Raouf Rasool

Nobody changes, yet everybody wants change! 

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Somewhere in mid-sixties, an American political organizer after finishing his lecture at the Stanford University was approached by a Soviet professor of political economics from University of Leningrad. Since both these people shared diametrically opposite worldviews about the global politics and its core definitions, the opening of the discussions between the two was obviously illustrative of this basic variance in their perceptions and understandings.

“Where do you stand on communism?” asked the Russian. “That is a bad question,” the American replied, and then continued, “The real question is: ‘Whose Communists are they – yours or ours?’ And my answer is -- if they are ours, then we are all for them. If they are yours, obviously we are against them. Communism itself is irrelevant. The issue is whether they are on our side or yours. Now, if you Russians didn’t have a mortgage on Castro, we would be talking about Cuba’s right to self-determination and the fact that you couldn’t have a free election until after there had been a period of education following the repression of the dictatorship of Batista. As a matter of fact, if you should start trying to push for a free election in Yugoslavia, we might even send our Marines to prevent this kind of sabotage.”

“What is your definition of a free election outside of your country?” asked the Russian again. “Well, our definition of a free election in, say, Vietnam, is pretty much what your definition is in your satellites,” replied the American. “If we have got everything set so that we are going to win, then it is a free election. Otherwise, it is bloody terrorism! Isn’t that your definition?” The Russian’s reaction was, “Well, yes, more or less!”

How-so-much one may want to differ, fact of the matter remains that this conversation between the Russian professor and the American organizer very succinctly defines some of the very core realities of real politick. And those who have lived in Kashmir and have been witness to the political developments of the Valley vis-a-vis their relationship with both New Delhi and Islamabad, certainly are well-placed to put this conversation in perspective and draw some really meaningful insights and inferences.

Irrespective of who says what, fact of the matter is that nobody cares much about the people of this troubled Valley so long as their self-interest is not threatened. Politics is, basically, the business of securing naked self-interest; and only a specialist knows the ‘art’ of clothing it in the robes of morality. Unbelievable it may seem, but we all, even those who are not in the realm of active public politics, operate on the basis of self-interest, desperately trying to reconcile every shift of circumstances that is to our self-interest in terms of a broad moral justification or rationalization.

The loud moral rhetoric surrounding the politics of Kashmir notwithstanding, both within and outside of its geographical territories, it is the same ‘naked self-interest’ of varied interest groups, big and small, political and even seemingly apolitical actors, that is being bartered over the heads of the ordinary people. And then, everybody out there goes on to emotionally blackmail ordinary Kashmiris into believing that they are at the focus of the local, regional and global attention. They are told -- what New Delhi says and does is for ‘your good’; what Islamabad talks and acts is for ‘your benefit’; ‘your interest’ is at the heart of the American and British, French and Chinese and Russian foreign policies. Presented in tetra-packs of morality, everything is accorded a sort of spiritual aura here so much so that it is considered blasphemous to question anybody’s self-interest. Our collective disarmament is abject -- we do not ask, and those who dare and ask questions are not tolerated either.

By the way, Communism does not concern us. Free elections, however, is an issue, for we have not had many in our entire history. But, people are told that elections too is not an issue, and thinking of participating in them is ‘outright treason to the cause’, even if one goes with the intention of using the “None of the Above Option” to make a big political statement before the local, regional and international audiences. Recall the conversation between the American and the Russian. Isn’t it more meaningful than it seems to hold?

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