Ugly Picture in a Magnificent Frame

Kashmir Magazine

Zuhaib Yousf Mir

As I sit in my Grandfathers chair in my Delhi Apartment, I am reminded of how difficult was it for him to endure the pain during the final stage of his life fighting cancer. And now juxtaposing the flashbacks of his final days and the situation prevalent in J&K right now, I realise even though his life was coming to an imminent end but “people” of J&K still have a chance to recover and not be completely subdued.
Not only for J&K but also for the entire country we have witnessed what could be the outcome of the worst impulses of men. From constitutional alterations to socio-religious fragmentation and from institutional decline to economic retrogression we have seen it all. But will keep myself restricted to J&K in this particular piece.
Kashmir as said by Victor Jacquemont is an “Ugly Picture In A Magnificent Frame”. Historically as well as contemporaneously Victors phrase still holds true. The only ugliness that no one wants or acknowledges in the frame are the “People of J&K” who at no point in time were ever asked about any important political decisions that were to shape their life. Awe was inspired by the ever so beautiful valleys and picturesque views, as written in the travel accounts of former travelers, across history and Awe still is inspired by the tourist count to Kashmir post the recent political events.
Three major decisions and the passive or sometimes aggressive response to them have shaped the politics of J&K. First, was the Treaty of Amritsar when the British wrapped us up in a sale deed and handed us over to Gulab Singh, second the accession to the dominion of India in 1947 and the third was the Abrogation of Article 370 and fragmenting and downgrading the state to a Union Territory. The only entity that is conspicuous by their absence in the mentioned three important decisions was the “People of J&K”. And if at any stage people of J&K were ever made party to such important decisions and not be seen as ugliness in the magnificent frame, perhaps tranquility wouldn’t have effaced the region.
It is very vital to bring people at the centre of decision making. And it is in the backdrop of this feeling two years ago on 10th of January 2022 I joined the mainstream politics in Jammu and Kashmir and have been working, fighting, struggling and organising for the rights of my people in my own small capacity. As a student of politics what worries me now is not the ever evasive rights of my people now further being diluted but the general disenchantment of people with the political systems. If we celebrate the full integration of J&K post Article 370s abrogation and see its validation, in political terms, in the form of no stone pelting, we also must be cognisant of expressionless demeanor of J&Ks people who do not care about whether elections are happening or not, what the echelons of power are proposing, what the political parties are saying or how meaningless the political organisation is to them.
Intuitively they have accepted the dominance and now see themselves as subjects. However, the problem with subjects is that sooner or later they will speak up, such are the learnings from history. It happens because during perilous times there is always a temptation within people to accept something lesser than what they deserve and once the collective pain surmounts the threshold capacity of communities they rebel and their rebellion is pronounced in a conflict zone. Therefore, true participation and true empowerment it is important and also systems are place for robust democracies to function properly.
It’s a truism that elected governments in developing country cannot do everything and an unfortunate downside to this abeyance of democratic systems in J&K is that people conjure up so many expectations that the future elected government will not be able to cater. But such has been the history of J&K, too many expectations from the elected, too little realised leaving them high and dry to ultimately look beyond the four walls of constitution. If someday the Government of India does decide to formulate an elected government via free and fair elections to ultimately see it crushing down then it’s not a real political reform that it makes people to envision.
J&K might be a “conflict ridden zone” and at the current juncture the people may be “politically numb” but that does not mean they should be driven over or dictated to. It’s rather amusing that how other than the people bashing oracular diktats that we witness now and then, the only other news that is celebrated across the news channels is about how bureaucrats and policemen are transferred from one district to another or one department to another.
In my journey so far I have realised it will take more than just passion to make J&K a just place to live. It will take credible action, dedication to the belief that citizenry is the most vital aspect of any democracy, coming together for your rights or constitutional guarantees or snatched away guarantees and more because if aspects of asymmetric federalism are applicable to rest of the country why can’t J&K be a beneficiary of that aspect of Indian constitution. We have to work “with” Delhi for the solutions of our people but not “for” Delhi. We have to fight being committed to our ideologies, eschew the apologetic ideologues and collaborators, bring in freshness to our political systems, throw away the baggages, be empathetic to the problems and stories of our people and unitedly fight for their political demands and yes I mean including Article 370 and more. We must ask and organise for all of it unapologetically because we are a democracy and we must practice its principles and do everything to protect this hard earned democracy and its institutions for the better future of our country.
The last two years have also taught me that this journey is not going to be an easy one. We will have to deal with chorus of cynics, ignorance, hatred, foolishness, xenophobia, vested interests, hypocrites and plastered saints, fifth column and more. But you must realise we have to face this at every stage of our lives in one way or another. From here on we keep resisting nonviolently to exist.

(The views expressed in the article are author’s own, not of the institution he writes for)