It was really a pleasure to go through Greater Kashmir Sunday edition (November, 13, 2016). Apart from the usual news the views of different columnists were worth relishing. Different articles in a single day on contemporary unfolding political crisis were reassuring and full of resolve for a promising tomorrow. The clear suggestions emanating from these write-ups is the critical role the political leadership needs to play at critical times and if that role is not played societies can implode and people will ultimately decide for themselves as rational actors in any situation and in any part of the world.
Mehmood-ur-Rashid in his piece "Personal Safety Act" argues how our hands have become our handcuffs. While there is no disagreement with his views the fact is that the need for a personal safety act arises only in a political situation where there are too many leaders to lead with too little control over happenings. But this in no case absolves the leadership from its primary responsibility of keeping their eyes open and minds receptive to ideas without which no political progress is possible. You can always seek guidance from friends and foes alike but the final decision is to be taken by you. Some sage has rightly put it that "friends are good but the leaders are those who walk alone". Long ago the former foreign minister of Israel Mr Abba Eban recommended that it is unrealistic to expect political leaders to ignore public opinion. But a leader who keeps his ear permanently glued to the ground will have neither elegance of posture nor flexibility of movement.
Ajaz-ul-Haque described the leaders as half tigers in his very powerful `Write Hand' column captioned as "Half Tigers". Reasonably one of the questions he raises is whether by bleeding your own people through hartals you can inflict wounds on the enemy who watches it all coldly and sadistically. Then what do we do? Does that mean in the absence of an option we resort to self-immolation".The author concludes his column with a sort of pinching prediction that the entire hartal politics may consume its own masters if they don't rise to the occasion and do what they are supposed to do as leaders of a political movement. In a context like Kashmir there can be many who will find these views unacceptable and I won't be surprised if alternative viewpoints are thrown in the public domain in the days to come. A group of civil society leaders met Geelani Sahib at his residence to share their views about the situation and the Hurriyat leader gave them a patient hearing. One thing that Geelani sahib made clear is that he had asked for only one day hartal after the Burhan killing and the same got extended for three days by Asia Andrabi. He stated that situation turned volcanic so much so that leaders probably could not go against the sentiments and anger of the people particularly of the youth. He also discussed many other important issues with them but all that is outside the scope of my write-up.
The third column in the same paper on same day and date by M L Kotru too was focused on the prevailing state of affairs. Kotru writes "must Kashmir and its people really live and die in constant turmoil, be made part of a bloody and senseless confrontation between them and the might of Indian state". The author further states that wail might have risen to a heart-rending cry in the once happy valley but sadly no one now seems to care". The important and relevant point being raised in all the above-cited columns is the role of leadership at all times but more so in challenging and testing situations. Everybody including state managers look towards political leadership to craft a sort of operation calm down so that conflict related issues can be taken up for resolution. The resolution mechanism can work in a context where relative power potential of actors cannot be ignored .The resolution of issues is also contingent upon configuration of political forces at a given point of time. Hence leaders cannot afford to adopt the ostrich type approach and have to keep their minds open. The great Italian political thinker Machiavelli wrote in his 'prince' that all courses of action are risky so the prudence is not in avoiding the danger but calculating the risk and acting decisively. The former American secretary of state Colin Powel said it beautifully that leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible".
The conflict in Kashmir has proved an unconscious tool of history. It has given rise to the institution of civil society. The civil society is political but non-state space. The size of both print and electronic media and that of educated middle class has also expanded. The one area where Kashmir is still deficient is absence of public intellectuals on the social scene who provide a cushion to people against oppressive structures of both state and society. Be that as it may, we are witnessing a very important moment in our history when all sorts of political leaders are on trial and have to stand before the bar of public opinion as far as navigating the politics of Kashmir is concerned. The leadership responsibility issues are meant for separatists as much as for unionists who of course are travelling on the political turf of Kashmir without credibility and popularity. Long time ago referring to Hurriyat leaders Saifudin Soz stated that strength and power of leaders cannot be decided only through elected state legislature. Mehboba Mufti at one time argued that "Hurriyat leaders are respectable people and we don't have leaders of their caliber in the entire country".
The sad thing to note about contemporary political scene in the larger region is that nation-states of India and Pakistan have been hijacked through psychology of hate and fear. The best as the great Irish poet WB Yeats wrote lack conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. In this disturbing scenario as Richard Nixon wrote a leader must never suffer paralysis through analysis. Leaders need to lead and take decisions. Fear is a bad guide in politics and leaders must overcome it.