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

Bukhari on the media circus that is a way of life among politicians of all shades in Kashmir

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Drawbacks of Hate Politics in Kashmir

Politics is art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.

But in case of Kashmir politics is more than this. Decades of fight between the political parties in this troubled part has now clearly shown that here the politics is purely based on hate rather than the principles. It dates back to freedom struggle, which began in early last century. Politics in Jammu and Kashmir has been devoid of tolerance and mutual accommodation.

We need not to go deeper into the way the politics has shaped in the place where the political beliefs are more divergent than any other part of sub continent. Here the politics encompasses all the sentiments—pro-India, pro-Pakistan, pro-Independent, pro-Kashmir, pro-Ladakh, pro Jammu and above all pro religion.

But the discourse of this hate politics reached a crescendo in the ongoing session of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly when senior People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig dropped a “bombshell” in a bid to demolish Omar Abdullah, who has the distinction of being youngest Chief Minister in India. Baig’s salvo came to everybody’s surprise and while nagging through the blood stained Bomai, Baramulla, Kupwara and Shopian invoked the ghost of 2006 infamous sex scandal and the dumbness seen in the house for few seconds conveyed everything in that context.

In 2006 the mainstream politics had surely fallen from grace and linking that to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at this juncture was nothing but the hate with which the politicians take on each other. Beig did mention that the document which he quoted was part of the proceedings of the High Court and that a Judge had ruled that investigations were left halfway as for as the list of suspects was concerned. But the timing of the “bombshell” is still not explained and its connection with the seven-month-old coalition government is yet to be established.

From the day one of assembly proceedings it looked that two main parties in state, NC which is heading ruling coalition and the PDP which is the leading opposition were well prepared to outwit each other. In that entire game the role of Speaker cannot be ignored. On the day one when PDP was thrown out with contempt without allowing them to even stand on their seats conveyed a message that coalition had made up its mind to shut their mouths. PDP president Mahbooba Mufti too crossed the limits by wrenching Speaker’s mike. May be her outburst on what she called “Speaker’s biased approach” was genuine but the path she chose was not right and that demolished the ethics in politics. On the second “fateful day” when Omar came under direct and scathing attack on his person, the sling match between Speaker and PDP members brought to the fore the shocking aspect of mainstream politics in the state. Speaker’s engagement with opposition members was laden with choicest invectives flashed through national TV networks as well. His failure to control the house when he had earned admiration as Deputy Speaker in the previous assembly is quite intriguing. While the veteran politician Abdul Ahad Vakil had set the high standards of conduct in the assembly, Tara Chand (now the Deputy Chief Minister) had gone beyond layman’s imagination while steering through even the toughest days of proceedings. Except for ouster of Shariefuddin Shariq for his “unparliamentarily” behavior, Tara Chand always managed the house that too with strongest opposition – 28 members from National Conference.

Apart from the hate on which politics is based in our state, the sense that the opposition was permanently being pushed to the wall by the government, perhaps provoked them to target the leader of the house and may be by their calculations wanted to settle down the issue forever. However the Governor, the Union Home ministry, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rallied behind Omar to defeat Beig’s design. Beig is now under attack with privilege motion that is still pending. Also there were “six questions” framed by NC to “demolish his character” are making rounds. The opposition has every right to counter the opposition attack but the way questions have been framed bespeak the sagging standards of democratic battle in Kashmir’s fast paling mainstream politics.

The Chief Minister is surely back with the certificate from CBI and Governor but the future course of politics in Jammu and Kashmir will certainly not rest on these issues. Bickering and animosity between two main rivals in Kashmir valley will further deepen and hate may touch a new high. This will only result in loss to public as the parties will not allow each other to work and the sling matches witnessed in the assembly may continue. Unfortunately in this din the more important issue of human rights violations, withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act has taken a backseat so has the development, which will be now measured on the basis of this hate politics.

Government of India at this stage is not going to oblige the PDP by conceding the demand of judicial probe into the scandal, which for them has since been closed in 2007 and further sealed with the latest episode.

It is time for both the parties to leave such issues to get settled in the due course of law and lay foundation for new political accommodation in the state without attaching persons to politics and work towards development, which is the only immediate task the mainstream parties can fulfill in the troubled state. The assembly to which the MLA’s were elected is the forum for settling people’s day-to-day problems and the larger issues should be left to the larger platforms.

Abusing the assembly does not behoove the politicians, who are, of course, elected by the people, but are hated too exactly on the lines they hate each other. Common man has a plain prescription for the politicians: Accommodate each others’ viewpoint and don’t indulge in hate politics. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was right in his first remark after he resumed as CM; “If we continue fighting with each other no body will vote for us after six years.”