Raouf Rasool

Bombardment by meaningless rhetoric …

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“Padshaham Drag Wouth, Ada Palaav Khiyew!” This is the Kashmiri version of that folk legend of French Revolution times when those brought up in royalty, and having no idea of what draught and famine meant, would wonder why people were not eating cakes.

Every single day people here are treated to promises of progress and development – and told that this will change their lives and life situations for good. Interestingly, people here have been hearing such promises and assertions for almost years now … treating people to hollow rhetoric of whooping sums and romantic fantasies is the staple for the political class here. Any idea of what has happened to Prime Minister’s “special package” that people were told Delhi has conceived for Kashmir?

There can’t be a bigger challenge to an ordinary Kashmiri’s intellect, imagination and creativity than finding and locating the areas where these visibly mammoth sums that governments keep talking about have been, or are being, and will be invested. Money has been and is no doubt being invested, but its benefits are confined to a limited coterie of people who plan, sanction and execute various projects, usually more on the paper and less on the ground! For a place which is continuously refusing to budge from being the second-most corrupt state, no amount of politically-loaded financial rhetoric is going to bring about any change unless and until something is done to stop the pilferage of public funds. This obviously needs a massive political will, which won’t come about unless the ‘political elute’ itself is willing to be corruption-free. Mere pledges of ending corruption and giving transparent governance do not change anything unless and until those at the helm are ready to change. By the way, are they?

Political class here has over the years gotten used to communicating with the people on a general basis without fracturing messages into specifics of people’s experiences, partly because this is the only way they know of approaching the people, but more so because it suits their politics and positions. Although such assertions are just rhetoric and carry very little meaning for the common people, yet nobody at the helm seems ready to change. And this affliction runs across the board here, with all hues of political class, including even the separatists, who too are habitual of talking in generalized manner, sometimes even as the cost of factual clarity.

Everybody knows there is a huge difference between being informed of the death of a 21, or 100,000 or even 120 people – which are unfortunately just a statistic – or the death of a close friend or loved one or a member of one’s family. In the latter it is the full emotional impact of the finality of tragedy that lends it meaning. But this simple logic is unfortunately not so easily understood by our political bosses, who, cutting across the board, have perfected the art of meaningless rhetoric so much so that common people are bombarded with it 24×7 and 365 days a year.

A classic example of the failure to communicate because the leader is completely out of sync with the experience of the people is the attempt by a ‘preacher’ to indicate to the ordinary, poor people the bankruptcy of their prevailing values. “Take my word for it – roads, schools and hospitals are just meaningless as long as you are not free, you don’t possess piety. If you are not free to decide your political fate, what will you do even if your children are educated, you own a well-to-do house and a car, have money in the bank and other luxuries of life – that just won’t bring you happiness.” The response without exception is: “Yeah. Let’s be the judge of that one – we will let you know after we get it all.”

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