Another election in Kashmir, once again people stay away. A meagre 14% turn out indicates the depleting interest of people in elections. Statistics may or may not matter, but situation in Kashmir does. Statistics can be manipulated, but the situation is too glaring to be ignored. The situation in Kashmir is too dangerous to look the other way.
Nothing suggests any expectation for good. It is completely dark, and this darkness can explode any moment. This is not an expression of disgust, or running the windmill of empty threats. This is almost graspable for anyone close to Kashmir, not to speak of those who live here. Right now, there is no hope but no desire to return to the older ways of calm. This signifies the danger.
What makes it more dangerous is the absence of any idea of future. The people and the confusion chase each other in a circular fashion. This is a disaster in the making; one doesn’t know the limits and the spread of this disaster. 14% turn out, less or more, barely matters. What is significant is the situation where people stay away from elections. This situation is marked by hopelessness, bitterness, rejection, and denial. All negatives.
Extreme pronouncements against the electoral politics apart, there are shades of opinion in Kashmir about this form of politics. Even among those who don’t vote, have nothing to do with the parties like NC and PDP, and are firmly placed in the spaces that fight the status quo, there is no uniformity about how to deal with the electoral politics.
This disagreement has its own complexities, but that is a sign of life; a life yet to flourish, though. But there is a near unanimity on the failure of unionist politics in Kashmir. This failure is a joint achievement of electoral parties in Kashmir, starting NC, and New Delhi, starting Congress.
The current dispensation, with its ideological perversions, further deepened this failure. A cursory look at the party campaigns, the rhetoric, and finally the response from people lays it bare.
All the parties are high on restoring autonomous nature of Kashmir’s politics. But people are unmoved. It means this rhetoric has lost its value. It means the ‘mainstream’ politics has dried up. It means parties like NC, and PDP are not the parties of yore. This is a serious shift in the politics of Kashmir. The new comers to electoral politics may have lessons to learn.
The other half of the picture is even more depressing. Those who dissociate from electoral politics, and focus on the disputed nature of Kashmir are under assault. The leaders, the families of the leaders, the political activists affiliated to such parties, are facing the wrath of this ideologically driven malevolent dispensation.
The way force is unleashed against them, there is no hope these parties would resurrect in near future. In the long term these parties, and their leaders and activists, are unlikely to provide any leadership to Kashmir. This means the absence of leadership is deeper, and prolonged. This means any meaningful politics in Kashmir is a long and excruciating wait.
In a way where we are right now comprises point zero of our collective condition. Boycott or no boycott, the question of a lost politics doesn’t come with easy answers.
Mainstream-Resistance, Political-Armed, Participation-Boycott : this binary is insufficient to explain our political choices. The challenge ahead puts an extra burden on our minds, and our hearts. A search for meaning at a collective level asks for a renewed discussion on how to strengthen our politics, how to establish a leadership that is not split, and doesn’t work part time.
A leadership, and a politics, that takes care of the immediate and the distant, with a sense of proportion and possibility. A politics that is responsive to the condition of human life, and abreast to the global trends. A leadership that merges its Self into the Collective, and thinks for the people. A leadership that invests, and draws, its strength from people.
The low voter turn out on Thursday doesn’t reflect the influence of the Boycott appeals. No wonder if in the Assembly elections people turn out in crowds, as they have.
The messages of congratulation from Hurriyat leaders are not only unfounded, but plainly misleading. Reading the statistics is not required right now, delving into the situation is. We are at a critical junction, where the situation thrust on us has made certain things clear. This clarity can be used to found a new politics, with a new emphasis, and an entirely new arsenal of collective practices.
New Delhi once again introduced us to ourselves – Kashmiri Muslims. We need to own up the identity and work for a collective politics that meets the universal standards of knowledge and ethics. A politics that is fulfilling in the most ordinary and the most sublime ways. B is not only for Boycott, at least not Always. Defreeze the mind, unleash the energies.
Tailpiece: B is for Bomb, A is for Atomic. God save us all.