IS THERE A POLITICAL DESPODENCY IN KASHMIR?
Kashmir, which used to be a prominent issue on international forums just decades back, has now been pushed to the margins of burning issues in a growing chaotic world. The political uncertainty over the US presidential elections and the never-ending dramatic turn of events in Washington DC and the relentless chaos caused by Coronavirus, which continues to ravage the world even after one year and the interesting turn of events in the ongoing farmer protest near Delhi border has virtually submerged any news that comes out from the Kashmir valley.
One would have thought that with catastrophic political changes that took place in the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir on and after August 5, 2019, Kashmir would have hogged the national and international headlines for months. While the national and international media did initially cover the response to the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir valley but soon the dramatic political events in India and the US as well as the rage of the pandemic overshadowed events in Kashmir. It was as if Kashmir had slipped into the backyard of global consciousness.
And nothing exemplified this more than the recent interview of former Chief Minister of the erstwhile J&K state by an internet news portal in which the former CM, who spent nearly 9 months in detention after the abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution of India was seen as depressed, drained and despondent soul, who appeared to have given up on reigniting grassroot political activity in Kashmir valley.
But is it really all that remains of burnt-out Kashmir today or is there more than what meets the eyes?
It will be an intellectual dishonesty to say that things are back to normal self after the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent administrative changes that have taken place in Kashmir valley. Further the prolonged internet shutdown and lock down of entire Kashmir valley, first as part of the security measure to maintain law and order in Kashmir valley post August 5, 2019 and then due to the onset of Coronavirus pandemic has indeed crushed the local economy of Kashmir valley and made bad things worst, but at the same time, there has been an underlying social change also happening on ground, which is bound to define the political and economic future of Kashmir valley and its people.
This new change is happening in the political arena of Kashmir valley, wherein an old political elite is witnessing its own decline and loss of privilege, entitlement and power and in its place a young generation of politically aspiring men and women from “non-elite” families have suddenly found an opening to make their mark in the new political canvass of Kashmir valley.
Let us be clear that Kashmir valley is no different from any other part of India, South Asia or the world, where there is an established political elite, which has garnered all power to themselves leaving most of the rest of the aspiring younger generation out of this cozy club of power and privilege. In many parts of the world, the rise of right-wing ideology, which first began in Muslim world and then spread to Western democratic world was an indication that people were not happy with the status quo and were willing and daring to take chances for greater political change.
In Kashmir valley such catastrophic changes last came more than century ago, when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah from a poor Kashmiri Muslim family challenged not only the might of the ruling Dogra dynasty but also the established upper caste Kashmiri Muslim religious and political elite of Kashmir valley. He brought with him a new political agenda based on prevailing socialist and democratic ideals and implemented them ruthlessly in Kashmir through pathbreaking land reforms. While this shook the foundations of the old elite with Dogra royal family gone and the old feudal upper caste Kashmiri Muslim elite pushed to margins of political power corridors, it also led to the emergence of a new set of political elites in Kashmir valley, which gradually became less democratic and more opportunistic, corrupt and nepotistic. This happened not only with the political elite of mainstream politics but also separatist politics in Kashmir valley leading to a suffocating status quo in which vast majority of Kashmiri population found itself incapable of achieving their political aspirations.
The coming to power of Modi government in 2014 led to many political upheavals, all of which culminated in the once unthinkable abrogation of Article 370 of Indian constitution by PM Modi’s BJP government. One might question the real motive of many administrative actions taken in the newly created Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir by the administration of Lt. Governor, the new executive head of J&K, but one thing is clear that a dramatic and unintentional effect of such changes, the most prominent of which was the holding of DDC elections actually unwittingly opened doors and gave opportunity to many politically aspiring constituencies of Kashmiri Muslim youth, Kashmiri Muslim women and Gujjar & Bakarwal tribal communities from ordinary families to assert their political muscle, which other wise was unthinkable in the old set up.
One might question the honesty of the BJP government in empowering Kashmiri people through grassroot democracy but the fact is that it unwittingly led to the dismantling of the old political elite of Kashmir and gave an opportunity to the new generation of the politically aspiring men and women from ordinary families to make their mark in political future of Kashmir valley. Former CM of J&K’s recent despondency laden media outbursts, which indirectly lamented the loss of former power and privilege that this political elite of Kashmir enjoyed so far, was a pointer to this slow but sure political transition happening in Kashmir.
So, while there are still many unresolved issues of political nature that demand due attention and resolution in Kashmir valley, there is not everything lost in the den of pessimism.
Slowly but surely, the political status quo is changing in Kashmir valley and the chances of this new generation of political elite finally resolving the complexity of Kashmir conundrum, where older three generation of Kashmir have failed has also ignited once again. This new political elite can be expected of realistically maneuvering the puzzle of Kashmir as they do not carry the burden of the past and have the real stake in the sustainable peace and prosperity of Kashmir valley and if that happens, then that might be the proverbial silver lining in what may otherwise appear to be a horizon of eternal despondency in Kashmir valley.
Javed Beigh is a Senior Political Leader of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Front. He Can be reached @Javedbeigh across Social Media Platforms. Views are his personal.