OPINION: Politics makes strange bedfellows- By Dr Ramesh Raina

Politics makes strange bedfellows- By Dr Ramesh Raina
25 Aug 2020

The mainstream politics in Kashmir has not been revived yet.No political statements,no rallies, no anti-India rants, no interviews, how does one read this situation,Is it a lull before the storm or nonchalant attitude of people who by now have become insensitive to the happenings around.

Can it be termed as surrender as the war of attrition for more than three decades has brought large-scale death and destruction in Kashmir without any tangible gains.This whole thing is not lost on the people as the utopian dreams sold to them both by mainstream politicians and separatist politicians who strongly pitched for Azadi,turned out to be a chimera.

Seeing from the prism of realism,it is a catch 22 situation for the people.Post abrogation of Article 370, the political inactivity can be partly explained as most of the politicians remained under house arrest.The resultant situation led to the lack of drive which otherwise would have kept people engaged.There is other side of the story as well and that is the lack of trust,faith and confidence in the present crop of politicians especially after NIA(National Intelligence Agency)revelations of corruption against some separatist and mainstream politicians.

The credibility issues of late have become central to the current debatesa precursor to the political changes that lay ahead.GEELANI’S EXIT FROM THE SCENESyed Ali Shah Geelani patriarch of pro-Pakistan separatist movement in Kashmir dominated the scene of separatism in the Valley for a long time.This is an acclaimed fact that if not sole but he provided an important leadership to separatism which earned him the title of Amir-e- Karvan(Leader of the movement).Two things go to his credit, one with the formation of APHC(All Party Hurriyat Conference ,he succeeded in creating a political platform for Separatism.It would not be wrong to say that Hurriyat became an overground face of underground.

The other is that he succeeded in creating an alternate separatist politics parallel to the mainstream politics.His stellar role in 2008 Amarnath Land agitation brought him to more prominence that helped him wield considerable influence .Consequently all the other separatist leaders were pushed to the background by ceding more space to him.This was possible only because of his increased public profile.Now with his exit from the scene,it has affected a significant change in the separatist discourse in Kashmir.During the period,he remained a big stumbling block by continuously refusing engagement and overtures with the Government of India to the extent that he even refused to meet an all party delegation in 2016 in the presence of full media glare.It earned him a bad publicity and didn’t go down well with the powers that be.

His sudden departure has created a confusion within rank and file of separatist Tanzeems and its politicians.With the weakened Hurriyat,this is the opportunity which Government of the day might use to open the fresh channels of communication with the moderate faction of Hurriyat like Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Professor Abdul Gani Bhat.With Separatist politics loosing traction and Hurriyat’s loss of ground,it raises an important question about the fate of the entire separatist movement.

The internal power dynamics of APHC is well known to everyone,can it therefore be presumed that the organisation will head for yet another split or will fade but what happens to it doesn’t mean end of the Separatist movementand the connect that it has established with the people.MARRIAGE BETWEEN SEPARATIST AND MAINSTREAM POLITICSSix mainstream political parties NC,PDP,PC,CONG,CPI(M),ANC buried their differences and joined hands to fight for restoration of Article 370,35-A and statehood.Politics makes strange bedfellows,the leaders who otherwise had a great aversion for each other became friends overnight.Rightly said that the politics of Kashmir is like its weather which changes its.mood at the drop of the hat.Terming the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A as short sighted and unconstitutional move, six mainstream political parties said in a joint declaration that an attempt to challenge the basic identity and coerce people into submission.With an assurance by the signatories of the above statement that “our political activities will be subservient to the sacred goal of reverting status of J&K as it existed on 4th August 2019 “With the above declaration before all of us,It can be presumed that it is the starting point for the revival of the politics in Kashmir.It is a multi layered statement with a focus on the revival of special status(Article370,35-A).While peeling of the layers,coming together of two mainstream national political parties(Congress,CPI(M) and four local mainstream political parties in the form of NC,PDP,PC and ANC, is suggestive of a grand anti-BJP alliance in the making.

To understand the phenomenon one needs to rewind a little and recall the famous J&K assembly electoral slogan of BJP “Mission 44” which resulted in vertical division of the State in terms of voting,BJP getting Hindu votes from Jammu and a total rejection from Kashmir,PDP,NC getting Muslim votes from Kashmir and total rejection from Kashmir.Formation of a coalition Govt.with PDP was a natural corollary of the split mandate.the new CM soon after taking oath thanked Hurriyat,militant outfits and “people from across the border “a direct reference to Pakistan for the smooth conduct of J&K elections which created a political storm.To the consternation of the local major political players,BJP build an organisational structure and made organizational presence on the ground visible,people if not accepting did not even reject it either.After tying loose ends,it is a multi party alliance v/s BJP.Unwelcome consequences of all this include an interplay between separatist and mainstream politics with later ceding space to the former and blurring the dividing line between the two.This leaves the local parties with unavailable political space.The major reason for their lack of space is psychological burden of 370,credibility issues and therefore loss of its connect with the people.It was indeed the driving force of the politics of Kashmir.With the emergence of new political realities,PDP adopted self rule with economic integration between Kashmir on both sides of the border as its agenda,which earned it the epithet of a soft separatist party.PC another political party released yet another document “Achievable Nationhood”and turn both sides of Kashmir as a common economic entity,with other parties not behind the race.

This new emerging paradigm is borne out of a wedlock between the two parallel streams of Politics which incidentally is occupying the dominant space and now a new normal mainstream of Kashmir.The first stage of starting point therefore is to create the new alliance platform which in any case has to operate in a separatist friendly environment.The agenda of this alliance is clear to follow the Gupkar declaration which is reproduced above in a gist.The story that develops hereafter is the jinn of Article 370 and 35-A will haunt back to find a respectable place yet again in the local political lexicon.A bad politics indeed.

The Author Ramesh Raina is a social activist and a medical doctor by profession,born brought up and educated in Kashmir.An avid reader,a keen observer with a hawk’s eye insight on Kashmir.