Kashmir: Beyond a Victim of Democracy

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Will Mehbooba Mufti form the coalition government with the BJP? The answer to this intriguing question is big “Yes”! I can speculate that with a fair amount of certainty. 

The common understanding in Kashmir is that Mehbooba Mufti should not form the government in coalition with BJP. Moreover, chances remain high of a communal flare-up in India that may unsettle the PDP’s relation with BJP. As a Kashmiri, if you believe that forming a coalition with communal forces is detrimental to the interests of the State, PDP leadership can strongly argue that no good has come out of years of NC-Congress rule in the interests of the state and its people! Simply speaking, PDP is not in a position to say no to BJP, not because BJP is exerting pressure but because of predicament within the PDP. 

Mehbooba Mufti, late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, his ministers and emissaries had been waiting for more than twenty years to wield real power in the State and the prospects appeared just right after NC fortunes having taken a real hit for the first time in its history. The current cabinet ministers, other prominent members of PDP have been living under security cover for most of their lives and will probably spend the rest of their lives as such. They have not put their own lives and the lives of their family members at risk for nothing but for the payback in terms of power, position and wealth. Can Mehbooba Mufti offer any alternative to her party members as a payback of their sacrifices? If the answer is yes, what that alternative can possibly be? 

Wait for another five years, assuming Modi wave to lose steam for the benefit of PDP in the next assembly elections, which is not an option. Today’s reality of India is different, Modi wave and his brand of Hindu nationalism is future of Indian politics.  Even if we assume Mehbooba Mufti’s intention is not to form a coalition government with the BJP- I fully sympathize with her difficult position- she will have to do it whether willingly or unwillingly! How about the interests of the State and its people?

Democracy as a punishment

Democracy, ever since it took root in Kashmir has proven to be no more than a kleptocracy, a punishment! We have been a victim of kleptocracy in all these years and there seems to be no end of it. The turmoil we have been in the past twenty five years also has its roots in the sham democratic process. Probably, the biggest damage to Kashmir has been inflicted by the fraudulent democratic process that forces upon us individuals who put their own interests before the interests of common people. Past experience with democracy teaches us that as soon as a new government assumes office, decks are shifted to make way for the political appointees to align the chain of command straight to siphon benefits. And, skills, education and integrity take a back seat. The results of which are evident in terms of chaos all around us. 

Admittedly, it is our collective failure, but that does not absolve successive governments in Kashmir from their failures, in retrospective. The government only has the power and resources to force change on the ground. We have most extensive system of governance and a set of rules. There is over a million government employees in J and K who work in numerous government institutions including academia. Their job is to provide services to the people, to protect the interests of state, its resources, waterways, parks and forests, build roads, plan, develop and regulate growth of infrastructure. We have employees and officers assigned to these jobs. The State has an independent judiciary and justices, numerous laws and clauses. Our State is no way near to a governance deficit, the manpower is proportionate to the size of the State, which is even larger than some of the Scandinavian countries, yet, State institutions are not only non-performing, but also most corrupted, the state of justice is even worse, criminal offences and public corruption cases are rarely prosecuted! This lack of accountability, reprieve from justice and a culture of impunity had serious implications on the ground. Numerous projects undertaken by the successive State government have been either ill conceived or badly mismanaged and people involved with these failed projects simply got away with it. 

Who is to be blamed for the State’s dystopia? If political instability in Kashmir is to be blamed for all the injustices and mess around us and we are waiting for the restoration of political stability and genuine representation to take the reins of the government, then we are certainly doomed! Firstly, there is no time lens attached to the political uncertainty in Kashmir. Secondly, the pace at which destruction of Kashmir landscape is taking place would leave only the skeleton of Kashmir for the people’s representatives to govern.  What is the way out, then? 

Education versus State 

If corruption is the sickness of our society, then being a part of this society we must own it. There is no better way other than the education to treat a societal ailment. Our youth is the hope. We have one thing in common that is homogeneous in culture, which is very positive. Therefore, we have a chance to revive brand Kashmir to its pristine and pure image. The way to do is to educate people, children and young adults in our own history, which is not only fascinating but something to feel proud about. We have to remind ourselves first and educate our children that we have been living on this land continuously for thousands of years. Infuse in children the value of nationhood, nation building, and respect of land. Once these values are developed in children they would develop a feeling that the land, water and air that nourished them belong to them and they only have the responsibility to take care of it. This approach, however, is going to be slow to achieve desirable change on the ground, and time is one thing that is not on our side. This leaves us with the second approach, State employees and “we” the people of Kashmir. 

First a distinction has to be made between government and State employees. Government is a political formation while the State and its institutions are not the property of the government but belong to the common people. State employees are entrusted to protect the State and work for the benefit of common people as they derive their earnings from the State resources. This reality is not hidden from the honest, dedicated and upright officials of the State. We still have a significant number of honest officers who work with integrity despite all the odds against them and negative work culture. Fortunately, we still have a pool of honest judiciary, dedicated teachers, physicians, and ordinary employees, who hold the will to protect the interest of the State and its people. We need to identify those honest employees, honor them for their work, strengthen their hands, and provide to them advance trainings in public policy. At the same time, name, shame and prosecute the corrupted State employees. 

In this electronic age, it is easy to develop mechanisms to stifle employees averse to public concerns. People who are outside of the government, our intellectuals and local NGOs are doing great job by keeping close eye on moral, environmental and social issues despite facing harassment. We are fortunate to have an independent media, a voice for the voiceless, that is doing a tremendous job in highlighting vital issues. Taken together, in the chaos there is a hope to find an order! 

 

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