How separatists and politicians are making a killing in Kashmir

To earn a lot of money with no accountability of its sources, politics is the best profession.

 |  5-minute read |   23-05-2017
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The sting operation of resistance leaders of Kashmir has opened up a Pandora’s box of murky politics and the illicit relationship between violence and black money. The role of money in Kashmir politics is an open secret, though least talked about.

In the aftermath of the sting operation, the leader was expelled from the Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. A double standard indeed, since a few months ago it was alleged that Geelani’s grandson was granted a lucrative post by the government.

But no expulsion or inquiry was ordered by Geelani against his son-in-law, who continues to be a member of the Hurriyat executive. Just two years ago, AK Dulat’s book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years had stoked a controversy in the political circles of the Valley, but among all those named none tried to rebut his claims.

The authenticity of his claims can never be established as memoirs always tend to represent half-truths. My contention and intention is not to verify the credentials of the incidents that Dulat has represented in the book or the recent sting operation has raked.

One fact that has been represented and sidelined in the sting operation and Dulat’s book is the reality of the political economy of the conflict. It is the least talked subject in the Kashmir discourse.

The conflict is a great source of economic benefit for a number of stakeholders, who want to keep the pot boiling as it is a source of income of them. Any type of contemporary politics cannot work and run without money.

Mostly illegal and black money from various sources is used to fuel political activities. Politics today has certainly become the refuge of scoundrels, certainly with a few exceptions. To earn a lot of money with no accountability of its sources, politics is the best profession.

Most politicians today across the spectrum come from humble backgrounds and due to their hard work, organisational skills, leadership qualities and decisive methods of making a fool out of gullible masses by exploiting their vulnerabilities and emotions, have assumed seats of power both in mainstream and resistance circles.

After they do assume a position of power, money flow becomes a regular feature - the source of which remains unknown.

One can certainly draw an analogy from the fact that politicians start becoming filthy rich within a few years of joining politics. They build huge properties, making big businessmen envy them. None can dare to ask them about the source of the money.

Evidently, the mainstream politicians are a hated lot in Kashmir. The masses do not hold them in high esteem due to various reasons, the dominant being that they use their power positions to fill their coffers with ill-gotten money.

If a background check is conducted on their property, both legal and illegal, it will become clear how much they have "earned" during their stay in power. Hence, none believes them when it comes to the values of honesty, uprightness and morality.

The separatists and resistance leaders, in contrast, enjoy huge popular support among the masses and their support, love and obedience is based on their "emotional, ideological dream world that resistance envisages" in the hope of a better future.

The resistance leaders are considered the epitome of struggle, selflessness, sacrifice, morality, vision and ideology of a better future. Most of these leaders, despite huge popular support, have proved to be political dwarfs when it comes to vision, mission and pragmatic political action.

Further, most of them too have not proved exceptional than the mainstream politicians when it comes to money. Their hedonism, materialism and amassing of ill-gotten wealth has proved the adage of the French philosopher Voltaire true – that “when it is the question of money, everybody is of the same religion”.

The economic prospects of the Kashmir conflict have blurred the lines of separatism and antagonism between separatists and mainstream politicians. Some separatist leaders also sell professional seats in different colleges of Pakistan that it has reserved for the kith and kin of innocents killed in the violence.

Most separatist leaders come from poor and humble backgrounds. Kashmir being a relatively small society, everyone knows the other, particularly in public life. People are aware how those who did not have two square meals earlier now run big political parties with salaried workers in scores.

These political parties have no known source of income, neither do they disclose one. Only a few separatists, such as the late Abdul Gani Lone remarked once when asked about the source of funding: “Money for separatism is like mother’s milk that is indispensable.”

This indispensable money, its source and channels remaining unknown, is responsible for the many ills that have befallen the Kashmiri society.

First, the steep rise in real estate prices; thus owning of property has become impossible for any middle class Kashmiri family which, within a decade or so, would be forced to shift in flats to which they are unaccustomed.

The growing number of shopping complexes is the other phenomena and the neo-rich have invested heavily in this sector. Other business ventures like hotels offer an attractive option for some separatist leaders.

Most of them own huge mansions, real estate, multiplexes, hotels and some have a penchant for high-end cars. Every conscious Kashmiri is a witness to the creation of a class of neo-rich people, all thanks to the conflict, but none dares to talk about this open secret.

Both India and Pakistan have vested interests in Kashmir and each is pumping money through various sources to keep the conflict alive. Some political activists do acknowledge in private that money is pumped routinely for political activities and a large part of it finds its way into the pockets of politicians.

These neo-rich will never want Kashmir issue to get resolved because they will get jobless and their business of selling Kashmir for personal benefit will be ruined. This neo-rich elite masquerading as separatists has reduced the Kashmir issue to an economic enterprise that can be resolved by pumping more money, resulting in a vicious circle of violence from which the neo-rich earn.

Also read: A time will come when we'll blame Modi for Kashmir crisis


MHA Sikander MHA Sikander

Writer-activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir.

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