The older, and the original, contestation remains the same. Unresolved.
While Kashmir is waiting for how the government is formed, and what does a PDP-BJP alliance finally look like, here comes The Day – 5th February, 2015. Year chasing after year, and decade displacing another decade, till we are close to a century, the day reminds us of the fundamentals of our politics. It also does another great function. It refreshes us about our signposts – the great men who hold the history for us. And the future too. For what is history if not the launchpad for a future, and what is future if not the stride of history forward.
So what are the fundamentals of our politics. In a nutshell – Muslim. And who are the great ones that this day refers to. Here it certainly is Iqbal, then Jinnah follows, and Abul ‘Ala is not far away. The clarity of Iqbal’s vision, the precision of Jinnah’s politics, and the depth of Abul ‘Ala’s courage – we in Kashmir can not survive with even a single of them missing.
And Muslim doesn’t mean a theological, exclusionary, and radical politics that doesn’t leave space for anyone who isn’t a Muslim. It means yet another variant of human collectivity with its own particularities, and at the same time sharing commonalities with others, spread over space and time. A bit dense. Here is how it opens up.
As Muslims living in Kashmir we are eternally tied to the identity that was shaped up hundreds of years before, in the deserts of Arabia, when Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and his companions laid the bedrocks of a civilization based on Sacred. This Sacred unfolded through humans, and established a community. This community is a ceaseless thread holding nations, countries, periods, trends, knowledge, and practice. I am a part of this community. I am part of this unfolding. I’m part of this ever creative continuum. My emotions, my sensibilities, and my securities – all is embedded in this community. I am on board this unfolding and I can’t jump off. I ‘ll simply die if I do.
It is here that Iqbal meets me, and I meet Iqbal. We are fellow travelers. My journey as a human is only possible in this terrain and with these guides, companions, fellow travelers. If I leave this terrain, I’m dispossessed. If I snap away from the guide, I am destroyed – dehumanized. You can’t reduce your politics to a Common Minimum Programme when the actual task is to fight against the threat of dispossession, and secure the human in us. Too small is your politics, to trivial is your practice. And why look the other way when someone reminds that we have seen many such Minimums. They first say minimum, then insist on less than minimum, and finally leave us with nothing. Indian politics is Programmed that way.
So Iqbal once again invites me to myself, and my political history is dotted with the marks of this invitation. This meeting is profusely present in the length and breadth of Kashmir. All the symbols, tangible or otherwise, are the rendezvous of this union. My language is drenched in the symbols and expressions that the history of the community has funneled into Kashmir. Who knows what comprises a Common Minimum Programme, but can someone even ask me to negotiate on Saadi and Rumi. That is my politics, and it’s absolutely non-negotiable. Can I surrender Ghani Kashmiri and Shah-e-Hamdan and bag some ministries in the CMP. I know it doesn’t make a hard political talk; someone can even laugh it away. But a long term politics always resides in the great traditions and the great men of a tradition. Otherwise who could tell that Englishman to hold on to Shakespeare even if the Empire goes. Iqbal is the shade that saves us from the scorching heat of our tormentors. Iqbal is my politics, and I wouldn’t mind if he guided my compulsive engagement with the adversary. I would be happy with less than minimum in the government, but would save my politics. Any politics that takes you away from that is anti-politics. You are preparing the ground for violence.
Those who wish to sound secular and democratic are neither secular nor democratic. These two concepts have always been employed to con Kashmiris and rob them off our politics. Here is an anecdote about Jinnah, a man who was truly secular, in the every sense of the word, and democratic to the core. In 1944, when Jinnah came to Kashmir, a reception was held for him in the Amar Singh Club Srinagar, by the Aligarh Old Boys Association, Kashmir. The top brass of National Conference, including Sheikh M Abdullah himself, was present. One of the leaders of NC asked him:
Sir, in so far as the National Conference and the Muslim Conference are concerned, which of them can better serve the interests if the State Muslims?
With a smile on his face, Jinnah ripped open the whole thing with his incisive remark.
“ Apparently the National Conference but can you tell me how many Hindus and Sikhs are there in the National Conference.”
What followed was an embarrassing silence for National Conference team. Some tried to crack this thick mist of discomfiture by shouting the names of Sardar Budh Singh and Pandit Keyshap Bandhu, but that wasn’t enough to conceal the guilt. Jinnah went ahead:
“Had the Hindus and Sikhs made a common cause with you and joined the National Conference, the Maharaja could not resist your demands for Responsible Government even for seven days.”
Had India really accepted Sheikh M Abdullah and his National Conference, and respected the Common Minimum Programe that was then worked out as Delhi Agreement, we wouldn’t have been where we are today.
5th February is a quite reminder of who I am, and where my politics resides. Delhi is not the direction, and Common Minimum Programme is no mile stone.