Even as the structural violence woven into the political systems here has for years kept Kashmir’s young population atop the ‘anger mountain’, those who have, deliberately or by default, actually facilitated this adrenaline rush in their bloodstreams, remain plagued by a terrible sense of disorientation. This is true of both separatists as well as those in the political mainstream – the unionists. Both sides no doubt lament the current situational crisis, but are hard at understanding and articulating how to go about from here. For the past several years they have somehow only maintained some relevance for themselves and their politics. And for this they employ a whole lot of theatrics.
There are some who have silenced themselves after recoiling into their safe and secure caves guarded by the men in Khaki 24×7 from where they make huge statements, either directly before the media-men of their choice, or through proverbial ‘paper missiles’ to signal that they are still alive. Still others have taken recourse to feigning illness – they publicize doctors’ prescriptions, and at times government’s restrictions on their movement to conveniently avoid coming to the public with their ideas. This maze of contradictions emanating from the people at the so-called apex is so disconcerting that it is a reason and cause of popular disillusionment and negativism with political leaders of both camps.
One of the many ugly realities of Kashmir’s politics is that its youth have deliberately been denied a compass, so that they do not have a proper sense of direction. Obviously then, their search for “freedom” does not seem to have any road or destination. It is here that a politically mature and tactically sound leadership could make the difference. But alas that too is missing. Wearing popular sufferings as a badge of achievement, those in the leadership roles have become habitual of deceit. Instead of looking at their own people and seeking power and political sustenance from them, they look towards New Delhi and Islamabad, and obviously do whatever is dictated from there. Instead of playing the game as it should be, they take pride in shouting ‘kill the umpire’.
Take, for instance, the National Conference president Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s assertions on the occasion of his mother’s 19th death anniversary other day. Addressing his party workers, senior Abdullah, who is among the senior-most political voices here, talked about so many different things from daily five-and-half hour ban on the civilian traffic along the national highway to shortcomings of the Governor’s administration and also counseled Government of India about the merits of having a dialogue with Pakistan as well as with the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Much of what Abdullah said made good sense, but a political veteran like him must put the money where the proverbial mouth is. Instead of wasting his full-of-wisdom speeches here, it is better he says it all where it is heard, and matters. After all, recently he once again sought votes for himself and two other colleagues on the plea that they would speak (and “fight”) for the people’s rights and interests and aspirations inside the Indian Parliament. But now he is busy speechifying, almost on daily basis, to a chosen audience of few party workers and office bearers at different places within the walled-Valley. What a waste of time and energy!
Same is true of the other camp. Recently when al-Qaeda chief dragged Kashmir into the larger “global Jehad” thing, none of the leaders from the separatist camp dared to make even a ‘symbolic’ public statement to distance Kashmir from Ayman al-Zawahiri’s assertions.
Fact of the matter is that instead of being there to pass on the torch of their political experience and insights to the new generation, these people are just not there even though they are physically very much in the thick of things. So as the young look up at the society and the leaders around them, is there anyone to take the lead in educating this directionless mass about how to make informed political choices that would lead them somewhere? While the separatists and mainstream leaders both observe Martyr’s Day today to pay homage to those who were killed in 1931, can they both, individually and collectively, tell people, and then also ensure that Kashmir has no more martyrs. This place has already had way too many!