“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
-George Orwell, Animal Farm
Allurements come in beguiling packages and every trap initially appears to hold out the promise of a treat, but the moment you bite the bait, you have signed your own doom. This is a fact known to humans since times immemorial. It appears, however, that the knowledge of how bait can be used to lure unwitting animals into a trap hasn’t led to wisdom because humans themselves fall for them. Kashmir’s history is full of instances when attractive promises have turned out to be invitations to ignominy. It was falling for such temptations that reduced Kashmir’s tallest leader to such an extent that his grave, which could easily have been a national monument, today requires a security cordon to prevent being desecrated. Sheikh Abdullah fell for Nehru’s suave charms, mistaking his strategy for personal friendship, and swallowed the bait of unchallenged power as the uncontested ruler of Kashmir. In contrast, naturally, Jinnah, otherwise also known for his reserve, must have appeared too cold for comfort, holding no prospect for Abdullah to monopolise power and glory. But alas, the charm turned out to be an invitation to disaster, as the Sheikh, having outlived his utility, and his ‘friendship’ having turned into a nuisance for Nehru, was to realize only a few years later when he was ignominiously deposed and put behind bars.
It was Bakhshi’s turn to be baited with power which came at the cost of his turning against his leader. With time, however, Bakhshi too was to outlive his utility for New Delhi, and was then unceremoniously dumped, a fate that he had signed up for at the very moment of falling into New Delhi’s trap. Meanwhile, New Delhi continued with its agenda of eroding the special character of Jammu & Kashmir state. Of course, all the while it tried to sugar coat the bitter realities by pumping in money and encouraging and even institutionalizing corruption. Local players were introduced to the potent drug of power, and that too power without any accountability, turning them into junkies who would go to any lengths for their ‘fix.’
From reneging on the promise of a referendum to systematically taking away the special character of the state that was part of the accession deal, every devious measure was co-scripted with their active assistance. This strategy was so effective that even when the power junkies had forced trysts with the reality of their own all-too precarious situation, they did not sober up but were willing to debase themselves even further and barter their mandate away for crumbs. The Sheikh, for instance, was not sobered by Nehru’s betrayal. Rather his years in prison and his forced divorce from power seemed to have whetted his yearning even more, and he eventually went for a compromise, dismissing the second phase of his struggle as mere awaragardi. His descendants went even further to protect their ‘hard earned’ legacy brought with the currency of capitulation, a currency which they too used freely whenever the occasion demanded.
Now once again, Kashmir stands at the crossroads of history, and once again there is a trap with allurements – which today come in the guise of ‘development’. The Kashmiri people are being titillated with the appetizing flavours of Modi’sachche din and visions of prosperity. Moreover, their own local heroes, having decimated their local opponents, have put on an appearance of such nonchalant bravado that people might actually be led to believe that they have brought the saffron genie to heel and turned it into an obedient slave.
If the past is anything to go by, slogans and promises in Kashmir have a tradition of not being translated into action, and people here have long surrendered to apathy. This time, in addition to the prevalent mood of cynicism, there are also severe apprehensions considering the belligerence of the prospective coalition partner, a belligerence that is very much evident in the rest of India after the emergence of the saffron party. To quote Orwell again: “Windmill or no windmill, he said, life would go on as it had always gone on – that is badly.”
“Bad,” for Kashmir could actually be going to “worse.”