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

Zahid Muhammad makes light of the mockery that conveniently passes off as a Kashmiri politician

(Mr. Z. G. Mohammad, 59, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master’s degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

Of Puppet shows called Cabinets

Z.G. MUHAMMAD

Newspapers tell me, the state has a council of ministers. It has a cabinet. It has a Chief Minister. It has a Deputy Chief Minister. Many times I feel it is a magic realism that our broad sheets talk about – yes I believe it is magic realism where illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even “normal” setting. Many times, I believe it was about some imaginary world about which ‘Shah of Blah’ talked about to his son ‘Harun’. Honestly, many ministers are like “Water Genie” to me that Harun had never seen.

I do not know if it is my ignorance that despite being in print media, I do not know names of majority of the ministers. Or it has been deliberate effort on my part not to burden my memory cells with unnecessary information about people of no consequences or value and leave space inside cranium for retaining something valuable and of some worth. I might not have seen even pictures of majority of ministers, so can be true about ninety nine percent population of Kashmir.
Other than Chief Minister whose pictures often hog the headlines or for his being my contemporary in the campus who was distinct for his demeanor and had friends in the arts block, it is only a few ministers – those who like wasps have been flitting from party to party in search of nectar for past thirty years whose faces are a bit familiar to me.

The question that haunts my mind is why I and millions others in the state do not know or remember names or faces of the Cabinet Minister, why the council of ministers is not of any importance and relevance to us- the common people. It may be a subject for scholars in universities both within and outside the state engaged in preparing briefs for New Delhi about Kashmir situation to identify why the cabinet and council of ministers are of no relevance to the common people in the state. It may be a good subject for institutes like Centre for Policy Research to conduct studies, if the state cabinet or the council of ministers is of any consequences to common people in the state. Without getting embroiled in academic jargons, trite and hackneyed phrases that many of my scholars in the Universities are obsessed with, I believe that it is lack of credibility of the government that makes the cabinet and council of ministers of no consequences to the masses. The people are not bothered who lives in huge bungalows behind concrete and sandbagged bunkers, who moves in tinted window cars amidst armored cars and who sit in revolving “musical” chairs in the grey building that for its architecture also looks alien to surroundings.

It is true, I have not often but more than often looking at the state cabinet as puppet show with some one outside playing at the strings. And whenever some one tried to snatch those strings and play on them on his own he was shown the door. It was not only Sheikh Abdullah who for trying to be “puppet show master” himself, was not shown the door but incarcerated for eleven years for nursing the feeling of being a master of his own shown but even trusted Ghulam Muhammad Bakshi was thrown in the dustbin of history like a useless cog once he denied signing on the dotted line for changing nomenclature of from Prime Minister to Chief Minister. G.M. Sadiq survived as Chief Minister till he breathed his last because he signed on every dotted line to erode state’s autonomy, weaken the state constitution and integrate the state more intimately with Indian union. It has been perhaps for these ‘puppet shows’ that have taken a permanent niche in my consciousness that I and millions others in the state do not believe that the council of ministers and cabinets were of any consequences to the people.

Honestly, it has been the transfer of eight hundred Kanals of precious forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and debate it generated in the state that reminded me that the state has cabinet and a council of ministers that can decide on such issues that have the potential of snowballing into a major political crisis in the state. And can give birth to movements like the 1965- civil disobedience movement or intifada of Palestinians. It was decision that makes me believe that it has the potential of creating a spark that can set everything around ablaze.

I do not who are these Muzzafar Hussain Baigs and Qazi Muhmmad Afzals – what is their background, who brought them in politics and how they catapulted to such positions where they can take decide about future of the state people. It were there statements that made me think about them and there politics—for — peanuts.

Let me quote the statements of these “ministers” to understand the psyche, behaviour and duplicity of these proverbial “pack of nodding goats”.

On June 13, 2008, Qazi Afazal belonging to party that has been orchestrating demilitarization of the state and pleading for introduction of duel currency talking to Jammu newspaper said: “the decision of transferring 39.88 hectares of forest land to SASB at Baltal falling under Block Kukllan of the Sindh Forest Division was a well thought of decision and had been taken after considering all related issues” “An un-necessary controversy has been created from the issue and some elements are indulging in politicking while trying to undermine the facts to suit them. Efforts are being made to politicize the decision intentionally without actually understanding it”

“ SASB is fulfilling all the conditions laid down for the transfer of land at Baltal, which inter-alia include payment of Rs 2.31 crores. Besides, the Board had also agreed in principle to pay Rs 19.94 lakh on account of compensatory Afforestation to be carried over 79 hectares of land”.

Muzzafar Hussain Baig said on Sunday 15 June 2008 to a local news agency at Srinagar: “PDP was blackmailed by Congress forcing it to enter into a “give and take agreement” with which the Congress allowed completion of work on the Mughal Road and the PDP transferred the land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.” “Congress ministers Gulchain Singh Charak and Mangat Ram Sharma insisted that land be transferred to SASB if PDP wants work on the Mughal Road to continue.” “we finally agreed to Congress’ decision to allot land to SASB”

On Monday 18 June 2008, he said at a meeting with Mr. A.K. Antony India’s Defence Minister, “The issue of transfer of land to SASB had taken a critical shape with hitherto divided Hurriyat preparing for unity that can send wrong signal.. There was need for countering propaganda” On Thursday 19 June 2008 he said: “The property status of the forest land shall remain unchanged and forest land so diverted shall be utilized only for the purpose for which it has been diverted.”

If one looks at these statements- without reading them between the lines they expose the politics of duplicity- that is being trumpeted by the party these ministers belong to. Duplicity is not politics- as many whose mentor has been Maulana Masoodi believed it is a willful deceit. It is a double edged weapon that is certain to cut the wielder- and cut him badly.

Whether the SASB spark “rejuvenates” the movement as believed by many observers of Kashmir or not, but it is certain to take toll of the politics that was born out of New Delhi urge for changing face of Kashmir politics- as it believed that that the face of the ‘1996 beloved’ had become uglier and repugnant with lots of pox marks on her face.