“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Rouf argues that no amount of sacrifice by public can overcome the mitigating influence of poor leadership qualities among Kashmiri politicians

(Mr. Rouf Rasool, 39, was born in Srinagar (Amirakadal area). He has a Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir, Diploma in Educational Television (ETV) with EMRC University of Pune and FTII Pune, and another Master’s degree in International Peace Studies from the Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA. He is one of the founding members of the ‘Kashmir Images’, where he has worked since its publication, and is currently its Editor. Mr. Rasool was previously associated with the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) Kashmir, where he helped set up the Centre for International Peace and Conflict Studies (CIPACS), and lead it for a period. A man deeply committed to his family, Rouf uses his leisure time to do household chores and enjoy reading.)

Don’t Blame People?

History has it that for any peoples’ movement to be successful the protagonists must have clarity of objectives. There must be required discipline and leadership; and the leadership itself must know the importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative as well as the need for tactical actions to support strategic objectives.

A cursory look on the world history has ample evidence suggesting that in most of the situations it is the lack of foresight and political wisdom on part of leadership that has proved detrimental to realizing the optimum potential of ‘people’s power. And certainly the history of Kashmir is no exception. We have seen incoherent leadership failing miserably in channelizing public sentiment to bring about any positive change. One of the primary causes of this shortcoming has been its lack of political acumen and vision, which has, in turn, blinded it to thinking about and identifying the strategic objectives clearly. Not to talk of seizing and maintaining the initiative, those at the helm of affairs in the both mainstream as well as the separatist camps have been overly reactive, and unfortunately the common people on the roads too have proved no different.

Despite having been catapulted into leadership roles by the waves of public anger and resentment, the separatists have repeatedly failed to mobilize the power potential of popular sentiment. By relying on a narrow range of methods, like calling for frequent shutdowns and strikes for instance, they have not only blunted the tactical advantages of these methods but have also brought about a heavy burden of political and economic misery to rag and harass the people. As for the mainstream leaders, they too have never really bothered to look beyond their immediate needs and interests, which have been better served by keeping New Delhi in good humour, even when it came at the cost of losing goodwill of their own people.

Making the matters worse is that the Kashmiri leaders of both separatist as well as mainstream camps are too arrogant to accept their failures and learn from mistakes. Instead, breathing in airs of self-satisfaction and self-praise complicated further by their love for proximity of sycophants, these leaders have serially squandered each and every opportunity situational turbulences otherwise provided them to base their politics on. Today when people of Kashmir, who have all along supported these leaders and their disjointed political programs, are daring to come out to agitate for change in status quo, mainstream political leadership is letting loose the state law and order machinery over them while the separatists too are desperately trying to find their relevance.

It is actually the leaders who have failed in defining the contours of politics here. But to escape blame, they are slamming it on the common people. If the separatist leaders have narrowly defined the political discourse in Kashmir so that it has left no room for the ordinary mortals to crave for and maneuver their opinion to ensure tactical bargaining until the over-arching goal of ‘Azadi’ is reached, these leaders have no one but themselves to blame for it. Same holds true for the mainstream leaders as well. They have squarely failed to take care of people’s basic needs. Why should guns and batons be trained on people whenever they take to streets demanding their rights, their right to live with honour and dignity? Instead of trying to manufacture culpability of common people for their own failures, Kashmiri leaders must confess their inadequacies and try and put their act together so that the trail of their malfunctioning starts to show some beginning of ending for good.