Clear and Elusive Kashmir Truth

Two funerals in the same area: one, of a sitting Chief Minister and a tall political leader for the past fifty years and another of a local militant. Fewer attended the former and the thousands participated in the latter, one of them even killed protesting. If any proof was needed again for what differentiates mainstream politics from its separatist opposite, the two funerals starkly provided it. A lifetime of public role as a central political figure is no match to the local reverence for a youthful militant. And there is nothing exceptional about it. In fact, massive attendance  in militant funerals is now a routine occurrence, a fact that has now even got security agencies worried. 

The reality is reflective of the tricky ground on which the democracy operates in the state: Since 1947 Kashmir politics has pivoted around a binary of pro-India and separatist discourse. While separatism has been rooted into the sentiment and aspirations of the people of the state,  pro-India politics is relevant in terms of a utilitarian bargain. It  mediates our engagement with the system that we require to address our civic and survival needs.

But this is not the sole truth about Kashmir.  Though a modest number of people attended Mufti’s funeral, thousands went against the separatist boycott call  to give his party 28 seats.

There is therefore a need to explain this puzzle. After all there has to be a fundamental truth of the situation in the state from which emanates the inconsistent behaviour of its people, its sudden periods of ferment followed by a deeply peaceful hiatus.

This scenario raises some pertinent questions about the nature of the problem in Valley. Why is it that periods of intense and sweeping public groundswell are followed invariably by a profound sense of calm and even overwhelming participation in the polls? Can we at all explain this contradiction credibly? And the biggest question of all: What is the basic and the larger truth of this  place?

From the looks of it, Valley seems to have finally found its peace. Mainstream politics has regained the centre stage and separatist alliances find themselves drifted to the fringes. Has thus Kashmir resolved itself? Is this peace for real? But what if the situation lapses again into the familiar tumult. Shall our points of reference for the situation again change?

What is this truth? While it is beyond us to grasp the subliminal nature of this reality we can atleast hope to symptomatically sense it in our public behaviour. What we gather even from a cursory reading of the situation is that while the separatist cause readily gets martyrs – thousands of them – and the attendant devastation of the society as a whole,  mainstream gets none. 

While separatists can get away with five month long shutdown which kills businesses and deprives people of jobs, mainstream shies away from even calling for one.

While mainstream political parties might control levers of power, separatists rule the streets. And this is why while mainstream politicians are tied to their electorate by a bond that is mostly utilitarian in nature, separatists can count on large spontaneous crowds for their programs. Of course, situation sometimes gets a little more complex but the larger drift of this reailty remains the same.

Mufti’s funeral once again brings this reality tellingly home. Being democratically elected in Kashmir by a largest number of people in Kashmir is no indicator of the popularity of a leader or a party in the state.

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