Saturday, January 25, 2020

Shah Faesal: Alternative or Addition

After Shah Faesal’s defiance to the central government in the form of resignation from elite IAS and signalling his entry into the murky political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir, is he an alternative or addition is a million dollar question?

The politics of Jammu and Kashmir, a state torn into parts, is very tumultuous, tempestuous and in fact peculiar. The larger influence of external factor in the politics, security and public opinion of the state is unprecedented where Pakistan controls and calibrates the militancy in Kashmir and Hurriyat politics to propagate ‘Pakistan sentiment’ in the state. On the other hand, the ‘Deep Indian State’ is doing butchery of the ‘popular will’ expressed through rigged ‘electoral politics’ with meagre 2 or 3% voting. Remaining neutral between these two powerful elephants is anaemic for the existence of a body politik.  Amidst such a bickering political landscape leaving all the grave issues to the backburner, the entry of Shah Faesal after its brief stay at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has raised both aspirations as well apprehensions among the local population, States of Indian and Pakistan.

No Framework for dealing Kashmir

Faesal calls himself a ‘man of system’ and hence more oriented towards governance, resolving the political stalemate over Kashmir, stopping the unabated killings, respectable return of Kashmiri Pandits and the creation of suffocation free environment where mainstream and separatists can co-exist. However, his idealism has led to his confusion as Faesal must know that the government of India has never been sincere towards Kashmir since 1947. There has been no ‘Comprehensive Kashmir Policy’ comprising the ‘Kashmir policy’ dealing with the Kashmir or insider elements and ‘Pakistan Policy’ dealing with the Pakistan or outsider elements from the government of India. The security apparatus is given a free-hand in handling the security-related issues in the state and immunity from increased human rights violations.

The increased hyper-nationalism and insensitive statements from leaders from mainland India and media debates have alienated and radicalised younger Kashmir where its dignity is perforated by labelling ‘anti-national’ and ‘Pakistani’. This Indian statist arrogance of not conceding the demands of Kashmiris or body politik and continued bragging the historical narrative of ‘Integral part’ that even after continuous clogging and confining of separatists has not been successful in muzzling the voices from martyred, injured, and disappeared, where even the graves bear the love for ‘azadi’. The political vocabulary like ‘azadi’, ‘self-determination’, ‘referendum’, ‘freedom’, etc. was demonized. The ‘popular support’ for the mainstream body politik being on thinning edge and the ‘azadi’ sentiments reverberating in the funerals and encounter sites have exposed the Statist mischief in Kashmir to the world community.

Under such paradoxes, how Faesal is convinced that the existing Indian system has the strength to solve the problems that Jammu and Kashmir faces? Is Faesal being projected as a saviour for Kashmir with the veiled Statist sinister plans of getting increased political participation in the upcoming elections?  How Faesal is viewing that in the contrasting ideologue and secessionist tendencies, separatists can be integrated in this existing Indian system where suffocation in political ideas and actions are graver? ‘Autonomy’ of National Conference, ‘Self-Rule’ of People’s Democratic Party, and ‘Achievable Nationhood’ of People’s Conference were the ‘System’ solutions and were all together rejected by the Government of India. So from this system shoot, Faesal seems to be a ‘confused-ideal’ addition rather than a ‘pragmatic alternative’.

Alternate Front

Will Faesal go with his former boss and mentor, Omar Abdullah per the script or go with the sweeping public opinion of ‘alternate politics’? PDP after its unnatural alliance with BJP and its premature fall-out has spiked popular wrath and internal-revolt in the party. Under simmering discontent against PDP, the rival NC seems gaining an edge in the upcoming polls, however, people don’t seem to have forgotten the historical misdeeds and misadventures of the Abdullah dynasty. Amidst such favourable situational factors, an alternate political front led by enlightened, visionary and charismatic personality like Faesal is also politically viable that could have the similar results of the likes of Imran Khan in Pakistan and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi even if it takes five or ten years down the line. The fears of fracturing the mandate could be taken care of by emerging as a secular state-wide party representative of all the regions with members having highest levels of integrity.

Different historiography of the three regions of the state, to a large extent, has remained a deterrent in the integration of Jammu and Kashmir. The unnatural demands like making Ladakh a UT, separate state for Jammu division, Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir, etc. have been the offshoots of the ongoing political conflagrations and aspirations. The political spectrum has been encashing these factors for their political mileage. The emergence of a non-divisive political front propagating an ‘integrated and inclusive’ vision for all the three regions of the state with its drivers being the enlightened youth is the need of the hour. Amidst the existing political milieu, Shah Faesal can evolve as an ‘alternate’ rather a mere ‘addition’ if he chooses to work for the entire state than restricting it to the Kashmir region.

Marginalisation in the state has been a slippery phenomenon. The victims of conflict like Kashmiri Pandits (KPs), rape-victims, families of forced disappeared persons, etc. have emerged as new marginalised groups in the state apart from the legally held marginalised groups. The case study of marginalisation in Kashmir is the manifestation that wars render entire societies marginalised. Ironically, the state and the central governments do run welfare schemes for KPs but no such schemes for the welfare of rape-victims, families of disappeared persons, etc. Affirmative action for the group who left the battle field and none for the group who have been fighting with militants and Indian security forces equally and taking bullets – both Pakistanis and Indians on their bodies is paradoxical itself and an off-shoot of the historical Indian rhetoric that every Kashmiri is a traitor and Pakistani thereby perforating its own ‘integral part’ narrative. When the existing political ideologues have not worked for the peaceful rehabilitation of KPs and ‘new marginalised’ groups how joining such establishments will change them and working for the cause is in itself paradox. Opening a new front and giving all racial, religious and marginalized groups an equal space to compete for the political power can help Faesal to emerge as an ‘alternate’ rather than a mere addition to the existing ideologue or structures.

The pitfalls of the structural lacunas in the existing system in the state like unemployment, alienation and radicalization in youth, corruption, nepotism, prolonged Kashmir conflict, etc. require the ‘system’ solutions. The wisdom does not lie in rejecting the traditional super-structure of the system and adopting radical and revolutionary steps but in ‘scientific reform’ to solve them. The setting of permanent structures for involving all the stakeholders in resolving the decades old K-issue politically not only needs political will but an exuberant personality of the likes of Shah Faesal.  Corruption, nepotism and unemployment that have plagued the state are graver issues than militancy. It is a cancer that is killing both the state and the people silently.  World is witness that fights against corruption have led to regime changes in different parts of the world. The emergence of Imran khan to power in Pakistan is an emphatic triumph of fight against corruption. For solving these problems, Shah Faesal can also choose to be an ‘alternate’ by floating separate political party with comrades of highest levels of integrity, honesty and ethics instead of resorting to an ‘addition’ by making small structural changes here and there in the existing parties which are the collaborators in the corruption menace.

Every age develops an organisation appropriate to its genus. It is high time that Shah Faesal should set up that new and vibrant organisation to solve the peculiar problems of the state. If he decides to choose to be an ‘alternate’ than mere ‘addition’ it will not be a distant dream of seeing ‘Naya J&K’ in full swing. No doubt he can become the CM of the state in future if he chooses ‘addition’ but that will only be a replica of Sheikh Abdullah or Mufti Sayed with lies, deceits, deception and blood in his hand. It is the call for Shah Faesal to make it big by choosing to be an ‘alternative’ than mere ‘addition’.

(Hamid Rather is author and journalist. The views expressed are personal.)

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