Unlike other parts of India, politicians in Kashmir have rarely required people’s support. But whenever they needed, they innovated ideas to make them dance to their tunes – emotive issues, false promises, tall claims and a lot of faith-exploitation.
Given the crisis Kashmir has lived through the most part of its post-partition history, the priorities of the successive governments in Srinagar and Delhi have remained hostage to real and assumed threats. These were sharpened after militancy broke out and consumed an entire generation. A dominant belief is that the creation of militancy was the outcome of the use and abuse of power and enforcing a particular brand of democracy through intimidation and terror.
Now the realities of Kashmir have taken a long leap. A generation is sleeping in the graves and the survivors are struggling to cope with the new normality. The politicians, cutting across the ideological and party lines, must understand this.
The detailed report about an illiterate and aged couple from Sonawari must be an eye-opener. Forty years back, the couple had come to Srinagar for prayers in the Hazratbal shrine. There, they heard Sheikh Abdullah speaking from the pulpits. It was where he sought a promise from the audience that they will support his party, come what may.
The old man kept the word for his whole life. He lives in abject poverty. His son is idle. In the recent Panchayat elections, the son and his mother decided against polling for Sheikh’s National Conference. It pained him so much that he divorced his wife. At a stage where they needed each other, they live separately in two floors of the mud house, they call home!
Divorces forced by politics are nothing new. They happened when Congressmen were the ‘insects of the drain’ and it was repeated when the ‘lions’ were fighting the ‘goats’. Even the funeral prayers in certain cases became a crisis. But we are living in twenty-first century now. This is what politics should not lead to. Politics should better start delivering on the promises its practitioners make and have made time and again.
At the same time, the story offers a telling indictment of the situation in which Kashmir lives in – the lack of opportunities. The government obviously continues to be the employer of the last resort and continues to be the biggest employer in J&K. It is already over-staffed and it lacks enough of berths to govern barely 12 million people. There is desperate requirement for hunting the new options. Kashmir cannot afford heavy industry. It cannot get it either even if it wants. It has to survive on the traditional economies that require interventions to become slightly better paying and modern.