Hari Jaisingh
Opinion

A complex task ahead in J & K for Governor Malik

Whither Jammu and Kashmir? This is an evergreen question for any political analyst of the State, the answer to which hardly goes by a logical assessment of the complexities of events and non-events in the Valley. Governor Satyapal Malik, who took charge of J & K two months after the state was placed under Governor’s rule following the collapse of the PDP-BJP government, is a seasoned politician. He has already started talking like a smart politician, stating that “my job is to make space for talks”.

But, how? This is not an easy task, if one is not sure of the roadmap ahead for talks. Over the years, the Centre has mainly been holding talks with selective political groups in the State on “autonomy” and related matters without broadening its agenda among the people. The new Governor has at least hinted that he would reach out to the younger lot of Kashmiris to know their minds. I consider this to be a positive development. However, the problem here is a big trust deficit at all levels of governance vis-à-vis large sections of people.

In an interview with Naveed Iqbal of Indian Express, Satyapal Malik candidly stated the other day that “my mandate from the Prime Minister is to that there has to be no politics, but outreach… and address their (people’s) issues”. This is, of course, saying a lot.

My point is: how can the Governor outreach the people who flaunt different shades of politics of various vested interests both within and from across the border, without playing counter political cards.

There are obvious wheels within wheels in the politics of the Valley and one can hardly be sure which wheel is operating at whose behest, for what purpose and for whose benefits. This is also true of the state’s mainstream parties of the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDP). In this situation, whether one personally likes him or not, India’s best bet is still Farooq Abdullah and his team!

The Governor gives the impression that he is talking in the air with a bit of philosophical touch. He says, “We have to kill militancy, not militants….make militancy useless in people’s eyes”. Satyapal Malik’s are surely well-intentioned thoughts, but he has first come to the grip of the wayward nature of Kashmiri politics. He is certainly right in claiming that “India’s mistakes alienated J & K”. True. But can we reverse the process of history in Kashmir at one go. Certainly not. This is a very long and tedious process of good governance and prompt response.

We also need to understand that the blame game cannot take us anywhere. Regrettably, at the national level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has got into this habit of covering up his mistakes and non-fulfillment of promises by blaming his predecessors.

A competent leader moves on his own strength of performance and not by blaming other parties and leaders. Politics of negativism does not create an all-inclusive vibrant nation.

Mercifully, PM Modi has so far refrained from doing this in the Valley. I, however, feel sorry for him that he failed to cash in on his popularity there and build up a firm base in the Valley following his wonderful work that was done for the people in distress in the wake of the 2015 floods disaster. He has only to blame himself and his over-obsession with foreign trips, instead of actively involving himself among the people and with their problems.

Looking back, there was a time when the Centre chose to lionize local leaders without understanding their credentials vis-à-vis the local people. It also overlooked the growth of corruption and absence of norms and principles in running a sensitive state like Kashmir.

While drawing the right lessons from the past mistakes, the present Governor has to understand the psyche of the people not only in the Valley but also in Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state. He has also to apply his mind to the mushroom growth of fundamentalism and militancy. Equally relevant is the fate of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.

It is a historical fact that the fundamentalists have been trying to wean away the converts from the past over the centuries with a view to making them part of the pan-Islamic culture. This phenomenon itself is a great irony, for most Muslims of the Valley have had a history of respecting other faiths. The rich tradition of Sufism along with the cult of the Rishis had provided for a healthy and multi-layered religious homogeneity at the ground level, even though the Muslim rulers during the past centuries had been strongly opposed to this trend.

In fact, the feeling of animosity which we see today in the Valley and which appears to be influenced by religion at the person-to-person level has largely got mixed up with economics. Even the economic differences between the Pandits and Muslims were often highlighted in communal terms. No wonder, politics in the Valley began to be centred around Muslims versus non-Muslims. The seeds of politics have thus yielded utterly bitter communal fruits. Of course, the British were partly responsible for this situation. The State and the Central leaders subsequently have made a mess of this complex situation.

Satyalpal Malik has said that his priority is to “create an environment of trust” in which the Centre can initiate talks with mainstream parties and even Hurriat if they come to the table “without the condition of involving Pakistan”. This will not be an easy task. We are familiar with the Hurriat leaders for their pro-Pak tilt, hawala money links and pan-Islamic mindset, devoid of “Kashmiriat”.

The persons at the helm ought to understand psychology of the Kashmiri. His basic ‘faith apart,’ he could still follow the current trend and fads. At the moment, he appears to be for the militants.

The present upsurge of communalism in the Valley among Muslims shows that a great regression has taken place in their psyche. In fact, with constant propaganda and support of guns from Pakistan, the terrorist outfits are laying down the rules of conduct and the gun-trotting militants are enforcing them. Thus, the Valley Muslims can hardly have an independent voice.

Governor Satyapal Malik would do well to read former J & K Governor Jagmohan’s great book “My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir” to apprise himself of Kashmir complexities. He also would do well to get first-hand account from his predecessor N N Vohra, an all-time great administrator. Vohra’s memoirs of his experience in J & K as governor – as and when he decides to write – will provide, I hope, lessons for everyone on how not to rule Kashmir!.

Meanwhile, my good wishes to Governor Malik. He is a sharp politician. However, Kashmir today needs a great visionary who could help the people to shift from the protective militant umbrella with an economic cum good governance cum genuine democratic security umbrella which could fits into the rest of India’s political, social and economic milieu sans shadow-boxing and false promises. This will be quite a task ahead for the Centre and the State leaders.