May wisdom prevail!
The bugle for the Assembly elections has been sounded. Even though the Election Commission is yet to announce the dates for the conduct of elections, but the way the state’s mainstream politics is functioning – with political leaders switching sides and loyalties in anticipation of better pastures, and everybody trying to woo people into supporting them, it goes without saying that they are already into the election mode.
But given the fears and inhibitions people have about every single political grouping and individuals comprising them, the general population here is on the horns of dilemma not knowing whether to really cheer the forthcoming elections or to maintain a cold indifference. Ironically, they are faced with a very difficult situation. If the hopes of ‘peaceful’ future promise smiles, the baggage of the history brings a pall of gloom on their faces.
For various regional political groups, some of whom see their political fortunes surging for varied reasons, and who think they are in a position to form next government here on their own or in combination with other ‘like-minded’ or even ‘not-so-like-minded’ parties and individuals, the major challenge lies in the arena of governance. So for any serious political player this is an area which needs some serious thinking as there are countless touchy issues in terms of relations between various regions of the state, and also the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi which any new formation will have to tackle carefully. Of course, the need to address grievances of the Kashmir Valley remain as pressing, but the growing polarization between different regions and sub-regions in the state is also a huge challenge.
History seems to have completed a full circle. It is calling on the political leadership of all hues here for the choices and decisions, which they have to make nevertheless. Overcoming the current hardships in order to end the repeated cycles of violence, anger and alienation here so that the future doesn’t pose similar challenges once again, New Delhi can’t afford to let its “hamhandedness” squander opportunities the way it has done thus far. The ‘conflict trap’ needs to be broken and broken for good, once and for all.
It must understand that unlike in the past, the dynamics of the situation today are not only different but difficult as well both for New Delhi as well as the regional parties here. One of the biggest hardships is the political dissent having the tendency to manifest into violent confrontations on the streets of Valley over slightest provocations. Today this street sentiment (or violence) itself has become part of the larger conflict enterprise wherein perpetrators’ interests are ‘better served’ in continuation of hostilities. Every inkling of peace unnerves this section, and they retaliate by bringing up the levels of violence.
Another major challenge is the leadership. In 1975, there was Shiekh Abdullah, who despite all opposition he faced from within and outside of Kashmir, enjoyed an unparalleled sway on people. Therefore, it was easier both for New Delhi and Srinagar to negotiate a truce and reach an understanding – which unfortunately they failed to translate on ground and thereby pushed the political grievances of the people to manifest through open and violent confrontations. Today, New Delhi may certainly want to mend its relationship with Kashmir, but regrettably there is no one like Shiekh Abdullah to serve as the bridge. Today’s Kashmir has a big flock of people from diverse backgrounds, ideologies and entry-levels, and it is not going to be an easy task to rope in all these diverse shades and interests.
Then comes the big challenge — of addressing the fears and grievances of the Valley Muslims, which have over the years led them toward ‘confrontationist mode’ and molded their responses accordingly. Today Kashmir Muslims, owing to the globalization and shrinking of physical spaces due to technological boom, are no longer confined to the Valley or the subcontinent alone. Indeed a huge chunk considers itself a part of the larger Muslim Ummah. Their fears and suspicions too are thus not confined to local and regional dimensions alone. Their verbiage and vocabulary has borrowed terms like ‘imperial onslaught’, ‘religious other’, ‘Hindu hegemony’ et al, and breaking ice with this section and addressing their fears is indeed a tough task.
Past has no doubt given us a turbulent present, and if the follies of history are not repeated at this crucial juncture, present can surely lead us to a better future. If the available opportunities are harnessed with sincerity, time itself will provide better adjectives to the actions and ideas that will figure in history as good and wise. May wisdom prevail!