The Gupkar Declaration of the ‘alliance’ formed by Kashmir’s regional parties, on the face of it, represents a legitimate political campaign for restoration of J&K’s special status, etc. It is claimed that this objective will be pursued in a peaceful and constitutional manner. Farooq Abdullah’s hope that China would prove an ally in the cause has been sought to be explained away by those among his party who hope to have a longer stint in politics than him. The leaders of this alliance are in denial of their own role in bringing J&K to its present pass. Their personal venality over the years has ensured that, despite its many advantages and the support provided by the Centre, the state has lagged behind on many developmental parameters. After a point, the common people have been denied the opportunity to better their lives.
It would be natural, therefore, to assume that the people are unlikely to place their trust in this combination of forces. They will have also come to realise the nation’s mood on this subject and, under the present difficult circumstances, would not be inclined to make the effort to bring the Abdullahs or the Muftis to the helm of affairs, again. While the traditional politicians fight over the posts in the emerging alliance, the radical forces – such as the communists and separatists – will slowly bring their agenda into the movement. Even as the glamorisation of the Pak-backed terrorists has faded considerably, there are enough youths awaiting more seductive indoctrination. While, earlier, it was the hope that Pakistan would help them out, this rests now on China.
The Congress is, naturally, unsure of what stand to take. Any dalliance with the cause would be exploited by the BJP in the rest of the country. However, lack of participation could lead to loss of its support base in the valley. It is likely that part of the alliance strategy would be a boycott of the elections when they are held – would Congress be part of that? In fact, over time, two other factors will likely come into play – the PDP and the National Conference poaching on each other’s political space and, in the event of a vigorous agitation, the emergence of new, younger and more charismatic leaders. Would the political monopolists be happy with that? And, in the end, for Mehbooba and the Abdullahs, there is always the prospect of being locked up again if they become too much of a nuisance. As in so many other parts of India, about time the Kashmiris dump the self-serving political dynasties that have become more an encumbrance than an asset.