Politics in Kashmir is a story of hurtling from one end of the public spectrum to another.
Just when Shah Faesal formally enters politics, his name apparently takes some beating. He has reportedly been accused of plagiarism. Yes, you heard that right — an IAS officer has been accused of copying the name of his party from Mir Shahid Saleem's party — a faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference — of the same name.
It's only the latest controversy to hit the IAS topper, who is no stranger to rows.
More than Kashmir though, it is the national media that buzzed excitedly around his joining politics. In Kashmir, Shah Faesal is being looked at with some scepticism — perhaps decades of disappointments and deceptions have made people more numb to such developments. Some Kashmiris have also voiced their thoughts on the rumoured involvement of the state in his joining politics. Others play it safe by saying, "Time will reveal what he is up to."
Unfortunately, he has floated this party at a time when political parties have been rendered fairly ineffective. Their opinion, for instance, regarding the holding of assembly elections has been tossed away. The Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) experiments with the BJP have fallen flat on the PDP — and the party couldn't save its own face. The National Conference (NC) comes with its own baggage of faults, dissimulation, allegations of crookedness.
Political parties, without exception, have failed the people of Kashmir, big-time.
Shah Faesal and Shehla Rashid: Let's wait and watch if the winds of time will change. (Source: PTI)
This plays against Shah Faesal — he is also accused of playing tricks with his own statements. He had, in 2016, advocated a dignified exit from the conflict for Kashmiris. In January 2019, just before he resigned from the IAS and announced his entry into electoral politics, in a newspaper article, he expressed a willingness to the idea of self-determination for Kashmir. Perhaps, in 2016, he had no plans to join politics, thus asking people to shed the idea of self-determination. Once he mulled over the idea, his statements swung, as they did once from joining the Indian services to apparently comparing the country to 'rapistan'.
That is exactly the problem with our politicians.
Not only do they retreat from their principled positions — they often do exactly the opposite. The irony with the political set-up in Jammy & Kashmir right throughout history has been the failure of the leadership to stick to the core philosophy and values their parties represent.
Sheikh Abdullah, unarguably the biggest leader of the state, after remaining in jail for more than a decade, ultimately gave up on his demand for plebiscite and signed the Indira-Sheikh Accord in 1974, apparently in lieu of the post of chief minister.
Mufti Sayeed forged an alliance to bring the BJP into power — even as he campaigned otherwise. (Source: Reuters)
Mufti Sayeed, in 2014's run-up to the elections, asked people to vote for his party PDP — otherwise, the BJP might come into power. Unfortunately, he ended up forging an alliance with the BJP and helped them come into power. Mehbooba Mufti is an example too. Ever since her government broke down, her tweets have been spewing venom against the BJP — with whom she had no differences as long as they supported her.
Currently, Shehla Rashid, the other notable figure to have joined Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM), is also being accused of displaying double standards. When she spoke at the launching ceremony of the party, she blamed New Delhi in turn of displaying double standards, accusing them of applying one law in the rest of India and another one in Kashmir. In fact, such selectivity, in my view, could be applicable to her, too. She highlighted the discrimination faced by marginalised sections of society during her tenure in JNU, she reportedly spoke in support of Pragash (an all-girls rock band of Kashmir) but she didn't speak out as vehemently for the pellet victims of Kashmir. She also apparently didn't question the political leadership of Kashmir post-2016 when she already was a national figure.
Mehbooba Mufti now disagrees with the BJP. But she had no differences as long as they supported her. (Source: Reuters)
Some people in the Valley do believe that this party may have launched by state agencies for three reasons — one, to enhance the voting percentage in elections to avoid the perception that the situation is deteriorating in Kashmir. Two, this party caters to the emotions and sentiment of the youth — which will eventually pave the path to mainstreaming them. And three, New Delhi no longer believes in the traditional political parties, for they have, time and again, failed both the country and the state. Their politics is largely communal, based on double standards and apparently their own survival. There had been no sincere effort to alleviate the people's sufferings — what binds these political parties is the lust for power.
The terrain ahead for the JKPM is definitely rough and challenging though. It remains to be seen whether Shah Faesal will emerge triumphantly or whether he will gel with the tried lot. Only time will tell if — like their slogan — 'Hawa Badlegi' (whether the winds of time will change) for JKPM!