Heed what situation says
The BJP which is now comfortably placed for another five-year term at the Centre, has once again reiterated its stance that Article 370, which accords special status to Jammu and Kashmir, will have to go. Obviously removing this law is easier said than done, as it involves so many sensitivities and legal intricacies as well. But this does in no way undo or lessen the fears people of the state, and particularly those in the Valley are facing on this count.
As far as the mainstream political groups are concerned, they have already voiced concerns and have even pledged to do whatever it takes to fight the challenge. Now it remains to be seen as to how far they are ready to go to realize their pledges. The worry of course is that in the arena of power politics, which is the space occupied by the mainstream parties, people rarely think about public sentiments or their larger interests, and often barter away same for a few crumbs of power. Kashmir’s recent and remote history is not entirely alien to this political bargaining.
This brings us to the other camp – the separatists. On the face of it they may feign as being unconcerned, but reality is that they too have every reason to feel worried. Primarily because it is their politics of election boycotts which has ended up disenfranchising the people here to the extent that it is now the political parties from the mainland India who have appropriated the space to speak on behalf of the people here. And in this scheme, ordinary people often find themselves at the receiving end, having no or very little say in the politics concerning them.
During the past three decades of political turmoil in the Valley, each time there were elections, separatists asked the people to boycott the same and used whatever means they could to implement and impose boycotts. Initially people overwhelmingly heeded the boycott calls and chose not to vote. But then the separatists were not able to harness people’s support for boycott of elections. No political dividends accrued, certainly not for the common people who stayed away from the polling. The continued repetition of election boycott calls at the time of every single election and repeated failures to cash in on the public support for some larger political dividends steadily eroded the support base for the boycott politics, but at the same time it also rendered the common people here as if politically redundant. Compare political landscape of the state today with what it used to be in pre-nineties — the difference is evidently discernible as is the declining say of people of the Valley in the state’s politics.
What is really tragic is that nobody in the either of the political camps is ready to acknowledge and own their complicity in Valley’s disempowerment. The reason being that the leadership of both hues here has long ceased to identify with the common people (their problems and life situations), and their politics! This does not mean that people have bartered away the “sentiment” which the leaders of both camps claim to represent, but they have certainly expressed their misgivings against their so-called “representatives”, who have repeatedly failed in assessing the ground situation so as to be able to reorient and mould their political tactics accordingly. Had their politics yielded any dividends, political or otherwise, one could still have overlooked the tactical failures. But fact of the matter is that politics of boycotts have only inflicted further damages on the people – encouraged and catalyzed the process of their political disempowerment besides opening the flood gates for India’s national parties to come in and meddle with the local and regional politics.
Instead of attaching motives and trying to discover invisible hands behind the criticism directed at them, prudence demands that both mainstream and separatist groups go for some soul-searching and try and find answers to so many uncomfortable questions which are lurking everybody’s minds although not many dare to ask them publicly. Politics, after all is the art of imagination wherein strategies and tactics have to evolve with changing political givens.