Blame it on unresolved political questions, the exercise of power and authority has all along been very problematic here. Needless to say that in an overly politicized situation wherein huge multitude of visible and invisible forces are vying for and manipulating the sources and agencies of power and authority, popular perceptions and understandings of this exercise remain equally confused. No wonder that suspicion is popular trait and culture here with nobody actually ready to believe in or trust the other. There can’t be a bigger misfortune to befall people involved in a ‘revolution’ than their inability to trust ‘comrades’!
In the world of politics, nothing can be taken for-granted, neither public respect nor their support. Machiavelli, with whom the idea of self-interest seems to have gained its greatest notoriety, said: “This is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, fake, cowardly, covetous, as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.” Although Machiavelli makes a mortal mistake by ruling out the “moral” factors of politics and holds purely to ‘self-interest’ perhaps because his personal experience as active politician was not too great, but it goes to his credit to have given this essential factor its due in politics.
Like political leaders, common people too have their own self-interests, which certainly are far from being static in changing time and available circumstance. A leader might appeal to one self-interest to get supporters to the battlefront to fight; but once they are there, their prime self-interest becomes to stay alive. And if they are victorious, their self-interest may, and usually does, dictate entirely different and unexpected goals rather than those they had before the war. This is how politics is and operates in the real world, where “morality” is just a wrapper to rationalize if not altogether conceal the drastic shifts of self-interest. However, thanks to the alienation of the rulers (both government and the non-state forces who have been calling shots here) from the ruled (common masses) in Kashmir -- public interest is never accounted for and considered while former formulates ‘public policy’ and latter dictates ‘public responses’. Instead the public support and adherence to everything good and bad is taken as if it was a political given.
When separatists ask people to shun all productive work, including even the subsistence activities that are only security for a huge majority against starvation, in some cases even premature mortality, it is taken as a given that people would support without bother. And by asking people to defy separatists at the cost of their life and limb (material property included), government too expects a similar unremitting adherence from public. Interestingly, both parties have access to, and can resort to coercion to extract this support as and when needed if it’s not willingly forthcoming. The every-increasing social and political distance between those calling shots and those supposed to obey is actually responsible for this undermining of public perceptions and understandings and their consent. Complicating the matters further is that those at the helm are in no mood to accept the realities on the ground as and how they exist for the commoners.
Like rich Irish American Mr. Malone in Bernard Shaw’s “Man and Superman”, they refuse to describe the public sufferings (famines) as public “suffering” (“famine”). “My father died of starvation in black 47,” says Mr. Malone. When his English daughter-in-law, Violet asks, “The famine?”, Malone replies: “No, the starvation. When a country is full of food and exporting it, there can be no famine!”
In Kashmir too, what if years of political turmoil, corruption, and bad governance have choked the avenues of meaningful jobs for the educated, skilled and deserving jobless people; what if thousands of families face acute financial hardship, the other side of the picture is, after all, not so depressing. Be happy, both sides are doing their politics and successfully wrapping it in the tetra-packs of “larger public good”!