DR TAWSEEF AHMAD KHAN
Politics in Kashmir has a unique attribute of being highly unpredictable and volatile, sometimes for the common man and sometimes for itself as well. Unlike the politics in rest of the world, especially in the west, Kashmir politics has an always weak ideological base and a working manifesto. What is there is a contradiction between the two. That is why unrealistic promises like autonomy and self-rule are talked about so much.
This unrealistic political discourse is a form of manipulation, which gives birth to political opportunism. It shows in party hopping and deceptions, which is happening not just in the present but has happened all through history. The tradition started when Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad took over as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1953. Since then this tradition has continued in different shades and styles.
The revocation of Article 370 last year has not meant any big changes for the common man in Kashmir, who was more bothered about the seven-month lockdown and snapping of communication. This is because he never tasted the fruits of this special status. It was always a mystery for him, which the big political opportunists and stalwarts and the so-called leaders never tried to demystify. Rather, they showed to the innocent and horrified common man the promise of autonomy, self-rule, and sometimes independence as well.
This promise consumed thousands of lives and rivers of blood flowed in the valley. Finally, it disappeared on the big day of August 5, 2019, and left the leaders caged behind bars, chanting what young sons of poor families used to chant when none was there to hear: ‘Ham Ne Kya Jurm Kiya? (What is our crime?)’.
Kashmir after August 5 has seen an unprecedented mature political attitude by the common man, who has peacefully protested against the arbitrary and technically illegal revocation of Article 370, without falling into a politically motivated trap. It may have been the biggest tragedy for the political leaders but not so much for the common man, who has seen fathers shouldering the coffins of young sons, mothers waling, friends leading the funeral processions of their roommates and soulmates. No one posted a picture of their hero on Facebook with the caption, “Yaar Hamara Tha Wo, Kahan Gaya Use Dhoondo (Our friend he was, look for him where has he gone?)’.
It can be said that the common man of Kashmir this time witnessed the political slaughter with silent lips but at least tearless eyes. Maybe because his whole body and emotions are exhausted due to the continuous political deception he has known.
But this time the opportunists could not wait long. Only after seven months they have begun a new political drama, where all the flop actors are trying to play the lead roles. Their manifestos, though, look brand new, as there is no mention now of self-rule, autonomy, and healing touch. What they are promising now is statehood, domicile rights, etc. The earlier manifestos lasted seven decades and ended up in grand failure. God knows what the new ones are going to lead to.
But it seems that the decades-old tradition has made the common man in Kashmir politically so conscious that this time the story may change in both theory and practice. At the same time, it also cannot be ruled out that Kashmir has a history of emotional blackmailing by political figures of different stature, and if this continues, then our fate should be clear before us all.
That is why the lessons of history must not be forgotten, especially in a political entity like Kashmir where you are one and yours is none.
—The writer is a teacher and former research scholar of International Relations and International Politics.
DR TAWSEEF AHMAD KHAN