Wednesday, February 1, 2023
HomeOpinionKashmir's new politics should not be one that goes through Gupkar again

Kashmir’s new politics should not be one that goes through Gupkar again

Bureaucrats in Delhi recently told a foreign delegation that Modi govt plans to conduct the election in Jammu and Kashmir by July 2020.

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The predominant narrative from Kashmir since the Narendra Modi government abrogated Article 370 has been of communication clampdown and political vacuum resulting from the house arrest of several politicians, including three former chief ministers. It remains to be seen where the mainstream regional political parties go from here, and when does democratic politics – in the form of assembly election – return to Jammu and Kashmir, the new Union Territory.

There are some indications about the latter. A delegation of German Members of Parliament, on a visit to India last week, was informed during an interaction with bureaucrats and diplomats in New Delhi that the Centre plans to conduct the next assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir by July 2020. The essential element of this political transformation will be the characters – a new set of leaders – that New Delhi plans to support, hand-hold and push for revival of Jammu and Kashmir’s institutional apparatus democratically.

Letting Pakistan play a role

Successive state governments led by National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Congress and lately Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with covert concurrence of the Centre have only incentivised separatism and secessionism in Kashmir. On the one hand, this policy led to erosion of state institutions, including the Jammu and Kashmir Police; on the other hand, it created more gaps between New Delhi and Kashmir. The defeatist policy even made the likes of pro-Pakistan Hurriyat and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which provoked violence, relevant in New Delhi’s scheme of things. Under this political roadmap, engaging with separatists, giving freebies in the name of healing touch, and leaving scope for further autonomy or alienation became the main agenda instead of peace and development. It became a question of New Delhi’s survival in J&K, leading to a permanent policy paralysis.

Over the years, Pakistan has also built a massive constituency in Kashmir by investing its focus and energies on several separatists as well as certain mainstream Kashmiri politicians to propel its propaganda campaign coupled with Islamist extremism. The support from across the border, however, shouldn’t be seen in isolation. The game plan of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to influence the young Kashmiris has been successful because of New Delhi’s failure to encourage fair politics and implementing instead a policy of appeasement by attaching a premium with separatism and anti-India rhetoric. With help from the investigative agencies, successive governments at the Centre have let internal rabid elements prosper in the Valley who have colluded with Pakistan to demonise India and let the hatred grow against ‘Hindu India’ from a more ‘Muslim Kashmir’.

Also read: Bunkers back in Srinagar, another reminder of militancy days as security restrictions stay

No back-door policy now

While hectic parleys are underway between the chosen negotiators of the Modi government and the detained politicians to make them agree to the ‘new normal’ in Kashmir, all indications suggest there would be relaxation in communication clampdown and release of a few political detainees by the end of September or early October. The challenge for the government would be to not repeat the same blunders and mistakes of the past while creating a new leadership within the valley. A political leader has to cultivate his or her own ground among people instead of letting money, security from the government or accommodation on the posh Gupkar Road do the talking. The decision-makers of North Block have to let the political leadership emerge from the front door, since the back-door policy has failed miserably to create a sustained political roadmap for peace.

The formation of the PDP in the late 1990s gave a hope for alternative politics in Jammu and Kashmir, which traditionally had the NC and the Congress as the only significant political players. Two decades later, while the BJP compromised on its core ideology to form an ‘unholy’ alliance with the PDP in its bid to reach the corridors of power, it soon learnt its lessons, and learnt them the hard way. After kneeling down to almost all diktats of then-Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, and succumbing to the pressures from the PDP, the BJP finally pulled out of the alliance. The PDP, which was backed by New Delhi to counter the NC, became the Modi government’s worst nightmare because of the continued policy of encouraging secessionism.

Engineer Rashid, a former MLA from North Kashmir, is another example of the degeneration of mainstream politics in Kashmir. Rashid, who is under arrest by the NIA in a terror funding case of 2017, is believed to have been in good terms with both New Delhi and Islamabad. Known as a rabble rouser, Rashid was popular because of his provocative statements and drama he enacted in front of the cameras.

After his sustained questioning for days in New Delhi, Rashid reportedly called a top Army functionary, pleading and begging him to help strike a deal with Home Minister Amit Shah. Rashid was reportedly willing to support the BJP, welcome Article 370’s abrogation, and even commit to paying back by winning 7-8 assembly seats for the BJP in exchange for dropping all charges against him. Today, Rashid who had entered into a political alliance with bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal is inside New Delhi’s Tihar Jail. While his friend Faesal remains detained in Srinagar.

Also read: J&K cops can’t please anyone — Kashmiris call them traitors, central forces mistrust them

Avoiding repeat of past mistakes

New Delhi understandably is desperate for a political outreach and a way out of the complex situation it has put itself into in Kashmir. There is talk of a new breed of leadership emerging out of the current status quo. This time, if New Delhi prepares to prop up a new crop of leadership in Kashmir, it must make sure that this crop doesn’t become a bigger proponent of secessionism than the PDP. Kashmir isn’t just a horrible tale of deceit but also of political corruption and double games.

Today, as we stand on the cusp of history, the new political dictionary of Jammu and Kashmir has to let the Indian Constitution prevail fully with rule of law and democracy. If the power corridors yet again back a certain breed of puppets without any ground support or those that are willing to compromise for money, it would lead to a bigger nightmare than 1990 and make radicalisation more mainstream. It would revive the now defunct terror ecosystem in Kashmir.

Days before the abrogation of Article 370, a top union minister had told a group of journalists that ‘unprecedented situations demand unprecedented measures’ in Kashmir. Now that these measures have been taken, let’s not put Kashmir back on a ticking time bomb with its detonator across the border in Pakistan. Let New Delhi take the road less travelled, one which doesn’t go through Gupkar.

The author is an independent journalist. Views are personal.

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  1. The current dispensation at the center is doing nothing much different to what Govts in the past especially the congress in the past did to the politics of the state.
    BJP is doing in a calamitous manner and in a virulent environment.

    BJP is equally responsible for the terrible situation state finds itself in and have failed in handling the Kashmir problem.

    Their exit from the PDP collation was pure political opportunism in the rest of the Indian. In addition, the muscular and open majoritarianism on display in the rest of the India is only benefiting the Jamat by them further perpetuating among the masses the feeling of alienation and hate against the state of India.

    I am a KP, lived in the valley pre-89, and know what I am taking and it would not be erroneous to say that darker days may be ahead.
    We should be hopeful but it would be cynical to believe that “all is well”

  2. The Print has been a rather balanced newspaper. It would be better for it to stay so and not let hate mongering, vitriol spewing jingoists from BJP funded media outlets take up space here. Anyways, the outspoken, confident, determined and educated Muslim youth from the valley have always been an eyesore for the like of Aditya who would like them to be enslaved as was the case during the Dogra rule of Kashmir.

  3. I am not someone who feels happy demonising the mainstream politicians, with various people and families at successively higher levels of the food chain. They have fought, won, lost elections. If some were rigged, that was done in Delhi, not Srinagar. Carrying India’s brief in the Valley was not always a pleasant or safe task. Why should it also have been thankless. Let us which exotic orchids replace the Abdullahs and the Muftis.

  4. Kashmiri Muslim politicians will have to cover the trust deficit first. Then comes justice to ethnic cleansed Kashmiri Pundits. Till then none in India who voted in Modi will have any sympathy or feel oneness with them.

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