Politics of Patronage

A curious paradox or even irony appears to have defined the profile – demographic and cultural – of people who attended the first death anniversary of the PDP’s patron-founder, Mufti Mohammad Sayyed. Most mourners were either in the middle age bracket or even older. If it is discounted that these mourners were roots and branches party cadre of the PDP, the irony becomes even more pronounced. The reasons pertain to the deceased’s ostensible emphasis on the Gen Next of Kashmir. That is, Kashmir’s youth.
This glaring lacuna raises a set of questions. Why was Kashmir’s youth missing from the death anniversary if Mufti was a votary of youth? And, what explained the numbers visible at Bakshi stadium? The answer to both these questions lies in the nature of politics in Kashmir. If there is a central and organizing theme that could be held to define Kashmir’s politics it is that it is in suspended animation between the push of patronage and the pull of ‘separatism’. In this sense then Kashmir’s political imaginary – especially of the youth – veers to the sentiment of ‘separatism’. A layer of patronage is superimposed on it by the state. There then is a sharp and poignant tension between the state and society in Kashmir.
The lure of patronage drives some towards ‘mainstream’ politics while as the sentiment that obtains amongst the people of Kashmir structures their consciousness towards certain liberation. The former explains numbers at the rallies of ‘mainstream’ political parties – be it the National Conference or the Peoples Democratic Party. And the latter puts into perspective the animating premise of Kashmir’s Gen Next. This portrait of Kashmir is emblematic of its politics. The larger question embedded in the political and demographic condition that defines Kashmir, which should animate powers that be and who purport to be concerned about the people is: Can Kashmir and its youth be redeemed? If so, how?
The answer does not lie in platitudes of ‘youth empowerment’ through technology or merely education, despite their intrinsic value and merit. These are secular themes which, in the context of Kashmir get cancelled by the conflict in and over Kashmir. What can redeem Kashmir’s Gen Next is the resolution of this conflict. A milieu and structuring context that derives from the conflict, overlaid by uncertainty cannot be the solution that connects and links Kashmir’s youth to the promise that the 21st century holds. It is only a multi stakeholder conflict resolution paradigm that brings out the innate and intrinsic talent of Kashmir’s youth to the fore.