A good leader possesses qualities of decisiveness, swiftness, confidence, knowledge and is adamantly courageous. A good leader is aware of his follower’s strengths, qualities but at the same time knows their weaknesses and shortcomings.
Kashmir is led by many. It has variety of self-professed claimers of leadership setting flimsy grounds, such as inheritance, riches or affiliation as a benchmark to lead the masses. Rarely has Kashmir chosen a leader for his or her virtues, qualities, actions or inactions that have or might affect the people.
In such an environment, people are led towards confusion, hopelessness and cynicism. The ‘nothing will ever change’ attitude possessing group has held sway over Kashmir politics and continues to reign supreme as the valley lacks of an all-round and encouraging leader. It suits the ruling class, which is same since 1947 and have maintained their political supremacy here, in absence of an effective leadership challenge. While the pro-Indian political class in Kashmir has to be held guilty in this regard, the pro-sentiment, ‘resistance’ lobby has to share part of the blame as it often finds itself at odds within. They are an apt example, if ever one was needed, of the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘A house divided amongst itself, cannot stand.’
Effectively, barring the occasional protests, shutdowns, and village meetings, the ‘separatists’ have found themselves sidelined.
This lobby may cry hoarse about not being allowed to hold marches, seminars or any other form of political activity, courtesy restrictions on their movement, but issuing joint statements for a common cause cannot hold them back of pursuing an effective pro-people movement. Little stands in their way, if they claim to form a common platform, to attain their declared goals of a just, peaceful, settlement of the Kashmir issue. Who can prevent them from visiting each other? Accepting the leadership of one or two by the entire ‘resistance’ camp and following the orders of that ‘leadership’ for a common cause may prove beneficial. But it’s a bridge too far.
The ‘separatists’ are caught in a ‘commitment trap’; they stubbornly hold on to a certain ideology, which seems just their survival and sustenance. They are wedded to a certain philosophy, their identity. People follow them not because they are ‘leaders’ but because they espouse values, ideologies and a philosophy which Kashmiris find important and close to their soul. The day they change these core values, they will be disowned, like the last ‘great leader’ of Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, who by the time of his ‘surrender’ in 1975, had cultivated an unmatched following amongst Kashmiris.
The pro-Indian lobby stands ‘exposed’ time and again. The statements of the former Army Chief and current Central Minister of State, General V K Singh or after the lifting of the ban on SMSes in Kashmir, which was very much the doing of the local government, has made it clear that pro-India lobby has lost face here. However, at the same time, they successfully vie for control of the empty space in politics, where the separatists dare not tread – electoral politics, as a result of which they are able to exert an ‘influence’ amongst people.
With the state elections in a few months, it is up to the ‘separatist’ lobby to decide their own future. Their position on elections is well known, however, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign of achieving a clear mandate in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls and an almost no formal opposition left in the Parliament may come as something that this lobby can think of doing here.
For now, the separatists should do Kashmir a favour, they shouldn’t campaign only against the elections but should also understand the compulsions behind voting. If they can, they should ask people to use their vote judiciously and in a such a manner they permanently vote-out the current pro-India parties from Kashmir’s political scene and help those who too are against the present setup but contest the Indian elections. It remains to be seen whether this divided house can have the imagination, that the Legislative Assembly, if controlled by members who may prove ‘friendly’ to the camp as enemy’s enemy most of the times proves to be a friend.