Unbearable sameness of Kashmiri mainstream politics

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If anything the first two weeks of the version 2.0 of PDP-BJP regime underlines yet again,  it is the sameness of the mainstream politics in the Valley, if not in Jammu. When around 120 youth – most of them teenagers – were gunned down through 2010, PDP was rightly the loudest in its condemnation.  The party sought the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s immediate resignation, and expressing disbelief that he was coolly presiding over the killings. In response, Omar said little except tweet now and then his regret over the deaths. The then PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was at her shrillest in her opposition to the state of affairs. But now after her own government has been responsible for the killing of five persons over three days, Mehbooba has acted hardly any different. She may have expressed her own “anguish” over the killings, but on the whole she struggled to appear empathetic enough. Her response was muted and more in the nature of addressing a routine problem. And very unlike that of her coalition partner BJP’s  towards the lathi-charge of the outstation students at NIT Srinagar. And also unexpected of her given her three month refusal to  become CM unless centre announced some Confidence Building Measures for the state.

 But can it be traced to Mehbooba’s failure or to the inevitable outcome of the structure of the state’s polity? It could be both. Perhaps more a structural problem than the undoing of Mehbooba. But some leaders do override the structures. Not so in Valley, though.  

 But how one longs for a brush with this kind of politics in J&K. Except for fewer fleeting interludes, the politics in the state has been predictable, banal, feudalistic and morally compromised, confined to dynasties and the elite sections of the society. Unlike other states of India we haven’t had a Lalu, Mulayam or Mamta. The politics has generally flowed from the readymade leaders to the people who have had little choice but to choose them. It is a safe, careerist choice and its leaders count their success by how many times they could be ministers and chief ministers in their life rather than what they do for their people.

What is more, the new leaders rising from this background have found the arrangement too helpful to change it. Omar Abdullah is a case in point. Beginning his innings with some promise, the junior Abdullah quickly routinized himself, giving up possibilities of leadership to settle snugly into the comforts of the office.

There has so far been nothing to shake up the system. Separatists who had dramatically toppled it in the early nineties have long plotted their escape into irrelevance. The situation has come to a pass where they don’t even make the fringes of the state’s political landscape. They remain doggedly tied to the worldview and the strategies of the late twentieth century while the world has moved on, leaving them far behind.

 

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