Return of the naked emperor

Just when there had risen a glimmer of hope of some sort of breakthrough from the side of New Delhi, there came a rude shock.
Return of the naked emperor
File Photo

Just when there had risen a glimmer of hope of some sort of breakthrough from the side of New Delhi, there came a rude shock. Behind the public posture of firm stance from a deeply resentful population, there was concealed in some corner of heart a feeling that New Delhi will try to make a clean break with the past and moot a fresh approach to deal with the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. I say unprecedented because having some knowledge of Bosnia, Somalia and South Sudan, some of the intense conflict areas of our times, nothing matches the level of collective torture which has unfolded in Kashmir ever since people celebrated Eid this year following the arduous month of fasting at the peak of summer. And what did the people receive after the so-called debate in the Indian Parliament and the all-Party meeting in New Delhi? Pellet gun is in-tact and ticking, curfew is there (got even tighter), FIR and arrests have not stopped and media blockade is painfully precise. The PM, in true demonstration of the naked-emperor syndrome, who is unmoored from the ground reality, emphasised the need to whip up tension in the areas controlled by Pakistan. That is to say, my part of the house is burning, set on fire the other part, to create an equivalence of distress and disappointment. This is an old trick out of the imperial hat; while giving an impression of movement and consideration, you actually return to the old coordinates of conflict management. Ultimately, a wearying status quo is retained, which might in some vain quarters give a melancholic illusion of development but which in real terms manifests the logic of power. That logic of power is that there should appear to be a change in the public eye without actually there being one. However, the public eye is way too peeled not to understand the illusion.

How can anyone jolt this inhumane logic of power? The people who are currently under the baton and the gun do not have the resources and man-power on their side. There power is grounded in resilience and dogged hope in this sharply unequal battle. Even those are not inexhaustible. For they survive on material economic resources which need constant rejuvenation. When the means of rejuvenation are strangulated there might come a time when that hope and resilience might turn against them and ask them to return to the dull routine. In this scenario, which looks grim by all angles, especially when the Emperor has refused to listen to the trampled grasshoppers, the responsibility lies with the elected representatives, even if their representation was meant for fulfilment of elementary governance and not decisions of political destiny. The least that the mainstream political parties can do is to put in their papers and make a common cause with the people. This will bridge the gap between their agony over loss of life and the aspirations of the people. Otherwise their distress is theatrical and statements shorn of meaning. No doubt they do not have a mandate to decide on the larger political future of their subjects but this is an extraordinary situation which calls for exceptional decisions; when they must transcend their insular political rivalries and put their weight where their mouth is. Nothing looks more bizarre than begging the separatists to do something about the situation when they can themselves make a common cause and press New Delhi to break the traditional mould. That is, both PDP and NC legislators, along with others really worried about the situation must resign as a gesture of solidarity with the people whom Delhi believes they're representing in all forms and practices. This is a rare opportunity to show that there is heart and conscience in their politics and not just crass opportunism. This also makes sense in that almost all the political formations in India have closed ranks and supported the Govt. of India, except some illustrious individual opinions which have happily diverged from the national narrative. What prevents them doing the same and showing that they're from the people who are currently under siege? 

The decision to resign is not unconstitutional even within the Indian constitution, words which, in current times, are kind of an anathema to talk about. The resignation will underscore the grave situation and the urgent need to apply a healing balm. Following the resignation the two main parties can pass a joint resolution and ask New Delhi to discuss either Autonomy or Self-Rule. These are foundational ingredients of their vision. The dispute as to which one of the two must be discussed can be papered over by producing some kind of middle approach. The resignations will reinforce a few essential points. That the life-vest of their political existence is the citizen. When that citizen is seeking a permanent end to his misery, it is about time we listen to his call. Second, the problem is indigenous, which is fertile for anyone to meddle in, not just Pakistanis who in any case have a stake in the conflict. Third, the resignations will reify the tense calamitous atmosphere in Kashmir before the stony eyes of New Delhi and even beyond. The whole idea is that politics and its benefits are temporary but human life is sacred, more so a life which, for decades now, feels sneered and mocked from New Delhi to New York.

Javaid Iqbal Bhat is Assistant Professor, South Campus, University of Kashmir

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