Kashmir: The lights are off

Kashmir: The lights are off

As the death of politics makes way to politics of death, Kashmir is now a trade fair of visible and invisible savagery. Srinagar has begun to sound like Syrianagar. God save us!

We are again passing through the darkest hour, and the dawn is no where near. All forms of politics are gone, and it is now for one violence to contest another, and another to meet yet another. One doesn’t know where it ends. Those who sometime back whispered Syria, have finally gathered us near the gates of total destruction. When the hope of some genuine political force emerging from Kashmir was rekindling, ghastly winds blew from all sides to snuff out the flame. When the new generation could be rallied around some creative ideas, to deal with the core questions of this conflict, brute and evil forces torpedoed this blossoming of mind. A wanton use of force by the state, and deep conspiracies to dislodge any structures of genuine political leadership were employed to suffocate a whole population. Even the counterfeit political instrument, always employed to hide the actual politics of Kashmir, stands discarded. In such a situation Kashmir is overtaken by visceral responses; gut-mind and head-mind are on a course of brute collusion. State has shed even the last vestige of rationality, and on the other side gut responses are adorned in an intellectual casing. It didn’t happen overnight. Ideas were employed to this end. Processes were generated to achieve this goal. Events were organised to  serve this purpose. Thus a complex operation, psychological and military, was made to work on popular mind. Almost a decade went into this. We also contributed our bit. Bit by bit.

The decade, beginning 2008, is an interesting study for all those who want to understand how politics is not allowed to grow beyond a limit in Kashmir. And how no leadership is allowed to emerge in any political space. May be someone turns around, and puts it other way round. How Kashmir failed to go beyond a point in its political journey, and how leadership was miserably found wanting in this regard.

What precipitated this new phase of crisis in Kashmir was the demise of old Nehruvian politics in India. The new political masters in India thought that it was time to roll back the Congress drawn and driven policy on Kashmir. No more sops, no pampering, and absolutely no reaching out to separatists. Stark violence took on all those who challenged the writ of state. Clear signals were sent that New Delhi was no more supple to allow Kashmir based electoral parties to take any political mileage on the pretext of Kashmir conflict. It also tightened noose around what Delhi calls Separatists, and Srinagar knows as Resistance parties. This policy expedited the death of politics in Kashmir. But It did not happen just because BJP came to power. Actually, when it comes to Kashmir, it is an inbuilt mechanism that operates only that way. The reason why it needs an extra ordinary stroke of wisdom and courage to make any breakthrough in the people’s politics of Kashmir. But unfortunately, during all the three massive public mobilisations – 2008, 2010, and 2016 – Hurriyat leadership’s failure was shocking. They left it to vacuous rhetoric, to agitated street, and finally paved way for a dangerous void. Now we are all reaping the crop. 

 The 2008 public mobilisation was the moment to take on the reigns of politics, and offer an effective leadership. This time it was pure public mobilisation, a Kashmiri version of intifada as it later became popularised. And then we had 2010, a mega eruption. The two public mobilisations brought up new images of dissent in Kashmir. When unarmed people fell to the bullets of government forces it brought global attention to Kashmir. A whole new generation of young boys received their first lessons in Kashmir conflict written in stone. But the political faces of resistance openly surrendered their right to lead in favour of teens and twenties. “Young boys” became a buzzword. On the other side GoI resorted to old tactics. It appointed a team of interlocutors to diffuse the situation. Finally nothing moved, and any chances of politics flourishing in Kashmir withered away silently, and in some instances violently. Meanwhile Indian politics took a turn for worse. The psychological onslaught mounted by the rising radicalised politics of India was the last nail in the coffin. 2016 was an answer to that new offensive.   

In this situation the gut mind is in complete collusion with the head mind. After all when each form of political expression failed to achieve anything worthwhile, what is left with the people to hold onto! When the rising tide of a communally charged politics in India is seen as posing existential challenges to the Muslim population of Kashmir, violence is fed through visceral routes.

That the politics controlled by India is inherently dishonest and destined to deceive; the current generation is not the first one to reach this conclusion. Before them a whole crop of educated political activists, and community leaders, were disillusioned towards late 1980s. But this time around it’s scary. Neither is the Kashmiri society what it was in 1990, nor has this generation any experience of political.  Add to it the general decay of politics in India; all this makes it a deadly mix. New patterns of violence are in the offing. A call for all serious minds in India, Pakistan and Kashmir to wake up.

Wake up to address the fundamental question, not to unleash confusing and complex statist narratives. It’s time to tell truth in its simplest, and the only form. Political rights are universally determined; the content, kind, and quantum of freedom must not vary from person to person, and place to place. Politics is the way to operationalise such universal principles in a non-violent way. But in Kashmir politics has been given another burial. And in many ways we celebrate this burial, making  it doubly easier for the tormentor to chase even the last traces of politics far away from this place.