At a time when J&K is in the throes of a public distress over the apprehended repeal of the article 35A, mainstream parties are more or less content with a rhetorical support to the sentiment on the ground. None of them has held a major protest attended by their top leaders, let alone a major public rally against the possible move. True, National Conference and the PDP took out low profile political rallies and the NC even filed an intervention plea in the Supreme Court seeking to be included as respondents in the petition challenging Article 35-A of Constitution of India. But the top leaders of the two parties have balked at making it an urgent political issue, restricting themselves to tweeting and making statements. The truth is that their response has been disproportionately smaller and muted than what was expected of them. The looming threat to Article 35A is no small issue, it has existential dimensions for the state and the consequences of its revocation are profoundly fraught and permanent.
This inaction on the part of the political mainstream renders them peripheral to the public discourse in the state and further undermines their representative status within the state, especially in Kashmir. The point is it who represents Kashmirs urges, aspirations, anxieties, paranoias, sensitivities, etc between the absolute separatism and the elementary governance. Who represents Kashmirs many political and social faultlines? Nobody. If discrimination can be an issue articulated by the mainstream parties in Jammu and Ladakh, why cant article 35A be an issue in Kashmir for local establishment parties? More so, when it is an issue that deeply concerns the majority population in the state.
The issue is not to create regional or communal polarization but to reflect and give voice to a sense of political and social siege felt by the people and that could simmer and blow up into a violent outpouring if left unattended and unacknowledged. And at the end of the day, isnt this what politics is all about; not about providing roads and employment – that is what even bureaucrats can do- but representing, responding and articulating the people who have issues of survival, identity, and empowerment. Need for such a politics becomes even more urgent in a long-standing place of conflict like Kashmir, mopping the fallout of thousands of deaths and the oppression. What we have is just a pretend politics and a hollow democratic space that makes a lot of noise but is hollow at the core. Times now are changing. The new generation is not ready to settle for just rhetoric but wants a more demonstrative articulation of the public sentiment and aspirations from their leaders. And for the mainstream parties to survive and remain relevant to this new Kashmir, it is important that they provide such articulation.
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