Er. Rashid Fiasco

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In a bizarrely and unprecedentedly outlandish incident, Engineer Rashid-the colorful and controversial MLA from Langate-was beaten by some BJP legislators while the Assembly session was about to be convened.  Incidentally, the beating happened only a few days after a Muslim man was beaten to death by a mob for allegedly hoarding and eating beef. 

What brought the BJP MLA’s wrath on Rashid was the beef party that Rashid had thrown the day before at the MLA hostel. Rashid had done neither anything illegal nor provocative. The beef party he threw was perfectly well within the boundaries of the law; the Supreme Court had stayed the beef ban implementation bill only a few days ago. And he did not, by eating beef, offend the sensibilities of other faiths. So what then explains the outlandish bullying and violence unleashed by BJP MLA’s on Rashid? The answer is that the BJP appears to believe that violence is the answer to anything that jars with their idea of politics and politicking. This assertion is lent credence by the fact that the legislator was beaten in the hallowed halls of the legislative assembly- the highest citadel of democracy. The BJP MLA’s had no respect for the sanctity of the house. Legislatures are meant for debate, discussion and reasoning; not violence. But the BJP MLA’s obviously did not care. The depths they plumbed not only suggest disrespect for the law and offices of law but also points out to an ominous trend: violence seems to be increasingly becoming the arbiter of issues.

In the whole fiasco, there’s also an implied signaling involved here. This pertains to the lessons that the common man will draw from violence dished out in hallowed and dignified halls. If those who should be standard bearers of high, moral, ethical and political standards choose to take recourse to undignified political methods, what kind of role models are they for the rest of the citizenry? And how can the common man held to be accountable and law abiding if the law makers themselves are not?

There are broad and generic observations. There are political connotations and implications peculiar to Kashmir as well. Engineer Rashid, can perhaps best be described as a ‘political entrepreneur ‘and a maverick.  In this sense, he is a bit of an outlier. His antics- over which he has become famous- and his posturing may attract media attention and elicit reaction from the public but in the final analysis, he is a ‘lone wolf’ , solo player or even fighter whose posturing may not make a dent in the politics of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  Rashid can be lauded for his bold but at times eccentric methods, but besides the sensational impact of his actions, most of these are inconsequential. The reason pertains to the numbers; his party is a new comer and essentially he is an individual. If he would have been the leader of a major party, then his actions would have assumed significance and made powers that be take notice. But, alas, the major political parties of the state-the PDP and the NC- have become status quo parties in the sense of not wanting to disturb the apple cart, so to speak. Their operating premise appears to keep powers that be in good humor. Hence their tepid approach to politics. Both parties’ approach towards the beef ban controversy appears to be emblematic of this. If either party would have taken a strong stance on the issue, things might not have taken an ugly turn given that the issue would have been taken seriously. This, from a mainstream perspective, is a tragedy for the state’s politics. Major political parties become conformist and timid especially once in power despite their rhetoric and respective political manifestos. The implication here is not they take recourse to extremes but in the least, aggregate the interests of the people and articulate peoples’ anxieties, aspirations and fears with all honesty and sincerity.

The glibness of political players may perhaps be reflected by the law minister, Basharat Bukhari’s statement who  asserted after the Rashid beating fiasco that nobody has a right to interfere in religious affairs of others which has been guaranteed and protected under the Constitution. He further added that “I am a Muslim and do practice what is allowed under Sharia including having beef, and nobody can stop me from doing so”, the Minister said in the Legislative Council. If the Minister is really serious and means what he says, why not quit?

But then rhetoric and meaningless statements emanate regularly from politicians of all stripes.

Returning to the theme, the BJP MLA’s assault on Rashid is bad. We would hope that a sense of proportion and perspective descends on the political class in the state and rationality takes over raw emotive calculus. And we also hope that political representatives be true to the constituencies they represent and work in the best interests of the people of the state. 

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