Notional Power

Notional Power

Only a day after Mehbooba Mufti asserted, in a roundabout, circuitous way that “a more humane approach was needed to “tackle” militancy and what was needed was to understand the reasons behind militancy”, two encounters were underway in Kashmir. Mehbooba’s assertions also came in the wake of an “amnesty” by way of withdrawal of cases against first time stone-pelters. It is pertinent to note that the Chief Minister is the head of the Unified Command in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In theory then, the buck stops there. But, then this is Kashmir, in which many functions of the administration have been “outsourced” to the security agencies. In this sense then, it would appear that the Chief Minister’s power(s) in Kashmir are notional with real power lying elsewhere. This then reduces this office to making pleas and statements via the media. Admittedly, this is somewhat speculative but in the absence of a counterfactual, there might be merit to these assertions. The heads of administrations, in this schema, become managers and it is managerialism that determines and informs their politics. In terms of the “amnesty” to first time stone-pelters, while it takes off many youngsters off the radar of the police and enables them resume “normal” lives, but it excludes many who are or have been incarcerated for political reasons. A substantive “amnesty” would have included these political prisoners who languish in various jails. In the ultimate analysis, cumulatively, these phenomena- stone pelting, and even militancy – are emanations and manifestations of the conflict in and over Kashmir. But, default reflex of powers that be, vis a vis, the conflict, is to contain and thereby manage the conflict instead of its resolution. This approach merely prolongs the conflict which, operates according to its own dynamic, with varying ebbs and flows- both historically and contemporarily. This approach also has inherent diminishing returns; it then behooves powers that be to actually stock take and review its approach(es) and institute a conflict resolution paradigm that redounds to the benefit of all- especially the people of Kashmir. Ultimately, Kashmir and its people are victims and therefore prisoners of history. But, history, need not be destiny. It is a mega-force and even process which can be given a shove and a direction. Conflict management, in this schema, is a straitjacket, from which Kashmir and Kashmiris need to be taken out of. The way this can be done is through prudent, genuine statecraft- informed by sobriety, sincerity and honesty.

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