Kashmir 2016: Building a case for leadership

In all conversations these days that people have indoors, or held-in-hurry discussions friends and acquaintances occasionally steal from these curfewed days and nights, this anxiety finds expression.
Kashmir 2016: Building a case for leadership
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It's a people's moment, and only people could have done this. But how can it be turned into a people's movement? This questions looms large over all thinking heads, and concerned hearts.  In all conversations these days that people have indoors, or held-in-hurry discussions friends and acquaintances occasionally steal from these curfewed days and nights, this anxiety finds expression. Sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle. Such talking must have happened on all those occasions when the people of Kashmir rose against their tormentors in a thunderous one go. In 1931. After 1953 till 1975. In 1990, and afterwards. In 2008 again, and then in  2010. And now when it is 2016, we all see a groundswell of resistance again; in many ways like before, and in some ways like never before. 

When it happened on the day Burhan was laid to rest, no one envisaged it would turn so massive. Though we all had sensed it coming for a long time now. In 2010 when the 'calm' returned and the people in New Delhi, and their underlings in Kashmir, thought of resorting to   business as usual, the processes and structures of violence were tuned to do their routine. It started accumulating layer by layer. Finally PDP paved way for a full scale disaster by squeezing all earth, from North to South, underneath a Kashmiri Muslim. After the grotesque was committed, started the unloading of mountains of humiliation over a Kashmiri Muslim; Sainik colonies, exclusive land zones for Pandits, Hindu radicalism, beef ban, a consistent provocation through Indian TV channels, and BJP's derisive approach at the Centre. Even during 2014 floods, BJP relished in humiliating Kashmiri Muslims. 

Now that the volcano has erupted, there is that old brigade Kashmir managers trying to rescue New Delhi. The structures established to control Kashmir are working overtime to defeat people by confusing them. One of the tested ways for doing this is to focus on leadership, and turn it off.

This is what Indian National Congress of Ghandi-Nehru leadership, in league with Dogra regime did when Kashmiri Muslims rose up to unshackle themselves. The leadership of Muslim Conference at its tallest was managed by Nehru to get the desired results from a public mobilisation that was Kashmir's own, and for Kashmir's own. A tragic fate 1931 mobilisation met, and we continue to pay price for that. Then came Plebiscite Front. After more than 20 years the same route was taken by bears to maul the herd.  In 1987 chances were that a genuine political leadership emerged to speak on behalf of Kashmiri Muslims, but a brutal response from the government choked all space for any emergent leadership. Then we witnessed 1990. People came out in tens of thousands, and there by hangs a tale of armed rebellion and extreme forms of repression through that decade. Every time Kashmiris recall those times, there is an unmistakable regret for the absence of any formidable political leadership. It was not there, and the best of the moments was lost.

After years of repression Kashmiri Muslims once again gathered their energies, and 2008 was an exhibition of that gathering. The repressive calm was shaken off, and people of Kashmir made a statement of their political existence. Close on the heels of Amarnath Land Transfer agitation came 2009 Shopian incident. Again people's energies could be felt pumping out into the open. Then we had 2010 when the dam finally burst. 

2010 saw a vicious thing permeating the people's political space. Hurriyat's inadequacies and failures aside, this was the known and available form of leadership that Kashmir had in 2010. But a dangerous talk reared its head that it is not for this leadership to decide what happens, and the entire mobilisation was guided by the boys in the streets. True, it were the boys in their teens and twenties that gave tough time to the structures of control in the streets of Kashmir. But should it be a leaderless mobilisation to be effective. This propaganda had an inbuilt advantage for those who the people had risen against. In the absence of a leadership, what is a public mobilisation except a timely eruption, or a lingered unrest that can be managed easily by any state. 

Now it's 2016, and the same things are again doing rounds. It's true, it burst all by itself. But it's also true that there have been people all this while who tirelessly stood for this sentiment. We may have differences with Geelani, but he didn't relent an inch, even when everyone thought he should at least drift by a foot. Good or bad, this man proved his claim to leadership.  Now at this time, if someone says it is not for him to lead, he can only be excused for being too naive to play in the hands of the tormentor. Mirwaiz, and Yasin Malik can be criticised for a million fault of theirs, but they represent Resistance spaces, and it can not be denied to them. 

Public mobilisation comes to fruition only through the instrument of leadership. That leadership, in case of 2016 Kashmir, is known to people in the form of Geelani, Yasin Malik, and Mirwaiz. They must lead, and they must be seen to lead. If Geelani Sahab doesn't deserve to lead a people's movement that he has nourished all his life, who else should people turn to in this moment of mobilisation. We can, and we do, differ with him. We can still feel him making a mistake, or missing a point. But it's not easy for him to take decisions, and hew new paths at this time. The enormity of this situation could be a challenge even for a leadership that enjoys space and freedom to work, and is supported by institutional structures of thinking. This man is caged for years now, and the repressive control that is in place in Kashmir has spared hardly any supportive structure for him. 

This public mobilisation is a dynamite of hope. But it has an uncanny characteristic of turning into a nuclear bomb of despair. If this leadership is allowed to work it can at least make this hope flourish, and keep despair away. People need leadership before any mobilisation, while they mobilise, and afterwards as well. If in the process Kashmir throws up a new political leadership, better in all respects, that can be God's great gift to us. But as of now; long live Geelani, till we have another. 

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