a political thought that has more votaries amongst Indian intelligentsia than Pakistan. There may be words that have fragmented religious organization – but for me being a novice in religious affairs I may not know them.
Do share the words that you believe have played a role in Kashmir politics at different times during past eighty two years.
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