Deconstructing Er Rasheed

By Fida Firdous

Er Rasheed during his ‘Secretariat Gherao’ protest.

A concept, says an American author, Charlotte P. Gillmanan, is stronger than a fact. Portraying facts representing “actuality” with some degree of truthfulness is a subjective matter. That is why the factuality of reasoning and logic is an only substitute. Not only does it broadens the subject, but guides one to an understanding of a concept.

In a conflict zone, every political move is the origin of a set of conspiracy theories. These theories determine the public opinion besides constructing a confusing image of its originator. Take for example the case of Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Er Rasheed. He seems to have invited similar sort of responses with his style of politics.

Er Rasheed who appears to be an “advocate of justice and civil liberty” within an establishment which “draws its legitimacy from the opposite” has indeed rocked the higher institutions of power both in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi. His political adventures are seen by his political opponents as a tactic to ‘drawing political mileage’ but that does not take away from him the credit which he deserves for making his name.

Unlike Muftis and Abdullahs, Er Rasheed comes from a background that had nothing to do with politics. Both Muftis and Abdullahs are in the political arena from generations but Er Rasheed made is political debut only in 2008, before he was titled “Obama of Kashmir” by the Indian media. The title was perhaps awarded only to narrate how people in Kashmir are “embracing the Indian democracy”. This image did not survive long as a result of their experiences with Er Rasheed, which is why the ‘mainstream separatist’ tag was coined to exclude him from the list of those who are deemed to be the “true representatives of Kashmir” by New Delhi.

Elections these days are transparent. To survive politically, one must enjoy public support that transforms into votes. Er Rasheed’s second consecutive victory in 2014 assembly elections establishes same for him. But the public support is not permanent. It takes efforts and dedication to satisfy the public. From outside it seems Er Rasheed is only about broader issues but poll results showed this has not disconnected him from the people living in his constituency.

Sayyid Adil Hassan Baghdadi, a blogger from Er Rasheed’s constituency is not the embracer of “mainstream politics” but writes, “For every single issue, he is there on the ground with the people.”  The argument seems to suggest that Er Rasheed does enjoy the positive image at least within his constituency in relation with the local issues.

The reflection of his style of politics is visible in the way he organizes protests. Who can forget the famous beef party organized by the man. The beef party may have brought an assault on him at the hands of rightwing BJP, but this has not been the case all the time. To his credit is the removal of two army camps within his neighboring constituency and reopening of a road that was sealed by army in 1990 in Chakpurn area of Langate. His demonstrations against the human rights violations committed by the forces are now becoming a routine. The matter of record is the 24 FIRs against the Government of India lodged by Er Rasheed.

There is an ample evidence to suggest that Er Rasheed has a different image when compared to the other legislators. The 90’s era indeed remains the worst in history of Kashmir, if not due to the outbreak of armed struggle, but due to the counter militancy measures of the armed forces. Every Kashmiri who survived the period has his/her traumas and tragedies to narrate. Er Rasheed is no exception.

In his official letter to the Governor, Er Rasheed narrates about his set of experiences:

“I was arrested from my house and tortured for two consecutive days for raising my voice against the counter insurgency measure adopted by the army which forced the youth to perform the Runda (Night Duty). Thousands of labors, carpenters, mansions including womenfolk were forced to work at the construction site of bunkers along LOC. People were beaten up and not paid at all. It is tough to recall how many were left to die.”

In his letter Er Raseed recalls the events which occurred on the days when he was forced to do what he calls “humiliating duty.”

Now that all this has become the matter of past, locals recall what they term the first anti-army demonstration led by the Er Rasheed. “The 13 years long exploitation at the hands of the armed forces ended only after he led the demonstrations against the armed forces,” says Abdul Jabbar, a local resident. Suggesting, Er Rasheed’s politics is largely influenced by the experiments he had in 90s. This perhaps is the reason why Er Rasheed has owned a “separatist” tag despite being in “mainstream” camp.

2014 assembly elections saw the birth of Awami Atihad Party (AAP), the political party formed by the Er Rasheed. However, the party failed miserably to perform in its first appearance but Er Rasheed seems too active to achieve the desired results. He is constantly trying to engage with the people in South Kashmir, Sopore and Palhalan. All these areas are known for election boycott and pro- freedom inclinations.

Er Rasheed’s attempts to create his vote bank in the areas only suggest that he is trying to make inroads into the “separatist base” by employing his “mainstream separatist” tag.

This is not a conspiracy theory but the concept which the factuality of reasoning and logic is suggesting. Only time will tell how much successful Er Rasheed will be in his attempts to make such inroads. However, it is absolutely clear any such successes in the areas known for election boycott and pro-freedom inclinations will bring an increased number of people to the polling satiations to cast their votes.

Firdous(Fida Firdous is PRO MLA Langate, Er Rasheed. Views expressed in this article are author’s own)


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