B L Saraf
It sounds odd to call a politician of the State as an area specific leader. We believe political parties and their leaders have held whole Jammu and Kashmir – including Ladakh – as a one unit for the political activity and, accordingly, devised agenda to cater to the needs of all regions. Sometimes, we do great injustice to some of them who have sacrificed a lot for the good of a common man when we pin them down to a small area in the region and evaluate their works on narrow parochial , caste and communal parameters . Sheikh Abdullah was born in Kashmir but he wielded huge influence across the state of Jammu and Kashmir, though some wouldn’t fully endorse his political view. To some extent it can be said of his political and family inheritors also. Similarly, Pandit Premnath Dogra, born in Jammu, was heard with attention by many people beyond Jammu and commanded respect across all regions of the state – unmindful of his political view.
It the tragedy that political narrative has deteriorated so low that when a politician is evaluated he gets relegated to his sub-region , caste, ethnicity and faith. May be he is himself responsible for it. Because most of the politicians, these days, don’t see a political future beyond these considerations . Arthritic of democracy has added to these calculations. It could be said that political leaders in J&K have stuck to these considerations – rather closely, to create a nucleus around which they strive to gather political mass. This is true of politicians of other regions, also
True, Kashmir based leaders have created a pivot around which their Kashmir specific politics revolves. Now that they have are presented with the fait acompli it is time for them to lay back and introspect how to meet the challenge arising on account of developing political situation in the State – as is would be after 31st October 2019. Their moment has come. They must seriously think as to what went wrong in the state soon after it acceded to India in 1947. Governments at the Centre , too, will have to do a lot of explaining in this regard . Onus is heavy on political and family heirs of Sheikh Abdullah – as was on him himself – to give a serious thought to the fact that why people are asking questions on his politics when in the middle of 20th Century they adored him as a Sher-e- Kashmir, followed his political philosophy and endorsed his decision to tie up lot with India ,in 1947 . It was monumental decision which at the given period of history went against the current Muslims in the sub-continent swam with .
Leaders in National Conference must also ponder why , despite facilitating J&K’s accession to India , most of the Indians have brought Sheikh Abdullah down the pedestal they had placed him on and hold him responsible for all that ails Kashmir, presently .
Before blaming Central Government for all that has gone wrong in Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah and local Congress leaders must tell people who was responsible for the rigged 1987 Assembly elections . It is necessary to clear the air because there is a near unanimous view that present cycle of violence is directly traceable to these elections. Thanks to the political manoeuvering of Central Governments, people in the state weren’t given an unimpeded run of the democracy. Local leaders abetted the process. So they played into the hands of Pakistan – a country always in search of an opportunity to pry on the sectarian sensitivities of the Kashmiris.
One can understand the plight of local mainstream politicians to reconcile with the altered political and geographical position, so soon after the event. Some would say, probably not without a reason, that latest constitutional developments have considerably reduced political space for them. But life doesn’t stay static . It has to go on. For the wise in Kashmir political spectrum it is time to reflect coolly and find out how much can be salvaged from the crushed hopes ,as to instill purpose of living among the masses. After all, everything is not lost . Many of these leaders have credentials and capacity to bounce back .
It may serve some purpose to say that even Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had accepted watered down Article 370 when he assumed administrative power in 1975 -pursuant to his accord with PM Indira Gandhi .
While analyzing the three decades old tumultuous situation and occasions that passed by, it becomes irresistible to say that mainstream political leaders of Kashmir have brought it on to themselves. At crucial times they dithered – either fearing gun or by a design. PV Narshima Rao opened “Sky ” for them to fly with their demands and restored the democratic process, in 1996, which had halted in 1990. A B Vajpayee offered them ” Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhuriyat to come up with achievable demands and held out hand of cooperation to Huriayat, also. IK Gujral went a mile ahead to offer accommodation of their genuine aspirations . However, these leaders spurned offers and scuttled one another in a bid to hold on to the local political turf. Today, with pain one is compelled to say that these leaders got what they deserved long back. And as a necessary fall out , they heaped untold miseries on the innocent people: just as separatists did to them by ‘other means’ and for ‘other purposes .’
For the political and social leaders of the state first priority should be the restoration of statehood of J&K . We are told that the Central Government downgraded the state to ensure peace and stability. How for was this a correct assessment of the situation and how will it work out remains to be seen. To have a durable peace in the Valley is indeed an uphill task. But return of semblance of normalcy is in the hands of local leadership. People across J&K state feel hurt on downgrading. There is palpable resentment among the masses on this score. Confrontation will serve nobody’s purpose. Education of young is suffering . Self punishment is no wisdom. Government has revised the travel advisory issued in August and opened state for the tourists. The measure alone will not mean much unless required infrastructure is also made available . Internet connectivity and channels of communication – required for tourism to flourish – must be restored without any further delay .
GOI has opened a small window. It is for the local leaders and the people to make it wide open .
(The author is Former Principal
District & Sessions Judge)