Kashmir’s Mainstream anti-Politics

The language of ordinary exchange, and a routine talk, have thrown up many binaries in Kashmir.
Kashmir’s Mainstream anti-Politics
Photo: Archives

The language of ordinary exchange, and a routine talk, have thrown up many binaries in Kashmir. One such binary is Mainstream-Resistance.

Though at the time of elections this binary receives floods of light, but for quite some time it has become a standard expression in the political talk concerning Kashmir. Even we have some people who insist that Resistance is the Mainstream of Kashmir. It would require an informed, decent, and a prolonged talking within our society to make sense of what comprises politics in Kashmir, and how the binaries like Mainstream-Resistance mostly fall short of explaining things. In the process we might need some neologism to help us steer clear of the consequent misunderstandings. Here one can begin by making a preliminary comment. 

It is an observation of sorts that whenever you critique Resistance Politics in Kashmir, or write about the Islamic Movement in a seemingly disapproving tone, some people take it as an endorsement of the other end of the binary. So your being apparently harsh in your analysis of Islamic-Freedom Movement is very conveniently construed as giving thumbs up to Mainstream politics; 'Mainstream'.

Nothing can be more misleading. The irony is that both the ends of the binary unite in this misreading.  There are twin towers of skewed reading suddenly propping up, and you find yourself in a state of total surprise. This is the difficulty of talking at a place like Kashmir – a conflicted zone infested, and invested, with all kinds of contradictions and paradoxes. 

How to deal with such a difficulty. The simplest way is not to talk at all. But if you speak, you can't be unmindful of this difficulty. One of the ways to surmount this difficulty is to be little more wise in choosing the space where you do the talking. Not just space, you have to be mindful of the people, of the topics, and of the timings.

But is it possible to choose every ingredient of the atmosphere, and then talk! And if a newspaper happens to you as the medium of talking, your difficulty only accentuates. You have to wrestle with this ceaselessly till the time you either get across, or get convinced that it's no point talking through this medium.  

Till now, this column series has focused on Islamic-Freedom-Resistance spectrum. It doesn't require too much explanation that in Kashmir Resistance is actually stationed in being Muslim. Muslim not in the sense of being communal, but in the sense of being political.

So that is why a hyphenated expression of Islamic-Freedom-Resistance. Battling with this difficulty, one needs to make a parenthetic detour and talk a bit about 'Mainstream'.  However, with a caveat. There is a difference between this 'mainstream' politics and those who participate in it. Like the binary of Islamist-Secularist, I believe splitting the society of Kashmir in the name of Mainstream-Resistance binary is an act of butchering.

The real political leadership of Kashmir will have to rise above any such division, and that is where Resistance and Islamic Movement is found wanting; they can be accused of inflicting devastating cuts on Kashmir's Muslim society. A voter, or a worker, of NC or PDP is way away from what NC or PDP are when they are operated by New Delhi as instrument of anti-politics.

I would even go this far that the leadership of the two parties as perceived by their respective supporters, and the way it has been, and is, related to New Delhi are two different entities. When we talk about a person like Sheikh Sahab, we have to be mindful of these nuances, otherwise we create fissures that work only to the advantage of our adversary. So when we analyse 'mainstream', we should stick to talking about the stream and not the ones who drown in it. They were, and are a part of Kashmir's Muslim political space.  

So what constitutes the actual stream of politics in any territory, the capital stream, is its people.  Rarely a moment comes in the history of a people, when the heart of politics is laid open. In our history one such moment was when people gathered around the leadership of Muslim Conference and rose against the Dogra Rule.

That was the Mainstream of Politics in Kashmir. Its flow was bound to be guided by the gravity of its own ground. But thanks to those who made this 20th century miracle happen that the stream defied gravity. In a nutshell what we know as 'Mainstream' in Kashmir is a complete anti-thesis of politics. Politics is primarily how people express themselves in terms of collective choices. Here 'choices' are created, thrust, and managed through this nasty creature called 'mainstream'. As a consequence, 'mainstream' politics is a primary source of violence in Kashmir. on the contrary Resistance is the actual space of politics in Kashmir.

The problem is that it doesn't realise its potential, and is way short of enriching its political content. What is called 'mainstream', is a grand corruption of this space. Whatever is placed in this space is essentially antithetical to the political character of Kashmir. The seven decades of this variant of 'politics' has proved that its each new phase is uglier than the earlier.  

Politics is the expression of people. Politics makes people safe, secure and growing. If people are thrown out of the frame, politics cannot sustain. An easy way to understand the corruption that happened through this 'mainstream' is by way of an anecdote. Some time back I met an elderly Kashmiri Pandit. Among many other things he talked about those chaotic times of partition.

And then he praised Begum Sheikh Muhammed Abdullah: "She made a strident direction to her people – Kashmiri Muslims – that not even a small harm should visit any of the Kashmiri Pandit." Apparently it is a wonderful statement, and goes on to show how the then leadership was concerned about a minority that could have proved vulnerable if the Partition violence visited Kashmir.

But just a look deeper and it reveals the macabre in it. At a time when Kashmiri Muslims were to decide about their own future, they were made to forget themselves and take care of a particular community that had a fixed value in the overall scheme of disempowering the Kashmiri Muslims. True, minorities must be safe, secure and an equal recipient of rights and opportunities. True that the majority must ensure all this. But the problem here is that all the good notions are imposed at the cost of people in Kashmir – read Kashmiri Muslims.

This is what the 'mainstream' has done and is doing.  It takes the focus away from People, and fixes it on Projects. Projects, that are initiated, and executed by New Delhi. And the projects that only benefit New Delhi, leaving Kashmiri Muslims devastated. Those in the 'mainstream' have been reduced to crumbs in the process.

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