This doesn’t happen in a democracy

At a meeting with the businessmen, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has  made some startling remarks about the situation in Kashmir and also about the people. According to reports she has squarely blamed people for the troubled state of affairs.  “First, we protest then we come with a bowl asking for money,” she was quoted to have said at a meeting. Also that “Kashmiri people beat their chests for months and then demand waivers and incentives for the losses”. It is very difficult to reconcile with the fact that these remarks have been made by an elected chief minister, one who directly owes his position and power to the very people she demeans.

First of all, her statements are not true.  The situation in Kashmir is far more complex and tragic that her statement appears heartless if not out and out provocative. But the truth or otherwise of her observations is beside the point. The CM’s fulminations indicate something more embarrassing about the Valley. And it has to do with the way democracy operates in the state. On the face of it, one can’t but feel shocked. How could a politician denigrate the very people who made her what she is? The everyday operation of politics will never allow it. But this is what Kashmiri politicians have always done and gotten away with. And it is not surprising. Our leaders have issued such reckless statements which would be seen as career destroying by any other politician.  One needs only to recall the Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s otherwise legitimate “Maut ka Saudagar” remark for Narendra Modi in 2009 Gujarat Assembly polls to understand what an unthinking political statement could do. Sonia’s statement helped further reinforce the groundswell for Modi who went on to win the election, his second then.

 But this is not how democracy operates in Valley. Here a politician not only gets away with statements which demean their own people but also with massive corruption practices. And if this underlines anything it is that there is something seriously amiss in the democracy as it is practised in Kashmir.  People not in good standing of a majority of people go on to perpetually rule the state, prospering and staying tiresomely on the scene even when people are desperate for change. But despite this Kashmiri politicians stick around, a fact that can be traced less to their popularity in the state and more to the flawed operation of the democracy.  A democracy where there are vast swathes of sentiment and the aspirations that are not represented within the ambit of democratic structures.  And a democracy where politicians see New Delhi rather than the people of the state as a fountainhead of their power. This emboldens politicians to not only  speak against their people but also get away with it. One more thing: when Hurriyat rubbished Mehbooba for her statements, the CM didn’t care to deny them or say she was quoted out of context, let alone apologise for them. If Kashmir were a truly functional democracy, no politician would dare speak against those he or she depends on for his election.











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