George Orwell on Kashmir

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One party, two regions and two memoranda – NC’s meetings with delimitation commission

By Asif Fayaz Malik

George Orwell in his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four introduced the construct of “doublethink”. Orwell defines doublethink as: “To know and do not know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic and to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.”

The term doublespeak— which has gained particular popularity in the 21st century— is derived from the concept of doublethink. Although George Orwell used the term in a dystopian context, the political canvas of Jammu & Kashmir is splurged with doublespeak ­— of self-styled moralists in the grand old party of the region.

Last week the Delimitation Commission visited J&K to hold meetings with the regional political parties in J&K and all political parties expressed their views on the exercise before the commission and the public. But it was the National Conference that managed to muddy the waters with a range of Orwellian doublespeak that would put even the die-hard Machiavellians to shame.

Although political rhetoric can be wayward at times, usually politicians talk about constitutional issues with specificity and grounded in facts but that may not be the case always.  Let’s begin with the stand of the NC on the Delimitation Commission. In Kashmir, NC questioned the constitutional validity of the Delimitation Commission and deemed the exercise in disregard and violation of the mandate and spirit of the constitution of India. It maintained that the “delimitation exercise would be a credible effort only after full statehood is restored to J&K.”However, in Jammu, the party raised no such objections. They infact expressed their confidence in the Delimitation Commission to deliver justice, especially to the Jammu region. How can a commission regarded as unconstitutional in Kashmir be trusted to deliver justice to the Jammu region?

Or was the commission deemed unconstitutional because it seeks to undo the delimitation injustices inflicted by the NC?

The concern is not that the National Conference represented the interests of the people of the Jammu region but that they did so to the detriment of the interests of the people of Kashmir. The stand of the NC even on the criterion that should be adopted by the Delimitation Commission is contrary and contradictory to the position taken in Kashmir.

In Srinagar, the NC leaders despite their “basic reservations on the issue” demanded that population should be the sole parameter to delimit constituencies whereas, in Jammu, the party has demanded framing of a new criterion instead,  using the area as consideration for delimiting the constituencies. Endorsing BJP stance and almost mimicking it, the grand old party demanded that Jammu be ‘given its due’ by taking area, geography, topography terrain and scattered population into consideration — in simple terms seeking an area-based allocation of seats, which in the laid out plans of Hindutva party will tilt the balance of power towards the Jammu region.

This line of argument emanating from a political party that has governed J&K for most of its history gives life to lie: that successive J&K governments have been discriminatory towards the Jammu region. This stance is self-defeating and may prove detrimental to the interests of the people of Kashmir.

There is no denying that various areas in J&K are hilly with difficult terrain and topography, insufficient means of communication and lack of contiguity which demand consideration. However, since such areas spread across J&K, the Delimitation Commission has to adopt a uniform mode and methodology for allowing deviation from the average population in both regions. By choosing to selectively highlight the geographical and topographical challenges in the Jammu region while ignoring similar challenges in the Kashmir region, the National Conference is reinforcing the perception of injustice with the Jammu region. This is meant to arouse the passions of the people of Jammu against the Kashmir region, straight out of the Divide and Rule playbook.

Again, on the issue of reservation in the J&K Assembly, the National Conference in Jammu is echoing the Hindutva demand of reservation for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. However, the National Conference delegation which met Delimitation Commission in Srinagar made no such demands.

What explains two starkly different memorandums submitted by the NC? Why is there a vast difference in their stands taken in Srinagar and Jammu? What makes the Delimitation Commission constitutional in Jammu and unconstitutional in Kashmir?

It should be obvious to anyone that duplicity and deceit are inherent to the politics of the National Conference. They would want the people to believe that two plus two is whatever they want it to be. Even after the devastation inflicted on the people of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, the National Conference is back to its old political cookbook — proactively trying to create a divide between Jammu & Kashmir through its dangerous doublespeak.

Instead of making efforts to bridge the gap between the two regions as a responsible political party, the National Conference is sowing further discord and facilitating animosity between the two regions. This politics of duplicity may or may not work in the interests of the National Conference but it will most certainly have consequences detrimental to the interests of the people of J&K as a whole.

Should we be saddened or surprised by the conduct of the National Conference during the most challenging times for J&K? Perhaps not. After all the party is only continuing its age-old political machinations, Machiavellian deceit always laced with Orwellian Doublespeak. God bless George Orwell for lending aliterary expression to the 21st Century political reality of Jammu & Kashmir scripted by the National Conference!

Asif Fayaz Malik can be reached at [email protected]

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