What is more dangerous? Poison in a bottle labeled as ‘poison’ or poison that has been bottled as tonic? The analogy fits well the two major political parties fighting it out in the parliamentary elections, especially so far as Kashmir is concerned. Whereas the BJP, for most part, makes its policies pretty clear, the Congress is as usual resorting to the strategy of camouflage, and while it has nothing to commend it to the local population, it is portraying the other party as a threat to convince voters that they have no alternative but to support the Congress.
The fact is that camouflage has always been used to confuse and coerce the Kashmiri voter. All mainstream political parties, local as well as the local units of national parties, try to convince people that the only purpose of voting is to have a system in place to run the administrative affairs of the state and it is not to be confused with the loftier right of referendum or as any sort of statement on the political aspirations of the region. And once elections pass, the same parties put forth participation or turnout as an argument against people’s desire for any other option. Thus what is presented in the run-up to elections as a mere interim arrangement till the more tangled Kashmir issue is resolved becomes a permanent solution once elections are over.
Promised goodies like bijli, pani and sadak become mere bait and, of course, once people are hooked, even these too don’t really materialize. It is on record that those found on the highest rungs of power in Kashmir today have acknowledged, in the not-so-distant past, that the flood of humanity attending the rallies of separatist leaders like Geelani are a statement in themselves and can’t be denied. The same leaders, when they managed to get into power with the blessings of their sponsors at the center without so much as turning a hair, have started challenging the same leaders to a political combat through elections, conveniently forgetting their own earlier observations.
Participation in elections in Kashmir remains a matter of coercion. This coercion may not always be in a crude obvious form, though that is not something unknown, especially in remote areas where people continuously live in the shadow of the gun. Coercion can be subtle too, like say by projecting an external threat. This is the strategy that the Congress uses in this state as it has been using it with considerable success with the minorities all over the country. There is an urgent need to recognize this fact and to see through the camouflage used by the Congress party.
Whatever indignities and deception and fraud the Kashmiri people have suffered have been at the hands of the same Congress party that is projecting itself as a shield against the erosion of the state’s mythical special status. Wasn’t it Nehru who promised ‘choice’ to the Kashmiri people and then broke this promise and showed the gullible leader of the Kashmiri people his proper place? The promise which should have been seen as an obligation was instead projected as a concession and a liability by this very party and the same party decided that it needed to be whittled down, and went on to do so. The Congress party not only forgot its promise of a referendum to follow, a referendum that would allow the Kashmiri people to choose their destiny, but went on to puncture the inflated sop of special status that had been offered to the state.
It was again the Congress party that kept toppling its local loyalists even at the slightest hint of not towing the party’s line although the differences were never about the state’s allegiance with India. Even minor in-house political dissent was ruthlessly discouraged by this party. It pitted party men against each other including even those whose basic ideology was the same. The NC being a family affair the Congress even managed to cleave the family. In fact the Congress party has been behaving like the British did in India, employing the same divide and rule policy. The party forges alliances with any of its engineered political fragments whenever it suits it and then when the alliance does not remain relevant it trashes these fragmented entities only to hook up with others in the available assortment. To fine tune this strategy it has not only fragmented existing parties or created new parties but has also created a corpus of ‘free lancers’ to increase the odds in its own favour.
Look at it whichever way, the Congress party comes out as the real villain in Kashmir’s politics, and, for that matter, even in most parts of the country. The BJP might have a sinister policy in store for Kashmir but the Congress has already done most of what the BJP threatens to do. The Congress’ tirade against the BJP is an apt illustration of idiom about the pot calling the kettle black.