By K.N. Pandita
The task ahead in Kashmir is difficult but not insurmountable. Courage and firmness are required. Courage draws inspiration for a clear conscience that no state oppression has ever been let loose against the people.
Two decades ago people in the valley bade farewell to secularism. Now democracy as political arrangement is engaged in life and death struggle. By and large, after the extirpation of the minority in 1990, the valley has gradually adopted full pan-Islamic character. The manner, in which the Congress-led government at the Centre has been soft pedalling with this new phenomenon, makes observers believe that Indian State is reconciled to a theocratic unit within a secularist union. This is the new interpretation of Congress’ secularism of Indian State.
Elected governments, led by the NC or PDP in coalition with the Congress, both, have tried to play to the tune of religious extremists who form the core of the separatists and secessionists. Methodology might not be identical but compulsions are common.
Externally sponsored gun culture has instilled so much fear into the layers of Kashmirian civil society as to force even reasonably sensible elements to speak the language that is sweet to the ears of anti-India movement.
At no stage did the valley political leadership muster courage to address large gatherings, and publicly engage them in a serious and decisive debate on extraordinarily important issues like accession, political system, role of religion, pattern of governance etc.
The bare fact or contrivance that some people and parties won in elections is not the end all of a democratic dispensation. Those returned to the assembly are mortally afraid of interacting with their constituencies on sensitive issues stated above.
What is the contour of the fault line? Obviously it is the lack of conviction in democracy, secularism, rule of law and broad futuristic vision of a democratic-secular-welfare state in the process of development.
Political parties are up in arms on each casualty and untoward incident. They dole out a litany of accusations against the police, security forces, army, state government and India. There is no dearth of taunts and rebukes. But nobody from among these brigades has the courage to ask who instigates crowds to violence, mayhem and arson? Nobody rises against these leaders demanding that they retire to their places and stop misleading and inciting the public.
The people are at war with the government perhaps because this government led by a young man with clear vision and conviction refuses to pander to the pressures of the motivated separatists. Had this been the policy of the previous government, Kashmir would not have drifted to disaster.
The party in opposition straightaway launched an attack on the Chief Minister and has been demanding his dismissal. It is pursuing the policy of self-aggrandisement, and not of healthy and constructive opposition. The worse is that it has no qualms of conscience for the dire consequences this policy is bringing in trail.
The ongoing turmoil in Kashmir is not a movement against India; it is not a movement against Indian presence in Kashmir. It is the manifestation of a deep-seated rivalry bordering on animosity between the NC and PDP. The latter is determined to deal a deadly blow to the popularity of National Conference. In closed door meetings, its leadership often talks contemptuously of dynastic rule with allusion to the House of Sheikh Abdullah.
Yes, there are some elements in Kashmiri society that have not been favourably disposed towards the Sheikh and NC. They were not reconciled to the accession of the Sate to Indian Union. Political disagreements should not lead to personal vendetta. In a democratic system, it is the vote that decides issues. It is the vote that had catapulted PDP to the seat of power in 2002 election, and it is the same vote that sent it packing home.
The Congress, which entered into coalition with PDP in 2002 for power sharing did the greatest disservice to the State. Its lust for becoming the king-maker spelt doom to peace and tranquillity in Kashmir. Today the Congress is tight lipped on the covert agenda which PDP carried forward during its tenure.
Not only that, when the NC-led coalition assumed power in the aftermath of 2008 elections, it wanted to make public a number of actions and decisions of the previous government that in no way subscribed to national interests. But it was the Congress — the coalition partner— that dissuaded it to do so. This is how the Congress is playing a dangerous and disastrous role in Kashmir affairs.
National Conference is the elected government in J&K. It must run the administration with courage and determination. It should not yield to any pressure from within or outside the state. It has had a historical role and that will not and cannot be trivialized just because some leaders coveting power can incite the crowds by covertly playing religious card. Omar must assert. He has no need to be defensive. His government must pull out all skeletons in PDP’s cupboard and lay these bare to the public gaze even if it means bit of discomfiture to the Congress.
A word to the Congress is worth saying. If Omar’s government falls, the Congress shall have to wind up it shop in Kashmir for all times to come. Kashmiris will no more tolerate an arbitrator or his role in shaping their destiny. NC may re-surface aftger some debacle but the Congress will never. On its own it can never form a government, and hence it has no role but that of spoilsport, which the people in the State should understand and resist. Congress General Secretary has laid no obligation on Omar Abdullah if he supported his continuance. The Congress has no option but to do so.