A two end axis has emerged in the state electoral politics which seems to have become immutable since 1996.Separatists led by Syed Ali Geelani, followed not necessarily by everyone from the camp, would dutifully call for boycott of polls and Srinagar city would return NC candidates to Lok Sabha, Assembly and Municipal Corporation.
In the process two things have happened. One, complete dis empowerment of a city that has been an intellectual and business nerve centre of Kashmir for centuries and at times even beyond. Second, a total degeneration of its life, infrastructure, value system and basic amenities which, I must add is not the result only of electoral indifference.
But the phenomenon has definitely contributed to it in a big measure.Syed Ali Geelani has without doubt emerged as the Mount Everest of Kashmir resistance. One can differ with him but not without standing up in ovation for his perseverance, determination and steadfastness. Some people may not consider these attributes necessarily as virtues in politics but they certainly define the moral side of an apparently endless struggle.
Geelani Sahib’s call will most probably resonate once again through the dark alleys of Srinagar as the Lok Sabha poll nears. Stones will go up, down and hit skulls, bones, police helmets, window panes, vehicles and attract tear smoke, bamboo canes and even bullets in air that have a strange habit of adopting a chest high trajectory in Kashmir.
National Conference already has a tested strategy in place to respond. Voters will be mobilised in advance outside the city limits to make their contribution to free and fair elections which would later be described by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as another water shed event that ‘establishes the popularity of his People’s Democratic Party’.
NC workers will go out in strength early morning, eager to cast their votes in presence of cameras and by 10 AM the operation will be over. The free phase of elections will be followed by the fair and fearsome. Voters of the morning will convert themselves into votaries of boycott. No body will be allowed to come out of their homes till evening when the Shehr Baashes will organise impromptu road side get together to complain of rigged elections. “This all was a drama to help NC”, will be the refrain and that “we already knew it.”
Geelani Sahib will have carried the day and a NC candidate will be declared elected from Srinagar. The shehr-e-khas will have a representative in the Parliament who would have been elected by the aam kham of the rural areas. Ali Mohammad Sagar will beat his breast about the creation of urban rural divide and life will go on till the next round of elections.
This pattern has been followed so many times that it has now become a fine art for NC. If they helped kill Shahtoos in the city of its birth, they definitely have been able to replace it by another remunerative business. The operation entails a cost for NC and of course the residents of Srinagar.
Srinagar is right now one of the most neglected places in this part of the planet. And why should it not be? Whom could we hold responsible for our tragedy? Who owes us an answer or an account? Whom have we elected or given our mandate to bind him down? Villages of Kashmir have done that and they are better off.
The history of elections in Kashmir runs concurrent to the practice of boycott. Even when our Naya Kashmir dream was somewhat fresh and unspoilt, we were not called upon even to vote for our constituent Assembly. That did not mean that we would suffer from any lack of a Constitution which continues to be mauled through provision 370 of another constitution. We in fact are now victims of not one but two constitutions. As if to make the application of Constitution of India to J&K credible it may be recalled we had also the provision of sending nominated members to the Lok Sabha which was even upheld by the Supreme Court of India.
What followed is too well known to need a recount. The point is, has the boycott or lack of participation had any impact on the state of India in having its way at the policy level? Its status as the arbiter and absolute power in Kashmir has remained unaffected by whatever happened.
But at the same time smaller issues of day to day life continue to be relevant. We have not as part of resistance given up any aspirations as may be in Gaza and West Bank. We don’t have boycott of Indian goods on our agenda as Gandhi had advocated while fighting the British. So we need to address the whole host of problems through the established mechanism of governance. Rural population has got the message right. We the people of Srinagar differ. And we the people of Srinagar suffer.
It is therefore advisable to vote for anyone we like. But, if we are destined to be represented by the NC we must endorse God’s will and Vote for its candidate. At least we earn the right to question Ali Mohammad Sagar and Mubarak Gul as to what their contribution to Srinagar has been during the thirty years that they have been ruling in our name.
(The columnist, a PDP leader, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper: Editor