Srinagar: The sympathy with street protesters and the outrage against the government’s repression of them is fake, Kashmiri academics and political commentators say of the loud voices being raised in the state legislature.
Several professors at Kashmir University said while talking to Kashmir Reader that the sloganeering, language and positions that members of the Opposition have deployed in the legislative assembly are only to reap political dividends.
In recent years, legislators in the opposition have become increasingly vocal about human rights violations and have used slogans,
arguments and rhetoric that is associated with the “separatist camp”, apparently blurring the line between pro-freedom and pro-Indian polity.
Professor of English Literature at Kashmir University, Hameeda Nayeem, says that pro-Indian politicians are appropriating the language of pro-freedom politics without actually subscribing to the idea.
“Their language laced with pro-freedom politics has no sanctity. It is evident in the contradiction between the state tolerating their pro-freedom language and punishing those who speak the same language on the streets of Kashmir,” Nayeem said.
“They are not sincere. Their words smack of hypocrisy. They want to remain in the comfort of power, which is why they use the language of pro-freedom politics to be relevant,” she said.
Nayeem said that if the pro-Indian politicians were sincere in their positions, they would have accepted the offer of pro-freedom politicians to join them.
“They were asked to resign and collectively fight for the cause. But they refused to do so. If they would have been sincere, they would have shunned the collaborative role and joined the resistance. They have not done so, despite repeated offers,” Nayeem said.
Law professor and columnist Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain said that pro-Indian parties were trying to be in line with the dominant sentiments of Kashmir. “This does not mean they adhere to those sentiments. They want to harvest political dividends from it,” Hussain said.
He said that every pro-Indian party tries to defend New Delhi in Kashmir when it is in power.
“And when they are out of power, they become passive separatists,” Hussain said.
Hussain said that the “mainstream parties” only resort to symbols and slogans, without contextualising the Kashmir problem. “The mainstream wants to use human rights violations for its political ends. For this, they hijack symbols and slogans of pro-freedom groups, knowing fully well the dictionary of their political terms,” Hussain said, adding, “It is all about how to further political interests.”
In the recent budget session of the state Assembly, opposition legislators have raised slogans against the Public Safety Act, condemned the more than 85 killings at the hands of government forces, condemned the use of pellets and PAVA shells, and condemned the use of brutal force by the state machinery that has led to full or partial blinding of more than a thousand people. One legislator even described Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan wani as a “freedom fighter” and a “martyr”. Another legislator demanded a UN-sponsored plebiscite in both parts of Kashmir.
“Mainstream politicians want to carve out political spaces for themselves,” political commentator and former head of political science department at Kashmir University, Noor Ahmad Baba, said. “By resorting to separatist issues, slogans and symbols, they are trying to make themselves relevant in the ongoing situation. Such politics has an appeal in Kashmir.”
Baba said that there is an acceptability to the separatist idiom in Kashmir.
“So, when somebody tries to walk along that line, it has takers in Kashmir. In recent years, this idiom has been widely used to carve out political spaces by the mainstream,” Baba said.
He said the ruling PDP was the one party which brought separatists slogans and symbols into the “political mainstream”, for its own political benefits, of course.
“Now the parties in opposition are giving the PDP back in the same coin,” Baba said.
“The separatist idiom was initiated by the PDP to gradually make its space within the political mainstream in Kashmir. Otherwise, to some extent in the past, it was monopolised by the National Conference, which used autonomy and other slogans to create its own space. The PDP wanted to create a political space beyond the NC, for which it changed the idiom of the mainstream,” Baba said.
“It brought gains for them. But it also gave an impression that differences between separatists and mainstream in Kashmir had been reduced. Otherwise, idioms like solution of Kashmir issue and human rights violations belonged to separatists,” he said.
The PDP’s alliance with the BJP, however, exposed its true position, Baba said. “It could not keep up the idiom that it had forcefully used in the public sphere. The opposition parties are now trying to cash in on the 2016 uprising,” Baba said.