Dr Altaf Hussain Para
Now it is the seventh week since election results for Kashmir’s Legislative Assembly were declared on 23rd December 2014, and the long wait of flood affected Kashmiris for a new government refuses to end. They wake up every day with the hope to have good news about government formation so that they have someone to listen to their grief and miseries in a biting cold winter. But at the end of every day Nayeem Akhter [a household name in Kashmir since the beginning of Chilai Kalan] consoles them with his famous byte that “talks are in the final stage, government will be formed very soon and there are still some issues to be resolved which we cannot share with the people.” The innocent Kashmiris never dare to ask their representatives a few simple questions? That if ‘issues’ are related to people, then why they need not to be made aware about them? What is so secret to be discussed behind the curtains [dar’pardah muzak’rat] when parties have made their positions clear on issues in their party manifestoes? And how parties are going to legitimize their mandate and representative character if tomorrow they were found guilty of making compromises and U-turns? That if, compromises are so unavoidable for grabbing power, why this suspicion? Why not after government formation? And, is Kashmir simply a case of ‘development politics’ like other Indian states, or more than that?
It may not be an overstatement to say that the modern political history of Kashmir is a saga of ‘secret talks’ and ‘compromises’ with common Kashmiri always missing on the table. In mid 1946, when the prospects of British withdrawal and partition of India were as bright as the daylight, and all the stakeholders were busy in getting best out of it for their respective constituencies, Kashmiri leadership were making castles in the air. They would consider Indian independence and prospects for the creation of Pakistan a “hypothetical question” and therefore, would consider it useless to “commit my people prematurely to any arrangements”. In the meantime the people were dragged in an untimely and illogical battle with the Maharaja, of course without their consent. When partition became a reality, Kashmiri leadership was caught unprepared. Thus, began the process of ‘secret talks’. An unpopular decision was the outcome.
The leadership tried to sell the compromise by celebrating the false promises of autonomy and plebiscite, whereas the actual outcome of the ‘secret talks’ was immediate power grab. In Jinnah’s Pakistan there was no hope for special positions. Soon the then leadership realized that both, autonomy and plebiscite were temporary offers never meant to be taken seriously. The frustrated leadership, sensing a trouble, shouted loudly but only to be silenced in an unceremonious manner in 1953. The establishment of successor regime, too, was an outcome of protracted ‘secret talks’.
Actually Kashmiri people are very soft hearted and innocent. They again reposed their trust in the old leadership and suffered very heavily by supporting it in their political wilderness. Hundreds and thousands offered sacrifices and many others suffered imprisonments but without showing any signs of fatigue. Another round of ‘secret talks’ began in 1971. The poor Kashmiris were repeatedly assured of their final triumph. Day in and day out, they waited for the day of victory, shouting slogans [alle kari wangan’ kari, bab kari lolo], purposefully coined by their leaders to prepare them for alle wangan. The results of half-a-decades’ ‘secret talks’ were; the old power grab for leaders, alle wangan for poor Kashmiris and lions to be treated as lambs. The two decades long people’s struggle was dubbed as siyasi aawaragardi (political wilderness) by the very leaders. All the constitutional and psychological abuse wrecked upon Kashmiris since 1947 got ‘legitimized’ in lieu of a few years of power. But that was after half a century since Kashmiris were called as the “dump driven cattle”. They disowned their leaders and forced the mighty Indian state to guard the graveyards of the erstwhile leadership against the very people they once claimed to represent. For a while a new political class came into existence who mostly emerged by accident rather than by any merit. Their ‘secret talks’ with both India and Pakistan are no secret to any Kashmiri.
Now in 2015 Kashmiris are fed up with, and well aware about the secret of ‘secret talks’. They cannot be fooled anymore. They know that PDP is in ‘secret talks’ with a political dispensation whose mentors are at odds with considering Kashmir a Muslim majority state. It is a ‘Hindu state’ for its Hindu past, and it is to be fully merged with India to ensure ghar wapsi (homecoming) of its Muslims. PDP’s lawyer/economist-turned negotiators are dealing with those Sanghis who are very well versed in both, Koutalya’s Arthashastra and his Dandaniti. Are they expecting BJP to renounce all that they stand for with regard to Kashmir and Muslims, simply to enable Mufti Sayeed to become Chief Minister of the state for six years? Mufti Sayeed has been privy to and part of many ‘secret talks’ and knows the fate of negotiators very well. Why then he wants history to judge him so harshly? BJP has already made PDP subservient to its own agenda at national level. That government formation in the state will take place only after Delhi elections is over because BJP does not want to be questioned for its stand on Article 370 and AFSPA by ever aggressive Kejrewal.
Muzzafar Beig’s recent statement, that the issue of refugees needs to be considered on humanitarian grounds, is surely not his personal opinion, but a conscious attempt to prepare Kashmiris for next instalment of alle wangan, and simply to test the waters. Is Beigh Saheb Bakshi-in-waiting, if Mufti Saheb crosses lakashman rekha tomorrow. The big question is this: are Kashmiris so cheap, to be bartered time and again for a few years of power in state, and ministerial berths at centre?
Tail piece: “you can fool all the people at some time, and some people all the time, but you cannot fool people all the people all the time”
The author can be reached at: [email protected]