Shrinking Space for Mainstream politics in JK
Sheikh Mohammed Abdulla was the tallest leader that Jammu and Kashmir has produced in last hundred years of its history. He eventually became one of the founders of the mainstream politics in the state, if not its sole architect after he founded National Conference. He was so much respected and revered in the state that his words were taken as the divine by majority of people in Kashmir. On his one word and command people were ready to sacrifice their lives and his every decision was honored and considered in the best interests of the people.
On 22 August 2018, on the occasion of Eid Dr Farooq Abdullah, the patron of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and son of Sheikh Mohammed Abdulla was hackled, hooted and hounded away from Dargah Hazratbal, Srinagar. For the place which has served as a stronghold of the NC for many decades Abdulla became unacceptable, a radical change in that context. And, in the very place where Sheikh Mohammed Abdulla was almost worshiped his son was simply refused an entry, a complete reversal. The incident has been viewed differently by different people to satisfy their wishes and whims and those of the parties they belong to. Hardly any impartial view of the incident is forthcoming for the incident needs to be analyzed impartially and in the real context. The incident has a context but before that it is an indication, actually a premonition for the mainstream politicians. The indication or premonition is that the space for the mainstream politicians in the state, especially in the Kashmir, is fast receding. From being the only legislators, adjudicators and executives of the fate of the state the mainstream politicians have become the criminals and culprits of mutilating that fate and future of Jammu and Kashmir. Irrespective of the party they belong or irrespective of what ideology or manifesto they hold, the mainstream politicians are treated the same way and the spaces, which they ruled, are constricting fast for them. The majority of people do not only disassociate from these politicians but there is a sense of hate towards them. These politicians have become embodiments of betrayal and turpitude. Their each move is viewed as a sold out activity for their personal and party gains. Their best and widely accepted description is as effigies whose strings are in the hands of the powers sitting in New Delhi. They are treated as the agents of New Delhi in Kashmir who are working for a cost, salary and remuneration. Their tall claims that they are working for the welfare and betterment of the state, and the people of the state, have fallen flat and nobody is now ready to lend any ear to their words, speeches and sermons. People have gone to the extent of saying that it is these politicians who make bids on the blood of the people of Kashmir and sell that blood to the highest bidder.
Overall, this is the greatest loss that mainstream politicians have suffered in the state; they have lost their credibility and it is hard for them to regain the trust of the people, if not impossible. Gaining trust of people is a tough task but maintaining and sustaining that trust is the toughest of the feat that one can achieve at the individual and collective stage. The history of the imperialism and the conditions in the subcontinent at the time of Indian independence made it easy for the mainstream politicians to gain the trust of the people. But they failed to sustain that trust. Since the very outset they acted in such a way where there was a mismatch between their words and deeds. They worked in the diametrically opposite ways from their stated positions. There has never been a time in the history of the mainstream politics in the state where the trend in the behavioral trait of these politicians was broken. They kept their interests at the highest pedestal and preference and the same is the story today. Even if there might have been a period where some break may have occurred and some politicians would have the welfare and interests of the people in mind but during those periods those politicians failed to act and change the perception of the people. Nevertheless, this type of welfare oriented politics and people friendly politicians in the mainstream camp has been so miniscule that it can simply be taken out from the history of the mainstream politics without impacting the larger picture of this sort of politics. The betrayal of these politicians began with the Instrument of Accession itself. In fact, instead of implementing the Instrument of Accession in letter and spirit the mainstream politicians, in connivance with the Indian state, began violating it. The degree and extent of compromises they made in allowing the Indian state to make all types of inroads in the state and in eroding the autonomy of the state are explicitly against the Instrument of Accession.
The betrayal continued with the acceptance of the demotion in the status of the constitutional posts and institutions. Various accords and agreement that were commissioned from time to time were part of the betrayal. The rigging of elections, the installation of people on the throne of the state who were of Delhi’s liking and discrimination with the state and the exploitation of the resources of the state were other ways the betrayal took place and mainstream politicians always took a lead in betraying the people. After all this was done but still the mainstream politicians enjoyed some credibility among a section of people. In distress and disturbances of the conflict many people looked towards these politicians to ease out the hardships of the people and the state. This was the reason many people voted for these politicians and in some parts of the state the percentage of votes polled was higher than the rest of India. Painfully, even this higher percentage of voters could not change the betraying behavior of the mainstream politician. They instead committed worst of the betrayals with their electorate. In the elections of 2014 the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had fought against the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). These two parties were the North Pole and South Pole of the state politics. In the Kashmir division people had voted against the BJP and in the Jammu region people had voted otherwise. Jammu people were not for the PDP and the people of Kashmir were never ready to see the BJP in power. But the mainstream politicians had other plans. The PDP and the BJP buried all their differences and betrayed with their constituencies. They least cared about the aspirations of their people and formed a coalition government which was least expected. In the Kashmir division especially people were not ready to see the BJP anyway associated with the governance of the state. The communal agenda of the party was a sufficient reason for the people of Kashmir to oppose the BJP. But the party which they had chosen to keep the BJP away from power deceived and became a partner in the communal agenda. This was a big blow on the mainstream politics in Kashmir; the move dented the credibility of the politicians to such an extent as never before. It was clearly proved in the Parliamentary by-elections that were held in Kashmir, or to be precise not held. In the Srinagar-Budgam Parliamentary Constituency there was so much of violence and so low percentage of votes that would never have been the case before. In majority of the polling booths there was zero percentage of votes and at multiple of places the incidents of violence and deaths were reported.
For Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency the elections could not be held fearing the worst kind of violence that might have taken place if the elections were held there. It was a completed rejection of the mainstream politics in Kashmir and it was a slap on the experiment of the PDP and the BJP. It took the mainstream politics and politician to the lowest ebb they could go. Regaining their lost ground would need a herculean effort. If the harm by the BJP and the PDP was not much in came Farooq Abdulla on the stage. Although he has always remained a controversial and unpredictable figure in the politics of the state but his inconsistency and unpredictable has redoubled in the recent past. What he says one day, the completely opposite of that he utters the other day. One day he is pro-Pakistani and Kashmir but on the other he is a staunch Indian. One day he talks about peace and the other time he is ready to attack Pakistan and even China. In Jammu he is pro Jammu and anti-Kashmir and in Kashmir the reverse is the case. He calls Kashmiris fools and at the same time represents them too. There is so much predictability in his unpredictability that people have stopped believing and trusting his words. More than this he has hurt the religious sentiments of his people. As a representative of Muslim majority constituency and people of state his behavior should have been that of a true Muslims. His familiar relations and the societal interactions should have been in conducted in such a way none of his religious obligations and duties must have seemed to be violated. But, his every move comes in conflict with his religious obligations and religious rulings.
He has gone too far where the sentiments and emotions of the people belonging to his religion get badly hurt. He could have been a better politician and better loved by the people belonging to the religious other than his by being a good Muslim and acting like a good Muslim. By acting like a modernist and dynamic character he has surely gained some support and audience from the other religions but people from his own religion prefer to disassociate with him. All his moves are perceived by the majority as the acts to gain power and liking of New Delhi. Whether he chants Bharat Mata Ke Jai or Jai Hind or makes a U-turn and warns New Delhi all is seen as part of his efforts to go as near to the corridors of power as he can and he remains ever ready to go more than others. It is the way he courts to the people in power at Delhi and courtship is his every act. He was successful for quite some time with these tactics but then people realized what is what. In case of the PDP and the other mainstream politicians also the people trusted them, more than they deserved to be trusted. But then people can’t be fooled for all times. People have seen their real faces and now they are treating the mainstream politicians the way these politicians deserve and in the currency which is their due. By way of conclusion we can say that Kashmir is a complex issue and to resolve this dispute everybody and party has a role to play, a constructive role. So far, the role of the mainstream parties has not been as per the requirements and needs, these politicians, contrarily, are responsible for making it more complex. They in their greed for power have erected blocks in all the roads towards peace and resolution.
Had these politicians taken a stand and worked for that the story in respect of Kashmir dispute would have been completely different. Their easily and ready posturing towards New Delhi has never allowed any pressure to build on the people holding the reins of governance in India to resolve the conflict. The people in Delhi kept using them for managing the conflict and these politicians are willing ready to do more than that. It is these mainstream politicians who are responsible for exposing the state to India rule, making that rule stable and now extending that rule further without leaving any positive impact towards resolving the dispute. Owing to all these deeds, and actually misdeeds of the mainstream politicians the gulf between the people and these politicians has grown too wide, and is getting wider. But, the tragedy of the Kashmir dispute is such that they still have a role in resolving the dispute. If they play that role well even today their relevance would remain but in case they behave the way they have done all these decades and years the remaining spaces for them too will be refused to them. It is time for them to make all the course corrections.