Critical crossroads

As the infinitely stronger party in the conflict New Delhi must accept responsibility for its failed and oppressive policies.
 
What is especially troubling is the failure of those in New Delhi, who are most optimistic about the dialogue process to recognize that the language they use and the framework they have embraced is so thoroughly tone deaf to Kashmir realities and concerns as to be “self-righteous”, at best, or insulting, at worst.

Kashmiris feel domestic constraints of governments at Delhi tie their hands and prevent them from making dispensation beyond certain, often minimal, limit. Government has never kicked off a rich debate over domestic constraints, nor has ever shown big hunger for a different political way forward.

Here, repressive actions on the ground are continuing to feed the trend of radicalization on the pro-freedom side and are strengthening the uncompromising viewpoints. To prove their point, they need only point out how New Delhi has not listened to any requests by the moderates and civil society to end those practices that serve to consolidate control.

Common man is under great pressure, frustrated and, tired of picking up the pieces and putting them back together.
With the baton of present precarious scenario in the hands of  highly spirited and sincere adolescents, and yet the sense in the separatist leadership that ‘there is no alternative’ still exists, given the lack of coherent, radical ideas. They manage people on day to day basis and direct their routine. In fact, Kashmir is facing a real leadership crisis from all shades of political opinions.

The politics of the mainstream seems clearly exhausted. Mainstream politics – like it or not – has no story, no powerful actors, no motivation and no plots which in the past posed as ‘the official future’. It has been tried for many decades now and it is a “spent force”.
 
Whatever outcomes they may or may not lead to, the separatist leadership and politics is a big reality of Jammu and Kashmir today. But the very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing. There is so much to consider, digest and think about.

The Kashmiri leadership is needed to be reminded what the fight was all about. It was not, in fact, about how the fate of Kashmir might affect its strategic situation in the South Asia. That is how India and Pakistan thinks. It is about the fate of people  in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  
 
 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., has said that there are times when “we need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure”. The wretched but also fascinating actuality of the here and now.  
Think simple, not complex.

A leader is followed because he offers a vision, and an idea that motivates others to join him in the same journey. It’s not simply that he finds a group of people trudging along and he gets them to run, he finds a gaggle going in different directions, points out the proper way, and starts cutting the new path. Leadership is motivation. Management is control and sometimes tyranny.

Any mass movement requires three point programme:

One, a clear road map or policy.

Two, unity of all the stakeholders around that policy.

And three, the winning of allies.

This is about how politics is conducted.

Will the leaders of Kashmir, on whom the aspirations of their desperate people rest, show the statesmanship expected of them to break out of the vicious circle or will they succumb to petty and devotee politics? Will they hand over to the next generation a future of peace and prosperity or death, destruction and uncertainty? Kashmiris are watching. Now they cannot afford Kashmir to again go on as an intractable conflict. You don’t need to remind Kashmiris the history of the dispute, it is now in their DNA.

India also knows what Kashmir wants. They have heard much of “We want” sloganeering since 1931. Shows of strength have been enough. We don’t need leaders with magnificent command on speeches and quasi-philosophical quotes or having bio-datas of jail service. We need to have negotiators, managers and experts. There is a need of very limited number of individuals who will be deciding the negotiating positions and tactics.

Lack of foresight and leadership has cost us dearly in the past. Kashmiri leadership should come forward with a masterstroke of astuteness. They have shown the representative character. Let them challenge New Delhi to come forward for a seemingly open-ended dialogue and as such disassociate from the dead-end politics.

Despite what our political leaders say, there is a political solution to the conflict and there are partners for peace. If anything, we of the peace movement must not allow the powers-that-be to mystify the conflict, to present it as a “clash of civilizations.” The New Delhi-Srinagar conflict is political and as such it has a political solution.

Historically, longstanding and bitter conflicts have been resolved when leaders have shown statesmanship accompanied by magnanimity, a spirit of accommodation and the ability to put behind the past for the sake of a happy future.

I fear the Indian political leadership and common people would not understand the importance of saving Kashmir unless they saw how that tactical decision fit into the transcendent task of building India as future super power. India needs to blend strength with moral purpose. Hawks like BJP leaders, think it a mistake to negotiate with Kashmir until New Delhi creates situations of strength around the globe and on ground zero.
 
Convening these talks at this time is certainly a gutsy move for Manmohan Singh government. Knowing that the odds of success are slim and the costs of yet another letdown are great.

Only a focused, unified and representative Kashmiri partner can extract the necessary dispensation from New Delhi at this moment for a viable conflict resolution, and currently, as the security apparatus continues to crackdown on domestic Kashmiri dissent, India watches keenly knowing that no such Kashmiri partner is on the horizon.

All this considered, I find it hard to be optimistic and, while wanting to be hopeful, that too requires a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, here’s what I hope for.
 
I hope that Hurriyat Conference, which has been critical of the talks, involves new thinking taking into consideration the just requirements and the concerns not only of the Kashmiri people but of the Indian and Pakistani sides, as well. This initiative might not be pretty and most certainly won’t be perfect, but it will have to be seen by majorities as fair.

I also hope that in the current phase there is an openness, a lack of staleness, a sense of serious people dealing with serious issues, a fascination to see how they get on – we might return to this – a sense of innovativeness, inclusiveness and reasoned reasonableness which the public likes, while remaining skeptical and cautious and of course waiting for the final settlement of Kashmir imbroglio.

As a political institution, set of processes and for a great achievement, spiritually and architecturally, as a beginning I hope a representative parliament of intellectuals, educationists, legal luminaries, human rights activists, social workers, technocrats, writers, artists, philosophers, historians, even musicians and architects, is brought to fore, enthusiastically committing their talents to the service of people ‘unofficially’. It may help fill our public life with much uplift and vision.

Looking at less petty political party  dominated ideas of change many youngsters in last many years who became the media faces of Kashmir turbo-charged by immense and hugely progressive outlook can help for exploring – the wider socio-political agenda.

I hope that security apparatus does not engage either in provocations of their own or act to reignite passions by using brute force or imposing new hardships on the Kashmiris.

I can only hope that Hurriyat  has prepared a well thought out, non-violent, accommodating “Plan B” should this protest calendar campaign (“Plan A”) fail to break the impasse.

And finally I might add that I can only hope that any future “calendar”, is practical, calm, and mindful but not intellectually stagnating.

That has to happen soon, before it is too late.

The voice of reason is not appeasement; it is an acknowledgment of reality. It is more pragmatism, less romanticism. Voice of reason is not prevailing over the rhetoric of hatred, both in New Delhi and Kashmir. It isn’t an issue of intention, it’s an issue of how ideology and sensibility effects the people.

(The writer is a multimedia professional)

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