Delhi’s Puppet

  • Engineer Rasheed
  • Publish Date: Jul 25 2017 2:14AM
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  • Updated Date: Jul 25 2017 2:14AM
Delhi’s Puppet

Not for no reason is the maintream politician despised in Kashmir

In the early 1990s, when Kashmiris took up arms, electoral politics disappeared. Until 1996, Jammu and Kashmir’s political landscape was dominated by the pro-freedom ideology. But when Farooq Abdullah agreed to contest the assembly election in 1996, against the wishes of the people, he engendered a political divide. On one side were people who wanted to give elections a shot, on the other those who saw elections as a futile exercise. At the time, however, both camps claimed that resolution of the Kashmir dispute was the sole purpose of their politics.

Once Farooq took power, after winning the election that much violence and negligible polling, and started parroting the Indian position on Kashmir, the terms “mainstream” and “separatist” were coined to describe the two political camps.

In contrast to 1996, subsequent elections saw wide participation by Kashmiris, for one reason or the other, and the electoral process got much credibility. All this while, both the mainstream politicians and the separatists kept promising a solution – of their choice – to the dispute. Yet, nearly a quarter century later, nothing has changed on the ground, except that Delhi has become more arrogant, Kashmiris see the worst face of the men in uniform and the international community has grown disinterested.

The separatists do get the benefit of the doubt for their failures because they have held on to their position, more or less. It is the mainstream politicians who have most damaged the Kashmir cause by making such absurd statements as “freedom struggles can’t be taken to logical conclusions within a particular time frame” and, often, blaming the masses for being inconsistent. They should not forget that it is the masses who have voted for them all these years, even at the cost of annoying the Hurriyat and the militants, and risking the label of “betrayers”.

Pakistan doesn’t accept elections in J&K as legitimate, yet they rolled out the red carpet for Omar Abdullah and other mainstream leaders when they visited Islamabad, hoping they might contribute to the resolution of the dispute. Unfortunately, mainstream politics has become a liability for Kashmiris. Not only because it represents Delhi in Kashmir rather than Kashmir in Delhi but also because it has created confusion, chaos and shamelessly diluted the disputed nature of J&K.

The mainstream politician is now a byword for distrust and betrayal. They accuse each other of betraying Kashmiris even though everyone of them has changed their position with changing times, places and circumstances. Remember what happened to the lofty ideals of Autonomy, Self Rule, Restoring Honour and Dignity, Achievable Nationhood?

Until 1996, Delhi was under pressure from the world community to resolve Kashmir, but the mainstream parties came to its rescue by contesting elections and enabling Delhi to argue that the people of J&K had shown their faith in electoral democracy. Thus, they undermined the significance of the UN resolutions on Kashmir.

Let alone speak of a political settlement, our mainstream parties have not managed to get Delhi to revoke AFSPA, return the state's power projects or punish a single man in uniform for even the gravest human rights abuses. They even failed to pass a resolution seeking clemency for Afzal Guru. People such as Qasim Faktoo, Ghulam Qadir Bhat and Masrat Alam are languishing in jail and none of the five chief ministers since 1996, despite promising the moon and stars, have dared declare a general amnesty for the detenues. While Nirbhaya of India could get justice in months, our mainstream leaders have failed to convince Delhi that bringing to justice the rapists of Kunan Poshpora and the killers of Asiya and Neelofar is in their national interest. Even the so-called rehabilitation policy for PoK-returned families yielded nothing except people like Bashir Lashkari losing their precious lives. The only change on the ground has been Kashmiri Pandits getting jobs and financial packages, West Pakistani refugees getting one-time settlement packages, Amarnath Yatra becoming the most important job of the administration throughout the year, and Delhi trying to snatch the mortal remains of the state's special status state under the Indian constitution. Isn’t it tragic that when Burhan Wani got killed last year, the mainstream politicians offered to resign, praised the Hurriyat, asked Delhi to initiate dialogue and called J&K a disputed territory but on the first anniversary of Burhan’s martyrdom, the state surrendered its fiscal autonomy to Delhi, with Mehbooba Mufti shamelessly saying she was proud not to have disappointed the country?

Such is their utter lack of credibility that our politicians can't prevail upon the bureaucracy to ensure even Bijli, Sadak, Paani for the people. They have shamelessly enabled J&K to become a police state, where the fundamental rights of people stand virtually suspended. The nexus politician, police and bureaucrat has shaken the common man's faith in the justice within the system. Justice has become a broken dream, a hollow promise. The politicians have cultivated a culture in which the blanket security cover they enjoy gives them and those around them a feeling of being VIPs, thereby rendering them completely dependent on the police and distant from the people they claim to represent. 

In Kashmir, mainstream politics is becoming ever more irrelevant by the day and state legislature is losing its honour and credibility. There can be nothing shameful than the fact that the assembly has never discussed a concrete "common ground proposal" for resolving the Kashmir dispute. The hypocrisy of the politicians is such that they abuse militants and the resistance leaders in the corridors of power but praise them in public. Delhi has certainly done a lot to destroy the credibility of mainstream politics in Kashmir, but much of the blame lies with our politicians. They have had more than one occasion to listen to their consciences and speak the truth but they chose political expediency instead. One doesn't need to be an MLA, separatist leader or militant to call J&K a disputed territory, demand protection of human rights and seek a plebiscite. Neither the Indian constitution nor any other law bars anyone from talking sense.

The mainstream politicians may think that by choosing cowardly silence over telling the truth, they are earning India's appreciation but they would be mistaken. For Delhi, they are no more than parasites living at the mercy of the men in uniform and their masters at the Centre. For Kashmiris, these politicians are collaborators who enable Delhi to trample upon the self-respect, sentiments and aspirations of the people.