In the space and time paradox, Kashmir is increasingly losing its ‘time’ in the ‘space’ debate. Gigabytes of data was consumed by the discussion that for an ideologically split society that is yet to move out of a protracted conflict, ensuring a sort of fair space may make the place worth living. While the debate moves from ‘reconciliation’ to the ‘battle of ideas’, the times remain unchanged as every new master comes with his own burden.
At the peak of turmoil, governing structures were desperate to see an engagement that would pave the way for helping the violence ebb. Once this was achieved, the reversal of process led to the same old situation in which might is considered the ultimate right. There is near unanimity at almost all the political levels that sharing space with the ‘other’, would help the situation normalize to an extent that a way forward could be seriously considered. This thinking became the bedrock of new political formations in the state. But politics being as it is, people propounding this theory soon forgot the same once they ceased power. Off late, the separatists in Kashmir are feeling choked. Non-combatants, as they are, they have been seeking space for their existence. While ailing Syed Ali Geelani is permanently limited to his home, all others are driven to police locks, every time, they think they need to be out and talk to people. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the moderate of them all, was even denied leading Eid prayers, last time. But that is just part of the story.
Kashmir witnessed the battle going too far. The lawmakers in the state legislature wanted to discuss and debate various things, the most crucial being whether or not the state government should permit bovine slaughter and formally make beef legal. This is happening already and conservative estimates put the consumption at around Rs 1000 crore a year. But the government would not permit its own lawmakers to debate the issue.
If the government can not afford to trust its own lawmakers who are bound by the oath of office, whom shall it trust?
In fact, almost a dozen odd pieces of bills that its lawmakers wanted to discuss and possibly make laws, were not permitted. Last week, a minister opposed even the introduction of a private member bill aimed at creating a supportive structure for the artisans. This is unheard of. Bill can be introduced and debated and then even rejected. In this case, state’s law minister had to intervene suggesting that even if the state government will not adopt the bill, it still will help the house to understand the issue that the lawmakers intends to highlight!
If the government does not permit even innocuous issue to be taken up in the state legislative assembly – the temple of democracy in the state, it is deliberately pushing situation to a new cycle of mess. In democracy, issues can be debated, discussed and discarded. But even that is not happening. This essentially is forcing people to take the issue to the streets where crowds debate it using violence as the means of communication. For a political set up that has been using the turmoil as its soft investment for many years, it seemingly has evolved a vested interest with tension. This may or may not be a deliberate strategy; it surely will hurt the society grievously once again. That does not exclude the politics of the place. Policy makers must understand the consequences of the pressure cooker syndrome that has been cooking Kashmir all the time.