Raouf Rasool

Srinagar, the City of official neglect!

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“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard of their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantage.” This complex truth of politics couldn’t be put more simply and succinctly than this. All praises for Adam Smith for this powerful articulation, which has indeed placed the actual politics in front of a mirror to rejuvenate a thought Aristotle had shared few hundred years earlier. In “Politics” says Aristotle, “Everybody thinks chiefly of his own, hardly ever of the public interest”.

Smith unravels these simple truths of politics in his “The Wealth of Nations”, using finger nails of basic human instincts of reason, logic and common sense. It doesn’t require a Plato to decode and understand what our politicians have done; they do; would do. All that’s needed is a basic skill of reading through their ‘tricks’, and between the proverbial lines of their tricky verbose. What is meant by reading ‘between the lines’ is placing a political development within its context – within specific time and space, influences of all other factors including.

For long now we have seen various political groupings, which are basically the main culprit in initiating and sustaining a conspiracy of systematic disenfranchisement of Srinagar City, lamenting the plight of its roads and streets, drains and parks, and of course its residents too. So what do the people of Srinagar make out of it? Should they resign their fate to, and have faith, in this just-discovered ‘benevolence’ of the politicos, and forget about trying to square-up previous accounts? Well, let’s leave that to the personal choices of City residents – they are mature enough to read through these games. On our part, we can just help build a bit of ‘context’.

Now that the local body elections, we are told are going to be held, it makes perfect political sense to talk of and exploit City’s troubles. The systemic and systematic neglect of the City began in over a decade and half back when it was openly propagated that “those who don’t vote can’t claim benefits from government”. This sleazy idea was so brazenly shared even in public speeches that within no time it became a cliché for taunting and tormenting urban population so endlessly that the seeds of rural-urban divide sown much earlier got a perfect setting to germinate and sprout. Even today the City residents are reeling under resounding shocks of this anti-urban bias of successive dispensations that followed not only in political but also in the administrative corridors.

Shedding a few ‘crocodile tears’ for the battered residents is, after all, not a bad idea when the ball is finally in their court, and votes in their hands! So all of a sudden some politicians have already started talking about the issues and concerns of Srinagar, and the miserable plight of its residents. Interestingly all those people whose hands still smell raw of City’s flesh, have also started bemoaning its difficulties. Understanding the design merits a hat-up ovation to that perfect guru of modern-day politics history knows as Machiavelli. Although a failed politician himself, this Italian has to his credit the best known political treatise – ‘The Prince’. Why we revert to the person hatefully talked about in Kashmir’s pro-freedom discourse gauzed together with anti-west puritanism and made-in-Pak morality, is because he is the one who has accorded ‘self-interest’ the kind of primacy and notoriety it actually deserves.

What Machiavelli has said about the people makes perfect sense, of course with a little bit of tempering here — to replace proletariat with the aristocracy, ruled with the rulers, common masses with the politicians of all hues. It is to be asserted in general of the politicians – that they will be nice and polite, kind and benevolent, ever-ready for public service, at your beck and call as along as vote is in ‘your’ hand and it is yet to be cast. “They will offer you their blood, property, life and children when the need is far distant; but when it approaches, they turn against you.” Let’s wait for the elections. Those who will feel sorry for the City even after the elections are over, deserve to be taken seriously!

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