The Shape and Form of Politics in Kashmir Post 2016 Protests

The binary and rather oppositional political space in Kashmir between “mainstream” and “separatist” political spectrums is now stark after PDP’s “soft separatism” had eked out some space in the interstices of the two. The final nail in the coffin of “soft separatism” was Burhan Wani’s killing( regardless of the government’s flips and flops on Wani’s killing). The prelude was the PDP’s alliance with the BJP. Whether “soft separatism” was a bogey and a canard meant to befuddle the masses need not detain us here; the concept and idea is dead now. Given this what will be the shape and form of politics in Kashmir now?
Protests 2016 and their denouement offer a clue. Effectively and practically speaking, young boys have taken over Kashmir; they are the ones who are commandeering the public spaces of Kashmir and are enforcing their writ. Yes: the Hurriyat is and continues to be a significant player but the younger cohort of Kashmir is also gyrating and moving to its own rhythm and momentum. This younger cohort brooks no compromise and veers to maximalist ideas regarding Kashmir. And no, this does not stem either from radicalism or what have you; it stems from or its source is the truculence of powers that be in Kashmir and their default reflex regarding the conflict in and over Kashmir: management and containment of the conflict instead of genuine and sober resolution of the conflict.
This younger of cohort of Kashmir is aspirational and clued into the world as well. They are the tech savvy and educated cohort of Kashmir. The structuring context of this cohort is the conflict in Kashmir and is bound by and to the conflict. The paradigms that form the super and sub structure of their consciousness are determined by the conflict in Kashmir and the state’s strategy and approach renders their consciousness more acute and poignant. Consider Burhan alive. Burhan had, in life, accumulated folklore and legend about him; he was the role model of sorts if not actually but certainly vicariously for most of Kashmir’s young cohort. His killing brought what was in the subconscious of young Kashmiris to the fore and the conditions that obtain in Kashmir contemporarily are a reflection of this.
What, the question may be asked, does this have to do with Kashmir’s politics?
The baton of the conflict in and over Kashmir has been effectively transferred to Kashmir’s Gen Next. Burhan’s killing was the lightning rod that crystallized this putative trend and development into a reality. Yes: this generation will have to deal with prosaic , bread and butter issues of life but given the state’s default reflex, it would appear that this generation’s reflex will not be dimmed and the conflict in and over Kashmir will once again acquire trans and intergenerational connotations. This, discounting the politics of patronage the defines the “ main stream politics” means deeper and more acute estrangement and veering towards maximalism. The inference that can be drawn here is that unless and until a paradigm shift occurs in the mainstream spectrum, the space for this politics will shrink further. Moreover, if there is no forward movement between India and Pakistan or relations deteriorate further, and if this leads to more obstructionism re the resolution of the conflict, the younger cohort of Kashmir might take recourse to extra political means to alter the reality that obtains in Kashmir. What this will lead to cannot be foretold with any certainty. The conditions that obtain in Kashmir need prudent statecraft and politics to be directed towards a paradigm that leads to the benefits and interests of all stakeholders-including India and Pakistan. Will this paradigm be forthcoming? Given the drift of politics in India where a far right dispensation which has not done too well on the governance front and whose core constituents are animated structurally by maximalist and zero sum solutions , the drift of Pakistan’s politics and the reflexive denunciation of non zero sum solutions by Kashmir’s Gen next, this does not look likely. Impasse will then define the politics of Kashmir and the conditions that obtain here till what may be called a breaking point is reached.

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