Modi Visit: Hall of Mirrors or an Illusion?

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit Kashmir in the first week of November. Apparently, Modi is likely to announce a financial package for Kashmir. Barely a week prior to the visit, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed made what would amount to a demeaning plea to the BJP and its honchos. Mufti repeated and reiterated his rather cliched reasons for choosing the BJP as an alliance partner over others. Waxing lyrical and , Mufti concluded by promising to build a ‘new’ J & K adding that the Centre’s financial assistance was necessary towards this end. Clearly, the audience of the address was not fellow Kashmiris; it was the BJP. It may be pertinent to point out here that Mufti had hed Modi in New Delhi a few weeks ago-soon after the murder of Zahid Bhat-the trucker-at Udhampur. The fallout of this incident had exposed the fault lines that define the state of Jammu and Kashmir and a kind of polarization whose effects are in the process of panning out. Curiously, CM Mufti neither made mention of the murder nor the buildup of polarization in the state.
Few inferences can be drawn from this. The major one is that the dominant mode of thought that predominated the ruling political class is that the much promised and touted financial assistance by Delhi will throw a spanner into the works of disaffection, discontent against the PDP in Kashmir and polarization across the state. With the onset of winter, if a financial package would be dished out to Kashmiris, the past may be wiped out from the collective memory of Kashmiris and the ensuing gratitude could be cannibalized for and towards political ends by both the BJP and the PDP. In the final analysis then, the package is then a supremely political. But the question this raises is that will these calculations of the BJP and the PDP denoue in the manner envisaged by PDP and the BJP?
Unlikely is the answer especially if history and the past is any guide.
There is a bit of déjà vu here.
To understand this, we may take a brief detour into the mists of modern history of Kashmir. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad- the man remembered by Kashmiris as both a lackey cum traitor and a source of economic and financial largesse- inaugurated, of course, under the instructions of his handlers and patrons, a culture of subsidies and patronage in Kashmir. While the ostensible goal was economic development, but the real agenda appears to have been to wean Kashmiris away from their political inclinations and activism.  The Bakshi decades saw some prosperity in Kashmir and the years following his rule- also characterized by cronyism and other misdemeanors- created what could be called either the illusion or bubble of peace in Kashmir. This bubble was pricked in late eighties when a full blown insurgency defined Kashmir and caught the imagination of a whole generation of Kashmiris. It has taken the state more than two decades to contain this insurgency. The point here is that so called development (which can, in the vocabulary of economics or more accurately political economy, be called patronage and clientist driven patronage) did nothing to resolve the underlying conflict that defines Kashmir.
Now let us return to the Modi visit. The Modi visit comes after over a year since Kashmir was hit by devastating floods. A huge voter turnout after the floods brought the BJP-PDP combine into power. A much touted financial package was promised to Kashmiris but till now this has turned out to be a mere promise. Ironically or perhaps counter intuitively, this may not be the most important feature of the context surrounding Modi’s November visit. What is critical and key here is that Kashmir is in transition. A new cohort or even generation of Kashmiris is replacing the older cohort. This generational shift in Kashmir is coinciding with what may be called a ‘new’ India- an India which is in transition as well with the ideology of Hindutva taking root across the length and breadth of the country. Who will the new Kashmir gyrate to and what will the new India mean for Kashmir?
Insofar Kashmir is concerned, the huge, massive tsunami of people that attended the funeral of slain Lashkar militant yesterday suggests that the new generation of Kashmiris appears to be no different from the generations of yore. In fact, their formative years and generational memory is that of armed and heightened conflict. The new generation of Kashmir is then forged in the crucible of conflict and their emblematic icons are not the Omar Abdullah’s of Kashmir or the Mehbooba Mufti’s. The emerging Idea of India exacerbates this sharp sense of alienation and discontent. Will Modiis package radically alter this psycho-political paradigm?
History does not suggest so. At best, the package may be in the nature of a palliative which while could alleviate the financial burden of Kashmiris but will do nothing to alter political realities. It is this that powers that be should understand. What Kashmir and Kashmiris need is , what amounts to a cliché: a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir that is to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Till then, the mainstream political space will be akin to game of hall of mirrors- which the dictionary describes  as a confusing or disorienting situation in which it is difficult to distinguish between truth and illusion or between competing versions of reality.

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