When you call it a Declaration, it sounds pompous. Otherwise it was a meeting of panic stricken politicians from different political parties – parties that contested Assembly elections in the state of J&K, that the J&K was before 5 August, 2019. It was a snap response to the bewildering buildup of events that finally led to the reorganisation of the territory, and redrawing of the political administration of J&K, the very next day. Then all lights went off, and all sounds disappeared. The politics in Kashmir went into a deep coma. A year later, same set of people meet again and vow to stand by the contents of the resolution passed in that last meeting, last year. It earns good news coverage, and invokes serious political comment; some call it Gupkar Declaration II. Shah Mehmood Qureshi was so excited that he thought it was the beginning of a new era. Well, one can’t say anything about how he looked at it, and from where! Ram Madhav wrote a column in this newspaper “exposing” the “mainstream’ politicians. Though he mocked at the “mainstream” political parties, he seemed to make a serious effort in building up a narrative where Kashmiri politicians, all version, from Sheikh Abdullah to Syed Ali Shah Geelani look like villains. How that narrative will be further promoted, and what practical manifestations that will adopt is to be watched for. For the moment the Gupkar declaration and Ram Madhav’s response to it.
Is Gupkar declaration worth anything substantial, or is it just a space filling? Is the media attention to this event justified, or is it a customary practice with media to catch any sounds that come from a hushed planet, like Kashmir? Are the responses to this declaration, from Delhi or Islamabad, meaningful or superficial? All this apart, what matter to us, the people of Kashmir, is the future of our politics, or politics of our future.
In this search for politics, of future and in future, it is not at all needed to mock at the political parties that are the signatories to the declaration. Equally, it is not a healthy sign to feign ignorance about why New Delhi and Islamabad are keenly observing the developments in Kashmir. Our politics in future is not just about what happens in Kashmir, but also what happens around Kashmir. If we cannot live in isolation, we must not think in isolation. If there are no chances of any significant change in Kashmir in the near future, may be India or Pakistan change in some significant way. The point is that if we nail our gaze, in a state of stupour, to a fixed spot in Kashmir, it might not be such a great idea. Probing deep inside, exploring far and around, and mapping the whole thing a new; why should this be an impossible task. Human minds have carried the flame even in the darkest moments of history.
It entails a renewed discussion on what comprises politics in Kashmir. What happened to it, and where it can go. It also needs a calm, and an unruffled listening to what others say. It needs a keen observation on the way Kashmir is imagined by different powers, and civilizationally determined political ideologies.
We would also need to safeguard ourselves from certain temptations. When we think of any statement, or an opinion piece, as a petty political propaganda, we tend to respond the same way. We don’t need to do that for the simple reason that it doesn’t serve us any purpose. Our challenge is far too serious and it asks for a restrain on knee jerk, psychological retorts. At times power can afford anything – from silly to sickening to ghastly. A helpless, besieged, and a disarrayed people cannot afford even a little mistake, at times. And as a people we are passing through that phase. Patience and prudence make our shield and sword. Our young minds and experienced heads need a perpetual reminder about the dangers hovering over, and the hazards marching down. And then the need to move ahead. It is a walk on a perilous cliff, where there is no option of not-walking.
A glitzy, noisy campaign maligning anything Muslim-Kashmir with one broad-stroke needs to be handled with great care. Part of it deserves no heed, but its pernicious side needs attention. Beyond this, there are some profound themes we need to discuss, regardless of anybody talks about it or not. There are some accumulated perversions about what a Muslim Kashmir means, and we need to crack through that layered grime; from Nehru to now, it is a plentiful dirt. The difference is that earlier they would do it with a touch of “scholarship and statesmanship”, and now it is slight and savage.
With this introduction, we can read what Ram Madhav wrote some days back, try to understand it, and then respond; not to the person or his political ideology, but to the contents of his write up; next column.
Tailpiece: We are already in a terrible situation and it has been some grim stuff. Let’s unwind with a story. It’s from Aligarh, AMU precisely. On a hot summer night light goes off, and like smoked out rats, students from a hostel rush out from their rooms straight up on the roof. A melee of sorts in the dark, one wing flying abuses at the other, other to yet another, and thus the entire hostel rumbles with sounds not so pleasant to hear in a normal gathering. As minutes pass by, levels of noise go down. Less and less number of students carry on with the misapplication of their vocals. Finally, it was all reduced to one man in a wing directing abuse at another, in another wing. The transaction of abuse was going on, suddenly the current lit the entire building. Who was shouting, and who was shouting back, was the climax of it all. On that day a father had visited his son, and stayed with him in the hostel room. In the darkness he couldn’t follow his son and went to another wing. As the lights were on the two were found yelling at each other, exchanging home made abuses. When the new leaders at Delhi and the old timers in Srinagar are found exchanging ‘niceties’, one cannot help but remember that father-son duo at the hostel roof, treating each other so well in darkness. Only the light played spoilsport.
We all know who fathered whom, and when, in Kashmir politics. August 5 was a dark day for Kashmir, but in a way it was a flash of lightening in a prolonged darkness. Much has been caught in its pristine nakedness.