The truism that issues of governance in any system, under any form of rule, cannot be put aside often seems to be forgotten in Kashmir. Or, at best, is paid lip service to. The travesty is that the nomenclature-democracy that exists is so subsumed under the military/counter-insurgency paradigm that even basic issues of governance – which even an occupying army is supposed to take care of – become part of the appropriately termed WHAM (winning hearts and minds). This also involves mere propaganda, a showcasing of incremental progress, and sheer grandstanding. Take the announcement that the state government is contemplating to reclaim the remains of Kashmir’s last independent king, Yusuf Shah Chak, from Bihar. By itself, there is nothing wrong with the proposal, but consider the populist symbolism it seeks to tap into, and the more pressing similar demands it seeks to supplant: the return of the mortal remains of Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru from Tihar jail. This reminds one of the state reaction to the killing of three-year-old Burhan in Sopore: even as the official statement condemned the murder, a state-sponsored musical event involving school kids continued. Could that not have been halted for a day in memory of the slain child? And here, the government says it wants to bring back Chak’s remains as a ‘mark of respect’ to him.
Such savage ironies are attendant on the abnormality of the state. Among other things, the Chief Minister recently said that the healthcare system needed to be upgraded. But as the many reports about the abysmal condition of our hospitals this newspaper has carried, and even the one on the ‘newly-constructed’ mortuary published on Monday, show, it isn’t just pathetic governance ‘at work’ but downright abdication.
These are areas the state government can intervene in, and improve. These are not issues, strictly speaking, within the contested political domain, but matters of basic infrastructure, basic governance. And therefore, like many basic truisms, forgotten.