Kashmir-based political parties who fight elections for ruling the state most often do so from the space of a certain denial of the political reality of Kashmir itself, which is not hidden from anyone. The histories of the two main parties, the Peoples Democratic Party and the National Conference before that are full of instances displaying a certain appropriation of the ‘actual’ political aspiration (without actually representing it) prevalent among a majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir since the Partition of the subcontinent, or even decades before that. The ‘mainstream’ political space in the first place was brought about by a certain embracing of that basic desire, a deep yearning for being in control of the political destiny of this historically contested land.
But the histories of the ‘mainstream’ parties are also glaring, longstanding testimonies of how the wellspring of their existence and ‘legitimacy’ actually resided in the denial of what gave them birth. This history is a continuum, at once in the past as well as in the present.
Popular slogans that have historically marked opposition or resistance to the blatant denial of the ground reality of Kashmir have always been appropriated by the ‘mainstream’ parties as attempts to show how they represent the actual ground. How this is done varies by when a particular party or group is in power, or when it is out.
The anti-status quo uprising of 2016 also gave rise to new slogans and a new passion. Some elected representatives in the state legislature apparently wasted no time to get into the act of a now exposed play of appropriation again. Rhythmic slogans against some unacceptable practices of state repression patented by an activist in southern Kashmir were raised by opposition lawmakers in the legislative house. The activist himself was sent to jail under the Public Safety Act for raising the passionate slogans, but the lawmakers can use the same slogans inside the House cynically for purposes of making up for miserably lost political capital. An opposition lawmaker even called Burhan Wani, whose killing at the hands of government forces sparked the months-long uprising, a martyr. Whose martyr, that will never be made clear!
Such is the political realm of Kashmir that even though the people may understand the intent behind such blatant acts of appropriation that it still is ‘relevant’ for the ‘mainstream’ politician or a lawmaker to undertake it. Could it be that the farcicality of doing so has reached a stage where the politician doesn’t care anymore of what the people in whose name the appropriation is done might think?