(Dis) Contents of a (non) Conversation

The discussion between Srinagar and Delhi on what constitutes Muslim-Kashmir, as a political entity, is a vocalised illusion. A mega illusion of sounds. The display of this illusion was carried by multiple agencies on either side. On the Indian side it was the Indian National Movement, symbolised by Nehru and Gandhi, and the grand bottom-deep mobilisation of Hindu imagination represented by the Sangh, in case of Kashmir symbolised by Syama Prasad Mukharjee. On the Kashmir side, it was the leadership of National Conference, represented by Late Sheikh M Abdullah. The difference between the INC, and the NC is, however, very significant. The INC generated the discontents, and National Conference was used as a medium to stuff it into Kashmir.            

There was also a triangle of actual players that contributed to this illusion. One, the Dogra Maharaja who knew that he was a Hindu, ruling a Muslim dominated land. For many, Dogra rule in Kashmir was a prototype of Hindu Rashtra. Well, this claim can be contested, but Dogra being a Hindu ruler and the emerging state of India a Hindu dominated country, the alliance between the two was only natural. Two, the ideologically driven activists in the secularist-communist-nationalist space. National Conference, in the given circumstances, was the ideal host to this group of people. Three, a minuscule minority of Kashmiri Hindus. This community had a good number of people exposed to modern education, and to the new political constructs like nationalism, communism, and secularism. It had, of course, a natural comfort in sitting besides Indian National Congress. The ‘hardcore’ Hindu mobilisation in India in the form Sangh would also fall in the zone of affinity. The linkages in the Dogra administration must also have added to the influence. And to cap it all, their imagination of Kashmir as a once-Hindu-dominated-land, with a touch of sacred, cannot be ignored in this analysis.

Before moving ahead, an elucidation. Any criticism of the persons, parties, communities or ideologies in this overarching discussion on Muslim-Kashmir and its politics, should not be considered as judgmental. It should not plunge into accusations, or visceral condemnation. It is not meant to incriminate National Conference, vilify Kashmiri Pandits, or disparage the ideals of secularism, nationalism, or that rising rage of its own times – Communism.  The ideologically driven people have their own way of looking at the politics of a place, and they have a right to enter politics, and drive it towards their cherished ideals. Similarly, in case of Kashmir, the small minority of Hindus, cannot be blamed for wishing to, or working hard to make Kashmir a part of India. Any minority in this situation would like the political control to be determined by some non-communal construct, in this case Kashmiri nationalism, undergirded by a vision of a secular polity. And if it could become a part of a country overwhelmingly dominated by Hindus, that can be the ideal way of securing the interests of the community, and enjoying power while being in a minority. It is just mathematical.  To illustrate it with an example, why do Indian Muslims, even those belonging to avowedly religious formations, vociferously  support secular politics over Hindutva. While in the Muslim dominated countries their comrades-in-ideas-and-ideals are open enemies of secularism.

The point is, in any future conversation with the mainstream political parties and the non-Muslim communities in Kashmir, this complexity-of-condition should not be ignored. For a conversation to be a conversation it is imperative to recognise the other as the other recognises itself, and do not denude events off the conditions that surround them. In the discovery of the politics of Muslim-Kashmir, those who emerge as its leaders anytime in future, this fundamental ethics of conversation would be crucial to its success.

The sounds from Delhi, carried by Ram Madav, and delivered to Gupkar through a newspaper article, are no different than the messages dropped by the Congress time to time, to different political formations and persons at different periods of Muslim-Kashmir’s post 1947 history. The response to it in the form of statements and posts by the leadership of the NC is also a beaten stuff. Each side reaffirms that these are the dis-contents of a non-conversation. The contents of the politics of Muslim-Kashmir have nothing to do with what the two throw at each other. And this act of throwing at each other doesn’t constitute a conversation; it can at best be called an exchange of sounds. A serious and honest conversation on the contents of Muslim-Kashmir, and it politics, can reveal the insidious and desultory character of the narrative peddled by Delhi in Kashmir.

For the moment let’s have a quick look at the immediate message from Ram Madhav’s article.  It reads:

 One, what has happened has happened. Leave it behind, and move on. As a footnote on it, there is a reference to the Plebiscite Front and its ultimate failure. The message is simple and terse; what happened before could not be undone, what has happened will stay, and there is much to happen in future, for which you should be ever ready. In their own words “the clock cannot be turned back”. Can someone turn around and ask these people, who is turning the clock back from the times Muslim Kashmir’s politics was drowned in the ‘Nationalist-Secular-Communal’ waters. And the political imagination of RSS is solely based on turning the clock back, to some distant past when Kashmir was populated by Hindus, and there were no Muslims.              

Two, the mainstream political parties would be deceiving the people of Kashmir by raising the clamour about restoration of pre-5 August position. The same way as it did by throwing Kashmir into a two decade long waywardness for the restoration of pre-53 position. Open it up, and it means that ‘prudence’ demands that Kashmiri Muslims behave themselves, and take it from New Delhi directly rather then through the ‘brokers’. It means further breaking down of the political substance that exists in Kashmir, in whatever form. The future of Muslims in Kashmir is in taking refuge, as atomised individuals, in the political cantonment set up by the BJP, after reorganising  the territory, and reformulating the mechanics of control. Simplify, it means no future for Kashmir based  electoral parties.

Third, any reference to Muslim identity, even if ‘mainstream parties’ do it, is finally radicalism, Islamism, and hence terrorism. Well, can you read intimidation!  Is it to blend all forms of local politics into one undifferentiated mass, tag it as terror, and do whatever needs to be done. Imagine if NC and PDP workers are tomorrow booked in terror related cases, who would be there for them on the ground. After all the bulk of these parties, if not the entire mass, compromises people driven by material needs.

On a serious note, there is a need for decluttering. There are many themes that have needlessly got into this space, while they belong to other spaces. We must find the actual contents of our politics – short term, mid term and long term – and learn to hold a conversation on that with all the relevant people. The first and the foremost is our conversation within. Then with the people and politics in India. Pakistan is both within and without. It is a crucial moment and this is a crucial conversation. It needs profound engagement. No hate, no accusations, and an ultimate regard for life.  

Ram Madhav’s article smells of the pedestrian, if not downright perverted, understanding of Islam, Muslim society, and Kashmir’s political self. One doesn’t know what is the source of their understanding on Islam, Muslims, and Kashmir. But one thing is clear; based on wrong information, and erroneous understanding, no right policies can be framed.  Our part of the crime is that we have reinforced New Delhi’s belief in this perverted understanding. No honest conversation has happened on Kashmir. Those who have been talking to Delhi were never ready to hold it, for it might cost them political comfort. New Delhi, on its part,  was never willing to listen, as that would expose the whole narrative. It is an enterprise of falsehood, from the very beginning,  right up to the moment, and one doesn’t for how long will it last.