Past nearly two and half decades of political turmoil in Kashmir have produced a whole new breed of political leadership – both in the separatist and the mainstream camps — who could be aptly described as the ‘revolutionaries of rhetoric’. The reason being that they are suffering a massive disconnect with the common masses as a result of which entire premise of their politics is hollow rhetoric, catchy slogans and sexy phrases only. This is why despite massive upheavals the society and the state witnessed, nothing much changed for the ordinary masses. If anything really changed, it is only that the vested interests of the leadership became more self-seeking and those of the commoners have been further jeopardized, for they have lost whatever little political space and leverage they had started with. Making matters worse is the fact that none of the leaders is ready to introspect and share responsibility of failures even as the situation on the ground is reflective of their complete lack of knowledge about the people’s realities and sheer lack of acumen and experience and understanding of how to channelize public anger and sentiment, their vote and support, towards bringing about some constructive change. They may not accept it but reality is that people have paid a very heavy cost for the leadership’s ‘chronological, psychological and experiential castration’.
Sorry for being rough and critical on the present leadership right from the old war horses to those who once attracted praises of being “young and dynamic” or “Mr. Clean”, or those who were compared with the likes of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela … and what not – ugly truth is that these leaders of both camps have let their people down. When each one of them started in what have been the toughest times of Kashmir’s history, people thought that they are the new hope, that they are the trees which will bear seedlings for experienced and effective radical leaders. That the young radicals after getting nurtured amidst the rough winds of political turbulence will evolve into mature and seasoned statesmen who would stand up, organize, lead and fight for the good life of their people. But unfortunately, today when the calls for a fresh bout, for another decade of violent dissent, or for another six-year-period of forced subservience under severe surveillance are being renewed, one can’t help but mourn in the same fear and fright which has for long stifled and sterilized the well-meaning ordinary mortals of this God-forsaken land!
While the refusal of the current breed of leaders to accept their follies and failures is a reason for their ineffective activity, it is also a cause for the current stalemate which is hurting the common people more than it hurts the leaders. Living in a society extraordinarily fragmented as ours, which reflects itself in its own fractured way of life, is not easy. It comes as a huge physical and psychological burden, particularly for those who are able to read through the dirty games and tricks that are played over and with the people’s heads. While each group and every individual in the political hierarchy is busy securing their collective and individual interests, common people are again being fooled into believing that all this is being done for them, for their “aspirations”, their “progress and development” et al. But those in the leadership roles must understand that their old defences will no longer hold. New generation of Kashmiris is exposed to a whole world of knowledge revolution and they are no longer interested in the old classic clichés. They know politically senile leadership has failed them by not being open to the titanic changes that have been brought about by a multitude of factors in the world order. Senility, it is said, “is a relinquishment of life as it is in the here and now, and the taking of refuge into the security and familiarity of the past”. Before this affliction of the leadership – of being politically alienated, rejected and hopeless – comes to infect the ordinary people as well, it is time to shake off this nightmare and wake up. People will have to organize for action — against the political dead-wood and its associated culture both; for clamming their rights and powers of citizenship as also against those who are a hurdle in this. It is time to begin to participate in societal and national decisions in a manner that gives meaning and purpose to the life. This new revolution needs no leadership, for it begins with assertion of individual self.