Politics of exhausted antics

By K.N. Pandita

Strikes, hartal s and shutdowns with some sprinkling of violence have been part of the history of Kashmir separatist movement for two past decades. Separatist leaders stir up peoples’ hysteria through a variety of pretexts ranging from hurt religious feelings to minor and insignificant road rows. You need just a pretext and the rowdies are on the roads yelling anti-India slogans, making violent body-language and exuding malicious vitriolic, hurling abuses on one and all and pelting stones on all and sundry.

This kind of destructive activity is undertaken by the youth; most among them beneficiaries of political gangsters who revel in their sadism and feel elated to be in news headlines. They are on the prowl and slightest mishap resulting from an inadvertent act is enough to set the forest on fire.

Protestation is loud and vicious if according to the perception of the protestors onus comes to the doorsteps of security forces. The aim of subversives in making a mole of a mountain is to malign security forces, intensify hatred against soldiers in olive green and make a show of bravado that they can take on the security strategy of the state.

During the peak days of separatist uprising in 1990s, the option of strikes and shut-downs was resorted to very frequently. A time came when separatist leadership gave a call for strikes more to provide propaganda material for international media than to impress their solidarity for what they would call “aazaadi”.

It was only when the saturation point was reached that people began to understand the disastrous economic fallout of disrupting normal life in the valley. With the dawning of this realisation, the season of strikes began to wear out. People heaved a sigh of relief. Economic activity re-started and things seemed to be returning to normalcy.   

But this was a short-lived interlude. When PDP handed over power, albeit very reluctantly, to its coalition ally after completing the stipulated three-year term, political climate in Kashmir began to show signs of unease.  Intermittent but low-key anti-government demonstrations surfaced selectively in parts of the city of Srinagar and district Anantnag. Administration dealt with it as per routine.

There appeared news of clashes which actually took place between two major rival groups in the valley at that time, namely PDP and Congress though ironically both had jointly formed the ruling coalition. It was evident that PDP was not in a mood to be seated behind the driver. Its strategy was to destabilise the government, and then offer to bring back law and order and quell demonstrations if returned to power.

Internal subversion has often been the choice political weapon of irresponsible and intransigent political parties in Kashmir. Wearing the mask of nationalism and secularism, their ulterior motives are self-aggrandisement. Covertly playing pro-separatist card, they would run with the hare and hunt with the hound.

Assembly election result showed that PDP maintained its numerical strength in the assembly but the chances of being accepted as a coalition partner had completed receded because it had brought down the Congress government before the expiry of its term.

Realising that this suicidal step marked the beginning of its political downslide, PDP was left to lick its wounds. Its stock with Congress came to a naught and its future seemed bleak. All that it could do was to look for its old game of subversion within.

First PDP party-men clashed with Congress workers at several places, and then with National Conference activists while the duo in coalition began stabilising their respective position. Local press tried to underplay this inter-party hooliganism and subtly attributed it as part of on-going anti-India separatist stir.

Protests and strikes with more intensity and violence surfaced when APHC, deviated from its two–decade old policy of boycotting parliamentary elections, and announced that people were free to go by the diktat of their conscience. Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, the former chairman and a senior member of the organization justified Hurriyat’s stand of not giving a call for boycott by saying that Muslims in Jammu region never boycotted elections and never responded to Hurriyat’s call.

This crucial shift in Hurriyat’s election policy gave an excellent opportunity to those who had failed to reach the corridors of power. All disgruntled and politically marginalised groups formed the unholy alliance and embarked on a mission of inciting people against APHC’s changed stance. They called it betrayal of Kashmiris and the cause of separatist movement. They took to streets and vandalised public property. The effigy of Maulavi Abbas Ansari, a senior APHC leader (Omar faction) was burnt and anger and animus were expressed with all vengeance. Security forces had a tough time in controlling the hooligans and security of APHC leaders was beefed up.

But suddenly a week or ten days later, APHC chief Mirwaiz Omar Farooq succumbed to pressures from staunch separatist elements that, in turn, were covertly egged on by rejected political lot. He reneged from earlier statement and reiterated his patent rhetoric. This temporarily pacified mischief mongers.

In the parliamentary elections, PDP met with disaster; it lost all the seats where it had fielded its candidates. PDP’s rejection was a shot in the arm of both Congress and National Conference. Electorate made it eat the humble pie. How funny that instead of analysing the causes of its dwindling credibility among the people, the party tried to put up a bold face and attribute its failure at the parliamentary elections to “sinister machination of Congress and NC combine.

Having persuaded APHC to renege from its earlier non-boycott stand, PDP now came closer to the separatists and APHC. Now we see that strikes and hartals have become a matter of routine in the valley ever since parliamentary elections were announced.

This phenomenon is not based on any sound reasoning. Casual and minor happenings, unfortunate and distressing as these might be, cannot be allowed to become a strong cause for spreading lawlessness. APHC is fully aware that its participation in any future assembly or parliamentary elections will be a failure and the chances of forming the government are bleak. The example of Sajjad Lone is a recent one in this context.

It is unfortunate that stake holders in Kashmir, to whatever faction and group they belong, do not asses contemporary regional situation in right earnest. They need to understand the highly explosive situation in our neighbourhood which has endangered the entire Asian continent. The apprehension is that lest the fight for faith becomes source of destruction of faith as well as the faithful. This is tantamount to playing with fire.

The ruling coalition must give a serious thought to the implications of premeditated subversion unleashed by destructive and malicious elements in the valley. It needs to devise a mechanism of countering the phenomenon. Wearing out the adversary is an accepted reaction. It will bring dividends in due course of time. But the damage done to economic life of the valley should not be allowed procrastinate. Time has come when the ruling coalition should send a clear and loud message to the separatists and their leaders and mentors that none of the exhausted antics is going to favour them in reaching their nefarious designs. Kashmir as integral part of the Indian Union will certainly take big strides towards economic development and raising of the quality of life in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).





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