The lack of unity and unanimity of thought and action among the Kashmiri leadership has been there for quite a while now. Despite various factors and forces trying their influence to unite them, including of course the repeated appeals by the people, nothing has worked thus far. Instead various political groups and parties appear drifting further apart with each passing day. Consequently, it is the people of Kashmir who are suffering for want of direction, and consensus of thought and action of the people who claim to represent them and their “aims and aspirations”.
On the face of it, each group and faction says it is ready to listen to, and follow the other for the larger good of the bigger issues at stake (for instance, the legal challenge to Article 35-A), but practically every single group is sticking to their guns and none is in a mood to let others take lead. With an eye on individual political fortunes, every leader and each group out there is milking the public sentiment to its advantage without actually contributing anything for the resolution of issues that have been both cause and consequence of the highly volatile and politically turbulent situation in Kashmir.
On their part, India and Pakistan too have been major contributors to the confusion that has dominated the leadership ranks here. Both countries have always used Kashmiri leadership — mainstream as well as the separatists — to their respective advantage. However, one can’t blame either country, for they only do what they are supposed to do at any point of time – serve their own interests at whatever cost. Now if anyone in Kashmir has put all eggs in a single basket and thought that someone else will prioritize Kashmiri peoples’ interests at the cost of their own, fault lies with the former.
In the world of hard-jacketed statecraft, everyone is and must be held responsible for the choices they make. Therefore, if Kashmiri leadership (both mainstream and separatists) has failed to make any headway towards making the world understand the gravity of Kashmir dispute, fault lies with them, their own choices and not with anyone else. Their strategies, their tactics have been a failure, which have, for want of creativity and imagination dragged on way too long without yielding anything worthwhile whatsoever.
Even after having lost entire generations to the political turbulence and associated violence, see the travesty that those in the leadership roles are yet to evolve a consensus about the larger political questions concerning Kashmir. There are still brick-bats over whether to talk with India or not. They still require New Delhi and Islamabad to confer credibility on who represents the people of Kashmir and their cause. It’s the weightage attached to each leader and each group by these two countries which is seen as the marker of influence wielded by the former. And interestingly this is the yardstick these countries use to gauge the importance of each individual and group here.
In such a political clutter, the entire political culture has become so murky here that one is hard at making anything out of the political stances and statements and even the tactical choices made by Kashmir’s current breed of leadership. Politicking for the sake of politics is OK, but this could be once in a while kind of option. All people can be fooled some time and some people all the time but nobody could fool all people all the time. Leadership has to show some kind of seriousness and ideological consistency and tactical perseverance to their politics. For this they will have to understand the importance of time, for timing is to politic movement what air is to life. People can sustain interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes ritualistic commitment. Time moves on, and with it changes everything, including the dynamics of political movements. New issues and crises are always developing and the leadership which is not responsive to the changing times becomes a drag. It’s time Kashmiri leaders start doing some introspection and self-assessment of their person and politics both.