5th August 2019-ten days ahead of 15th August when India won freedom 72 years ago- emerges as yet another landmark day for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, the erstwhile state of Maharaja Hari Singh, which is traversing into the history as two Union Territories in the Domain of India it acceded to in 1947. This Independence Day is quite different in this part of the country on several counts. Everything is changed. While many in Jammu and Ladakh and some in Kashmir are rejoicing over the course correction of history and total integration with India, a section of the population is in a state of trauma– the most predominant among the latter being the Valley based mainstream, a term never defined but ever endeared by visionless politicians in New Delhi for decades. Obviously so, because of the vote bank politics which promoted and sustained political entities comprising National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Peoples Conference and the other lesser grown outfits.
The abrogation of Article 370 and reorganization of the erstwhile state has exploded many myths and put the Kashmir politics in disarray. The so-called mainstream, which practiced, dominated and enjoyed power politics by overtly pretending to be nationalists but kept subscribing to separatist ideology covertly, is in quandary. They have become victims of their own misdoings and misdeeds because they molded themselves to the culture of running with hare and hunting with hounds. They never tried to learn lessons from history. Till the onset of terrorism, Kashmir politics has revolved round Sheikh Abdullah, the towering political entity of the sub-continent. A politician of substance and high acumen, he understood the nuances of politics that is what led to Indira-Sheikh Accord of 1975. A person perceived to have negotiated the accord on his terms and conditions accepted to be a chief minister despite having remained prime minister till his ouster and arrest in 1953. It is not that Sheikh could not have pressed his conditions but he was wise enough to appreciate the realities. He had summed up the situation aptly by observing that ‘needles of clock cannot be reversed’. Sheikh Abdullah’s climb down from his stated stand should have been lesson for political class of Kashmir. The man in the hearts of his people had rechristened Muslim Conference into National Conference because circumstances demanded this at that point of the time. National Conference was converted into Plebiscite Front in 1953 after his arrest and again restored back to its position after the 1975 accord. These ups and downs were based on the experience and changing political scenario in Kashmir.
What went wrong after the Sheikh? The political discourse changed especially after 1990 terrorism. The traditional but defunct political set up was again put in place by New Delhi in 1996 under the newly coined dictum of ‘mainstream’ after a lot of pestering. The placation by the Centre was construed as a weakness by all the political actors in the Valley including the Pradesh Congress which eventually developed the tendencies of deceit and blackmail. This is what led to the situation of scrapping Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories. The Kashmir mainstream tested the patience of the Centre which could no longer take on the blackmail and deception. In a bid to be seen on both sides of the fence, the so-called mainstream transformed into soft separatism. They chided and mocked the nation and national leadership. They dared India as if its existence in the Valley was due to presence of the mainstream. “Remove Article 35A and there will be no Tricolour bearer in Jammu and Kashmir’ became the mantra of all.
Now that the scenario is totally changed, what are the options before the mainstream? Will they reconcile to the changed situation? Will the powerful Chief Ministers like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti get into the frame of Arvind Kejrival in the bifurcated state? Azad has already termed the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as a municipality. Even if they do, will their climb down be acceptable to people of Kashmir, their source of strength, even if it was in single digit percentage.
The changed political scenario has placed the Kashmir mainstream at edge. If they reconcile with the recent measures taken by New Delhi, they will be condemned as power hungry politicians. They have nowhere to go. They can’t afford to even think about reconciliation after the changed nomenclature of Jammu and Kashmir. The circumstances have pushed them to the fence of separatists where they may not even be accepted as second-fiddlers. They are caught in between the devil and the deep sea.
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