What happened to J&K in 2019 - regardless of what side of the ideological debate one may be on - invariably came to represent a pivotal moment in our history. It was that moment where the traditional mainstream found itself trapped in the web of its own contradictions and delusions - exposed in good measure, despite its shrill and stentorian rhetoric, by its own helplessness.
It was also a moment where the people of Jammu and Kashmir, collectively yet involuntarily, stood at the crossroads of a chequered and bloody history yet again - staring into the abyss of the past and looking at an uncertain, looming future — wondering if another generation would be consumed by violence, exploitation and rampant misgovernance.
The powers-that-be, in turn, spoke of a new future, a new Kashmir. The people of Kashmir, and its traditional mainstream leadership - from the crevices of a reluctant survival bunker, spoke of a constitutional transgression and an identity robbed - of a promise broken — and how they could collectively be the saviours of a people they had flogged, traumatised and robbed for decades.
To, even for a moment, assume that the decisions of 2019 were welcomed or celebrated in Kashmir would be a monumental lie. And liars can never be the well-wishers of a nation, nor can they be patriots.
That said, the average young Kashmiri - however dejected, anguished or disappointed - found solace in the disempowerment and helplessness of our pampered twin-family, traditional political mainstream.
The incarceration of the mainstream leaders - their public humiliation - became a consolation for the people. It was the balm on their wounds. To deny this, would be a lie too.
For decades, the Abdullahs and the Muftis have misruled and misgoverned at the pleasure of successive Governments in New Delhi, while simultaneously blackmailing the same regimes, warning them of the perpetually restive and hostile average Kashmiri who needed to be “controlled” and “handled”.
Also reassuring Delhi of their own unquestionable allegiance - in mutual exclusivity between the two families. Then, came the leased lands, the Range Rovers, the villas, the opulence and the royal protocol in perpetuity - as thousands of young Kashmiris became the fodder of graveyards.
A third successive generation in Kashmir was pushed farther away from the idea of India through a deep-rooted, engineered psychological alienation facilitated by those who stood most to benefit from it.
From the ashes of 2019, a churning appeared to instigate a hitherto stunted political change in J&K.
There seemed to be a reduced appetite for royal tantrums, the princes and princesses lost their fairytale castles as their godfathers in Delhi lost their magic wands and a deep-rooted, multifaceted exploitative eco-system that hinged on corruption seemed to be coming undone.
Security was no longer a mark of protocol and power but a necessity based on threat perception. The twin-family chokehold on the administrative system and the Police was apparently easing up.
Alternatives to the traditional mainstream emerged. Organic or inorganic, the rise of a alternatives was crucial - not as an epilogue to what happened in 2019 nor as a justification to it, but as a prologue to a pivotal new beginning regardless of the fact that Jammu and Kashmir was inarguably and inexcusably wronged in 2019.
Regardless of the battles to be fought with New Delhi for the restoration of J&K’s political rights, the people deserve to be freed from the parasitic, ruthless grasp of both National Conference and PDP.
The argument that both twin-family regional parties put forth is of democracy - of how their fate will be decided by democracy. A democracy that, for decades, they have subverted and manipulated at the most micro levels —- every institution of the State infiltrated and a system rigged at the deepest levels of administration, economy and psychology.
Their administrative, law-and-order and economic cartels continue to sustain them politically and economically regardless of their status in or out of power. Ironically, the edifice of their very existence is largely based on the resources and the largesse of the State.
Occupiers of State Land, patrons of recruitment scams, nepotism in every institution and department, script-writers of the rampant pilferage of every possible public resource — a low- turnout, stunted democracy in Kashmir is an alibi for their crimes against the people of Kashmir.
To fathom that the Abdullahs — who have never had a business or a job between Sheikh Abdullah and Omar Abdullah (including Farooq Abdullah’s brothers) have a net worth of hundreds if not thousands of crores in unaccounted wealth today is a reflection of why J&K is stuck in time.
As we inch towards elections in J&K (whenever they are held), we - those who aspire to rise as challengers to the monopoly of the traditional parties - should bear it in mind that there is far too much at stake at this pivotal moment in time than elections or the allure of power or the compulsions of political, partisan or personal ambitions.
There can be no truck with the traditionalists. There can be no common-ground with National Conference or PDP - both twin family parties being two sides of the same coin. The entire coin is the problem, both sides of it. The interim and the immediate political matrix is not the ultimate cause of concern for the common man. The future of his children is. And let that future be guided by the lessons of the past.
Junaid Azim Mattu is the senior leader of Apni Party and Mayor of Srinagar
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.