On January 3rd 2019, participating in the debate in Rajaya Sabha on imposition of President’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir, veteran congress leader and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the alienation in Kashmir was 100 percent and that BJP was responsible for it. In reply, the BJP leader in Rajaya Sabha, Aruna Jaitley, while not denying the assertion of Azad, countered the accusation by saying that it was Congress which was responsible for the alienation of Kashmiris. It turned out to the be an honest confession by both the ruling and the opposition that Kashmir today stands 100 percent alienated from the mainstream India, the fact that has ever been tacitly denied by New Delhi. The total alienation claimed by Azad and not denied by Jaitley has many dimensions about political isolation, including cynicism, negativism, value rejection, and distrust of the Kashmiris against the Indian government. The valley’s political system has become increasingly characterised by declining enthusiasm and participation by the people in political activities in the past few years, accompanied by very low turnouts in most of the election exercises all across the valley. The fallout from this sense of isolation and alienation is absolute and has a potential of turning into a catastrophic eruption as the intentionally hateful and repressive stand by the Indian political and the military establishments has been continuously pushing the valley to the corner and away from the mainstream India even if the valleyites did show signs of compromise many a times during last 70 years.
Political alienation is a topic of enormous importance so far as the relations between Kashmir and India are concerned. Alienated as it today stands, the Kashmir valley has often displayed protest voting and violent protests against the established local and the central political systems during last three decades. It has also reduced considerably the political participation by the masses, meaning thereby that the views of the politically alienated are not as well-represented in government as the views of those who are not politically alienated. No matter that almost all the ruling party leaders and the army commanders reiterate many times a day that Kashmir is an integral part of India and Kashmiris are their own people, the ground realties depict a different story. It is matter of great concern that the successive regimes of governments in the State and the Centre have not only ignored the growing sense of alienation among the masses, but have invariably and progressively added to the discontent, the central government in a bid to run its writ and the local governments in a bid to remain in good books of the centre and hold on to the power.
Alienation has been always there in the psyche of the valleyites ever since the sinister political game plans unfolded post partition. Omnipresent like a volcano, defying the dormancy occasionally and erupting violently, the feeling has refused to fade away even after numerous political upheavals which saw people occasionally jumping into the mainstream politics with enthusiasm and hope. A complacent and over ambitious mishandling of the phenomenon by the India government saw a violent eruption in the shape of armed rebellion in early nineties. This happened even after a wholehearted mass participation of the Kashmiris in the 1987 state assembly elections. The elections saw the worst type of rigging hardly seen in the modern history. The grubby political treachery brought National Conference back to power much to the dislike of the masses who had otherwise opted for a change in deceptive politics of mainstream political parties. The result was that the Kashmiris lost whatever faith they had in Indian political system and the already fragile bond between the two got snapped for good.
The eruption of militancy, ironically initiated by those who had been the forerunners in the election process brought into fore a different India, till date not experienced. India’s iron fisted military response to the militancy coupled with mercilessly targeting the civilian population in revenge nurtured the otherwise unnoticeable sapling of estrangement into a mighty tree of mistrust and alienation. Since then the alienation has only been growing and the successive governments have happily lived with it after getting through initial hesitations and fear of international and even national backlashes. There have, of course, been confidence building initiatives like the dialogue processes, the appointment of interloculators and tract two diplomacy and all those promises of lucrative offers and commitments by successive governments in New Delhi, which sometimes clouded the violent ground realities for brief periods. However all such initiative turned out to be of cosmetic nature as nothing notable was ever found or followed during or after the end of all such processes. Moreover there was never any let up in the fierce military operations which over the years invariably turned against the entire valley population.
After the emergence of saffron politics in the mainland India and the BJP coming into power in New Delhi, the situation in the valley took another violent turn with revival of otherwise fading militancy and government’s brutal response to it in the shape of CASOs and operations All-Out. Add to it the visible helplessness of the local governments, even after their docile surrenders and submission plus their total failure to bring even a little respite and relief to the masses saw the alienation reach its pinnacle. An open display of hatred against Kashmiris by the right-wing political leaders from the ruling political party and its allies has added fuel to the fire. The biased and partial broadcasts of the television news channels and newspapers, and their scornful attitude towards the valleyites offered its own considerable contribution. Targeting of Kashmiri travellers, students and the businessmen all across the country lend further strength to the sense of alienation and isolation.
Whereas the local mainstream political parties quite often than not did pledge their loyalties to the central governments, the same was not reciprocated. Consequently every such party, once deprived of power came back to question India’s position vis-a-vis Kashmir, thus keeping the fire alive on even in the mainstream poltical horizon.
However, even with clear like writing on the wall, there are few people who worry about the fallouts of the phenomenon owing to the fact that despite all the political unrest, the Indian polity and the military is in total control of the situation. In fact all the successive governments in New Delhi as well as in the state have contributed to the phenomenon and tend to realize and mourn over it only when they are out of power. Moreover since the BJP came into power in New Delhi, their interest or concern over political alienation of Kashmir has all but disappeared. They even declined to talk about any CBMs or bringing back the locals into mainstream. It is important to note that it may be acceptable that a community feels distant from individual political leaders or from certain political institutions, but feeling totally alienated from the entire political system can hardly be brushed aside as the handiwork of few anti-national elements.
Political alienation thus is a generalized feeling. It goes beyond disapproval for individual politicians or institutions. Successive governments, both in the state s well as in the centre have been invariably racially bigoted, anti people, disrespectful of the rights of their so called own people, and intolerant of the opposite political thought. Their authoritarian and venomously hostile approach towards the aspirations of the entire population has pushed the valleyites to the wall and a position of no return from the total alienation. In fact the alienation has finally graduated into an uncontrollable anger which has a potential of resulting into a major eruption if not taken care of immediately. Thinking that the alaramingly high levels of political alienation do not have any potential to influence any backlash or questioning anywhere in the country may not turn out to be a sensible approach.