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

Junaid sees parallels between today’s Kashmir and Bihar before Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 26, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather – Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai – was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music. He recently became the District President Srinagar of the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Conference, headed by Mr. Sajad Lone.)

Drawing Parallels

Politics is generally the target of scorn and cynicism with an alleged inherent inability to change things for the better. After 15 years of wanton loot and plunder, a devious sense of law and order; Bihar – at times more turbulent and chaotic a State than a conflict zone like J&K, has been turned around by one man, a man who has chosen to take the bull by it’s horns. In Bihar, coalition politics was never an excuse, neither was Naxalism, nor the once feared mafia system. The guiding light of Nitish Kumar’s efforts was a deep-rooted mission to bring about a structural-reform in governance. No surprises then that in his second term, Nitish Kumar has emerged to be a leader of Prime Ministerial stature. His achievements – including the addition of 33,000 kms of roads in Bihar – recently covered by the TIME magazine, the tea-totaller from Bihar says there is no looking back.

J&K has witnessed close to four decades of mis-governance, not just the two decades of turmoil and armed militancy. The convenient escape from accountability 1989 onwards was the political turmoil that engulfed Kashmir, changing it’s very political and social terrain. Yet, the art of mis-governance remained unaltered, thanks to the consistency of disappointment heralded by the traditional ruling families, of ‘democratic’ stockists who chose to pass on or block democracy at whim, eternally at the cost of a common man’s hope and trust.

Winding through the landscape of the popular sentiment that covers the psyche like a dormant moss, successive governments have failed to deliver hope – to present an alternative to violence and disempowerment and have rather chosen to cover their inability to govern with rhetoric and agitation. An NC worker dies, PDP wants the government to be put in it’s lap. Close to 150 young lives are lost, PDP wants to be re-bestowed with power. NC, on the other hand has become an ineffective, handicapped and disconnected regime – true to it’s history of being content with pleasing Delhi and Delhi alone. Kashmiris – their perceptions, their problems, their voice – has never mattered much so long as the powers that be in Delhi are benevolent and happy. The common man can go take a hike. The present government has spent a greater part of it’s term in controversy rebuttal mode. That is when it wasn’t busy dousing the fire of public anarchy, an anarchy that it incentivized by being invisible, by outsourcing politics to the State Police, by having city representatives who are aliens to their own constituencies, only seen hurrying in haste to their offices in cavalcades that whiz past numb, disillusioned minds – minds that have been promised the sky – minds that have been tormented into an invective of silence and cynicism.

So then, “grappling” with militancy or managing to survive the conflict is a shield that has outrun it’s acceptability. The demon of an isolated system of alternating power outsourcings has taken the shape of a dynamic monarchy in Kashmir, at times making the Dogra monarchs look good. Between a top-heavy bureaucracy, a disconnected elected leadership and a policing system that is invested in punitive measures, Kashmiris continue to be robbed of a hope, of change.

There have been no structural reforms in Health Care, Education, Infrastructure and Industry. The overpass on the Srinagar by-pass has been under construction for close to 7 years. The “flyover” near Jehangir Chowk in Srinagar – a one lane road on stilts – is a stark reminder of PDP’s infatuation with mockery. Both parties, both families have – in their respective times in power – doled out government jobs to bring us to a position where our government wage bill far exceeds our domestic productivity. Our industries have been harassed into paralysis as non-performance has been incentivized – as a subtle, informal license raj continues to exist in J&K. Srinagar city, the face of J&K, has been suffocated for lack of planning and phased expansion. Ineffective in evolving solutions, the government has been happy to survive a day at a time, projecting it’s achievements in ribbon cuttings and cultural melas.

Nitish Kumar has done what was once deemed to be impossible – he has turned Bihar around. With a growth rate of close to 12% and growing, Bihar is set to attract greater investment. A crackdown on corruption has come from the highest levels and has not been outsourced to a commission or a department but has become an integral part of how the State is ruled from the Chief Minister’s office. Alas, J&K has not been fortunate enough to see that commitment towards change till now. Leaderless and isolated between seasons of peace and violence, our State continues to be disillusioned – as the paucity of promise and vision is creeping up like rust on the minds of the generation next. But, there is hope – in how Bihar was turned around. If Bihar can come back from the grave, so can Kashmir. We just need a leader who eats, breathes and sleeps ‘Change’.

“Some day, perhaps, will rise the banner of that song; Which now lies low, longing for strong winds to rage” – Faiz