Dear Mehbooba Ji,
Good morning. I hope you are in good health.
Apologies at the outset. I shall have sent this letter confidentially to you, but the communication clampdown enforced by the 5% miscreants upon the 95% peace-lovers in the Valley compelled me to do otherwise. I hope you understand.
I am just a commoner, living somewhere in south Kashmir, and a voter. There is no fun in mentioning the name of my hamlet, because you haven’t lived long enough in the Valley to know all the small places, and your security cavalcade will not fit in the narrow alleys leading to my house.
But never mind! The purpose here is not to tell you where I live, as this is not about Bijli, Sadak, Pani, or the lack of it, in my abode. This is about politics and politicians, the kind you have grown into.
The other day, I saw you sitting beside Rajnath Singh, the home minister of India, during a press conference. And honestly, I was impressed to see the politician you. We don’t usually get a glimpse of that, as you often behave like you are as ordinary a person as the suffering masses in Kashmir usually are.
Since I am among the peace-loving lot of the Valley, I was enjoying tea with my family. Your appearance with Mr. Singh, a BJP face, reminded me of an oft-used English phrase that says ‘you cannot have the cake and eat it too’. And I was amazed to notice that you have aptly demonstrated how the reverse can be made possible.
When you were cautiously visiting places ahead of the elections not so long ago, you sought votes just to keep BJP away. The people, including myself, believed you and voted your party into power. But once the results were announced, you held the hand of BJP and shared power with them.
Had you not done it with one single weapon you call ‘welfare of the state’, it would have been nothing different from what all politicians do. You earned votes by talking ‘welfare of the state’, and also made allies with BJP for that same ‘welfare of the state’. And, I swear, voters like myself are still confused about when of the two times were you more concerned about the ‘welfare of the state’. Even a veteran party like BJP would, I am certain, be confused about whether you used them more effectively before or after the elections.
In this joint press conference I am talking about, there was a particular moment that exhibited the smartness of your politics: when you made fun of Kashmiris and their sentiments—by saying that the ongoing uprising is without a reason—and gave your accompanying ‘pre-poll enemy’ a reason for laughter. A few months ago, who would have believed that you would soon be sharing seats with BJP and laughing at the people of Kashmir? You easily convinced all of us into believing that you were serious about keeping BJP out. In my experience, I have never seen a politician master the art of deception so well.
Had it been an isolated instance, I may be convinced that it was an occasional brilliance dictated from somewhere. But since the ongoing anti-India uprising started on July 8, you have repeatedly and constantly demonstrated your political wit.
Take Burhan Muzzafar Wani’s killing, for instance. You changed your statements about him from ‘I was unaware’ to ‘he could have been saved’ to ‘he deserved to be killed’, confusing people with ‘could have’, ‘should have’ theories. You never told them that your opinions and views hardly matter in the operations carried out by the government forces with absolute authority or least interference from the state administration. You didn’t say it, and people could not guess it; they are still debating whether or not you were informed about Wani’s presence in that house. How smart of you!
These theories helped you again the other day at the press conference, when you said that the killing of the lecturer in Khrew “should be” probed. No one paid attention to the difference between ‘should be’ and ‘will be’ and also not to your strong statement that all others killed in the uprising deserved to die since they didn’t “go to camps to buy candies or milk”.
It is not your fault that people don’t understand simple English and meaning of the phrases; they should blame the pro-freedom politicians, who spark agitations to affect education system in the Valley. If people do not pay heed to your repeated appeals for sending their children to schools when it is raining pellets and bullets, the society is only itself to blame for poor understanding of the language you use so accurately.
Wait! Did I miss that you deserve credit for remodeling another English phrase? Oh yes! In Kashmir, people can now say it is ‘raining bullets and pellets’ instead of saying ‘it is raining cats and dogs’. Thank you, Mehbooba Ji.
There is another adage you have successfully redefined. This one is bilingual, used in Urdu as well as in English. But I would only mention the former, which sounds poetic: Ek teer se do shikar. You have rephrased it as Ek teer se so shikaar.
Since the very start of the ‘senseless violence’ (your definition of the present uprising), you and your party has blamed National Conference, along with unnamed others, for fuelling it. National Conference also blamed ‘vested interests’ for the uprising during its rule in 2010, but they rarely pronounced the names that constituted this imaginary section of the society.
You pronounced the name of National Conference, and repeated it till everyone on the streets seems to have missed that if the party’s support in the Valley was strong enough to start a mass-agitation, you would not have won the last elections (unless you tell us that the elections were rigged). It was common sense. No?
At the same time, invoking National Conference made the uprising seem like ghar ke baat, a fight between the government and the opposition, and not as an expression of dissent rooted in the 70-year-old history of the land. The gain is even more: your opposition is on the back foot; you have come across as a better crisis manager for New Delhi; you can still behave as the only well-wisher of the Valley people; and, most importantly, your party, being, therefore, the only trustworthy political face in the state, doesn’t have to resign like you did in 2008. (Here again, your political mastery has made people ignore that your party gave up power under a less-intense situation in 2008 because you were not leading the coalition then as you do today. I didn’t hear anyone talking about it.)
Most recently, I was impressed by the way you brought up that ‘5%-supporting-the-unrest’ debate. That was absolutely brilliant for many, many reasons, but I would mention just a few.
You made the statement so swiftly that it sounded like simple mathematics instead of an equation dictated from elsewhere. I am sure not many people noticed that your not-so-close friend talking of the same equation almost simultaneously could not be just a coincidence.
And guess what, people on the streets are starting to believe that 5% population (I would say the percentage is lesser) pelting stones cannot force resolution of the Kashmir issue. But they are certainly not talking about how you were twice given chance by the electorate and you didn’t push for the resolution of the issue. Even if they did, they should not take long to realise that your party was too busy with, for instance, turning Gulmarg into Davos and achieving the vision of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. (By the way, when the forces, which are here for the safety of us 95% peace-lovers, allow me to step out of my house and see you, please tell me what the late man’s vision was. I have somehow never heard of it clearly before).
You have openly sought time to implement your ‘Agenda of Alliance’, by which, I presume, you eventually mean development aka Bijli, Sadak, Pani. If, in the meanwhile, people cannot ensure their children carried books and pens instead of stones in their hands, it is shear absence of responsible parenting. Isn’t it?
Such is the swiftness of your politics that most of the responsible adults in my neighbourhood debate your mathematical assertions without realising that they themselves take part in the protests, which you have made them believe are youth-driven. I find it funny.
I wanted to write more, but, as you are aware, the newspapers these days have been forced to limit their space for the ‘welfare of the state’. Therefore, I should stop here.
Given the smart politician you have become, I am sure you will survive this orchestrated rage on the streets and manage to win another six years into power. Many summers later, when I am done with the harvest, and you return to my village to seek votes, I shall try to personally thank you for all that you have done for us Kashmiris.
Till then, keep up the good work.
—The letter is as imagined by the author, a journalist