Reinvent or Perish

  • Junaid Azim Mattu
  • Publish Date: Jul 25 2017 9:22PM
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  • Updated Date: Jul 25 2017 9:22PM
Reinvent or Perish

The mainstream needs to own the anguish, alienation and aspiration in Kashmir and strive for a resolution of the political issue

 

An election has been cancelled in Kashmir for the first time in almost thirty years. The turnout in the Srinagar Parliamentary Election has plummeted to a shocking seven percent, down from nearly twenty-six percent in the earlier 2014 Lok Sabha election in the Valley. For the first time in nearly three decades of armed turmoil, local militants far outnumber and overshadow foreign militants operating in Kashmir. Siege and search operations and crackdowns are back in South Kashmir. A voter was tied to a Jeep, used as a ‘human-shield’ and paraded through nearly twenty odd villages on polling day and the Major responsible for the cowardly crime has been lionized and rewarded by the State.

While a purely operational/military analysis through the statistical prism of violence and fatalities would fool one into believing “things have been worse” (as our CM has stated), the deafening, haunting invective of indifference and anguish on the ground is unprecedented and beyond alarming. Undoubtedly, we stand at the precipice of complete turmoil and alienation in Kashmir – a kind we might not have imagined we would be dealing with in the post 2005 era.

An average Kashmiri finds himself suffocated and sandwiched between New Delhi’s arrogance and a stifled, muffled political representation locally. In New Delhi, BJP’s Hindu-nationalist votebank means the Government of India will remain invested in repressive, operational measures in Kashmir. Any possible engagement – even symbolic – with the stakeholders has been ostracized and now officially ruled out by the Government of India. Our only engagement with Pakistan today is Arnab Goswami threatening Pakistani panelists of “mayhem and destruction” on his debates.

Locally – PDP’s shocking alliance with the same “new” Hindutva-driven BJP has compounded the alienation, especially since it was PDP that gave the clarion call for a historic battle against the BJP in the 2014 elections. The memory of Mehbooba Mufti seeking votes against the BJP is not distant – at least not for the people.

Plus, New Delhi seems more committed than ever towards the psychological goal of adding insult to injury in Kashmir at frequent intervals. Following a sequence of videos of brutal extrajudicial torture of Kashmiri youth by the security forces, the recent impunity with which an Indian Army Major used a ‘human-shield’ and got rewarded for it has dealt a death blow to the cause of reconciliation. The palpable sense of defeat and dismay in the heart of a common Kashmiri is brewing into a potion that threatens to consume not only the entire mainstream in Kashmir but also the Hurriyat Conference. In the absence of any visible political engagement between the State and the people of Kashmir, the political vacuum in Kashmir has reached a point of climax with young militants now openly threatening Hurriyat leaders of dire consequences.

While the Hurriyat  derives some diminishing social sanctity that comes with representing the sentiment and abstaining from power, it too has been rendered irrelevant on the ground in the post 2010 scenario. The new crop of militant commanders and their growing swarm of followers among the youth don’t subscribe to the Hurriyat leadership and don’t owe their allegiance to them. Just like recent agitations in the past, the 2016 post-Burhan unrest has been purely mass-driven with Hurriyat jumping in midway with its ‘calendars’ in an understandable, desperate attempt to remain visible. Their shady pecuniary dealings, secret parleys with intelligence agencies out in the open and most of all their resounding failure to convert enormous sacrifices into a tangible, even if interim result has eroded their credibility.

The mainstream has been delegitimized by the State itself – by the Central Government’s disastrous ‘Doval-doctrine’ (where an overrated, hawkish former spook has been given an open field to experiment in Kashmir). And then – adding insult to injury – the Election Commission of India’s very recent and unprecedented abortion of an election in Kashmir to save the Chief Minister’s brother from imminent defeat.

Where do we go from here? With the Modi Government reaping benefits of its muscular, Hindutva-driven ‘nationalism’ in the mainland, there is little hope of a reconciliatory initiative from the Central Government. Confrontation with Pakistan is clearly more beneficial to the BJP than any visible political engagement with the country. The repercussions of a sustained political status-quo between New Delhi and Islamabad and a stagnation of thought locally in Kashmir are going to be disastrous. I can’t speak for the Hurriyat but I am of the firm opinion that the mainstream need to re-invent itself in Kashmir and take on the mantle of representing the political sentiment within the democratic system in a sustained, unapologetic manner.

The once prudent thought of divorcing the system of elected governance from the representation of political aspirations needs a re-look. We need to look at the elephant in the room and go above and beyond the conventional governance goalposts as stakeholders with a representative character. The mainstream needs to own the anguish, alienation and aspiration in Kashmir and strive for a resolution of the political issue. We need to be at the forefront of a democratic, political struggle to seek justice and an acceptable resolution – elections or no elections. That and that alone, in my humble opinion, is the way forward.

 

Junaid Azim Mattu is the State Spokesperson of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference. Views expressed are purely personal. He can be reached at junaid.msu@gmail.com