NOTWITHSTANDING the silence of the Election Commission of India on holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir, there are desperate attempts to revive the political culture of manipulations and machinations in the Kashmir Valley. As is apparent, this kind of politics serves the interests of those who seek votes from the ones who are not in the mainstream and vice versa.
It has been a travesty with the Kashmir politics that the segment of the society that has stayed away from the electoral participation is the one which had been calling the shots in determining who shall be voted to power and who shall not be. This section, popularly referred to as the separatist camp, has played a pivotal role in making and breaking the governments in Jammu and Kashmir for about 30 years now. The strangest thing which has happened is that the separatists, on the premise of boycott of elections, would actually decide who would rule Jammu and Kashmir. Jamaat-e-Islami, Liberation Front, Awami Action Committee of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and factions of the Shia Community owing allegiance to Aga Syed Hasan Mosavi and Maulana Abbas Ansari would actually decide and determine which way the wind would blow.
There were two dimensions behind them holding the key to the electoral success of candidates and parties. One: the boycott of the electoral process itself meant covert or tacit support to one or the other mainstream political party seeking the vote to govern. For instance, the low voter turnout in South Kashmir would automatically give an edge to Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party. Jamaat-e-Islami and its ideological cousins would ensure that a majority of the people stay away from the elections so that only committed voters of the PDP could come out to cast their votes. This strategy worked for both, for near about two decades. It was a given that militants would target the civilians in the pockets where they feared the political opponents of the PDP had an edge. On the other hand, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik of the Liberation Front would extend their tacit support to the National Conference. Because both enjoyed some kind of support in some pockets of the Srinagar city, Mirwaiz and Yasin would do everything covertly to see that the NC is voted to power. Aga Hasan and Abas Ansari would decide the fate of candidates (not essentially parties) in areas where they had the support base.
Their support to one or the other political formation had, in fact, an impact on the decision-making of the government. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the separatists, particularly Jamaat-e-Islami and the Awami Action Committee, would influence the government in many ways. As said, it has been the biggest tragedy of the Kashmir politics that those who never voted, rather killed people for ‘the crime’ of participating in elections, would indirectly rule the State and had a bargaining power.
However, after the events of 2019, there was this impression that the separatist organisations were no more relevant and the era of machinations had come to an end.
But, sadly, Kashmir politics is as filthy as the present waters of the Dal Lake. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow. The famous quote – ‘In politics, bulls chase lizards and rats marry snakes’ – fits in here. There are efforts to revive the same old political culture.
There are rumours that Jamaat-e-Islami is holding secret talks with New Delhi. Well, in principle one should not be averse to any such efforts aimed at bringing the Jamaat into the mainstream. Rather it should be hailed and appreciated. But is the Jamaat really and genuinely willing to come into the mainstream? I am afraid it is not. Then what? Tactical retreat is the most propounded theory Jamaat-e-Islami has applied over the years. And those who deal with them are taken for a ride by Jamaat ever and always. Jamaat, or for that matter, any other separatist organisation should be encouraged to directly participate in the elections. If they don’t do that, which I am sure they won’t, they should not be allowed to exploit the situation to their advantage. It would only be for a self goal if those dealing with Jamaat or who would deal with it in the future, were to give them a leverage without committing them to participate in the elections. We have a very bitter experience about how they manipulated situations in the past.
They had leveraged this fully in the past and will do the same thing this time if there is some element of truth in the rumours about secret talks. The PDP, Apni Party, People’s Conference and also the National Conference are supporting and reaching out to the separatists; but none of these parties would like to see them (the separatists) entering the electoral politics. Their interests would be safeguarded only if the separatists’ organisations were to support them tacitly. Nobody would like to see them as their competitors in the elections as and when held. And separatists too would prefer not to try their luck and it would be disastrous for them if they did. Their drubbing is sure. Hence, they would love to enjoy the power without facing the public and this is what they have been doing for three decades now. There is no converging point. Both mainstream and separatists try to stay relevant in the time-tested format of politics.
Reports about Apni Party leader Syed Altaf Bukhari’s meeting with senior separatist leaders Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Aga Syed Hasan Mosavi need to be analysed in the given context. The only issue is with the timing. It should have happened much earlier, if at all the intention is to facilitate a dialogue between the moderate separatists and the government in New Delhi. It is anybody’s guess that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir could be held later this year or early next year. One could only wish that good sense prevails upon the separatists and they agree to join the mainstream on whatever assurances from the Centre. But it would be foolish if we were to expect them to jump into the electoral dangle.
I have not even an iota of doubt that the separatist political groups have mastered the art of taking New Delhi for a ride. We have been observing it since 2001 that particularly the separatist groups, individuals and organisations befool the interlocutors. Also, separatists have mastered the art of keeping New Delhi guessing. They won’t reject your offer; they won’t accept it. This is something which they are best at. But at the same time, they play their cards well. To safeguard their interests, separatists would always give tacit support to one or the other political party for returns.
This is undoubtedly a marriage of convenience. For the outer world, they don’t have faith in the democratic system of the country. For the interlocutors in New Delhi, the separatists are amenable to the extent of supporting one or the other mainstream party at its behest. For the local audience, participation in elections under oath to the Indian Constitution is a betrayal. They had been playing their cards very smartly and they alone are the beneficiaries in either case.
There are certain indicators that the culture of proxy candidates introduced by my friend Sajad Gani Lone is now going to be replicated by Jamaat-e-Islami. However, Sajad unfortunately was betrayed by the proxies, right from late Sofi Ghulam Mohiuddin to Er. Rashid who is languishing in Tihar Jail currently, on charges of money laundering. That, however, won’t be the case with the proxies of Jamaat-e-Islami. It is almost decided that Jamaat would field their proxies in the Panchayat elections.
On the other hand, the attempts to revive the Hurriyat Conference at a time when mainstream political leaders are desperately seeking elections, is something very fishy. Around 30 people mostly former militant commanders and members of proscribed organisations, assembled in a local hotel a few days back.
According to the police, it was an attempt to revive the Hurriyat Conference. The question is – how could a group of people of anti-India credentials, converge at a hotel for a meeting in an absolutely normal style? This is open to interpretations. Some suggest that one section in the establishment was aware; rather, that section had given its nod to such a convergence. According to them, the Jammu and Kashmir police however, had no clue about it and acted swiftly when they got information about it. Whatever the truth, reaching out to the separatists with an eye on the elections, needs to be analysed in proper context.