To our leaders and politicians: a lesson to learn

As an academician and a mother of a four-year old, I discovered that children learn things better if you provide them with illustrations. The same principle applies to adults as well. But in being able to learn things, adults have an advantage, and that is their experience. However, there are some “adults” who simply refuse to learn anything no matter what. That seems to be the case with our leaders and politicians who have proved absolutely incapable of learning this simple lesson – that of “strength in unity”. Therefore, I would like to read them this story today which I had learnt several years ago when I was a child:

Once upon a time, a flock of doves was trapped in a net by a hunter. The doves desperately fluttered their wings for a while in order to escape but to no avail. Fortunately, the doves had a wise leader who told them that there was strength in unity and advised them to fly up together holding on to the net. The doves followed the advice and were able to carry the net along with them. While the doves were flying in the sky carrying the net, the hunter looked in astonishment.    

A very simple story with a wonderful lesson to learn! I wonder how long it will take for our leaders to learn this lesson.

Granted that in an era of (so-called) “democracy”, every opinion has a right and potential to express itself. We (Kashmiris) have heard a number of voices over the past six decades, and, more so, over the past twenty years. The numbers are so overwhelmingly large that perhaps our auditory system is desensitized by now, which is probably why we do not care as much anymore. Or, perhaps, since there are too many things to worry about, we have chosen to be deaf, dumb, and blind.

After a handful of two decades of continued political unrest and the persisting deadlock on the issue of Kashmir, instead of extending its credentials with sincerity and responsibility, the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), like our political parties, has all but tangled itself in its war of ideologies and opinions. I remember, in 2003, many people were taken aback when APHC had officially split into the so-called “M” and “A” (and now “G”) denominations. The conflict had been simmering within the conglomerate for quite a while and even reached a stage where the members of the two factions crossed all limits of political etiquette and indulged in personal abuse and mud-slinging, let alone emerging with a unified agenda. Time and again, we have hoped for a long awaited compromise between the two, just as we have prayed for a negotiated settlement on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. It is the year 2009 now and we have seen several ups and downs with regard to the issue of Kashmir; yet owing to the factional politics of our leadership, we have failed to achieve any consensus on a political agenda.

It seems that the Hurriyat leaders may end up continuing their ding-dong agitation for the rest of their lives without a fruitful outcome; let us hope it is not true, but that is what can be inferred and anticipated given our past and recent experience. Amidst this conflict of ideas and the ever-widening rift between the G’s and the M’s, the extremists and the moderates, the hawks and the doves, complemented by the individual ego clashes between the various self-proclaimed leaders, the fate of a common Kashmiri is lingering in a dark tunnel of hopelessness and helplessness.

In response to the latest “talks” (“quiet talks”) offer, while People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference expressed a desire to cooperate on (re-)framing the proposal for a solution – for a change (although it is yet too soon to comment on their sincerity and commitment on this), the APHC factions are yet to disengage themselves of the personal and ideological problems. At this critical juncture, when the people of Kashmir are desperately longing for a new ray of hope, this ideological fighting is again proving a stumbling block in the way of peace and progress.

While it (APHC) continues to oscillate between the rigidities of the past and the realities of the present, it won’t be quite over the board to say that perhaps time is near when the irresponsible attitude of the senior leadership will invite great public wrath as we have seen during the last assembly elections when people came out in overwhelming numbers despite the strong “boycott” calls.

There is an old English adage which says: wise men change, fools never do. We cannot deny the fact that the equation has changed at the state, national and international level. The world is not the same as it was sixty or twenty or ten years ago. Out there in the developed world borders are becoming irrelevant and people are coming closer and closer everyday; at the same time a large part of the world (read “Muslim world”) is leading backwards to the dark ages, partly because of the vicious world politics but largely because of their own weaknesses and internal problems. Here in Kashmir too, the “Pakistan” bubble has burst for quite a while (call of “tripartite” talks at this point, therefore, makes no sense to me), and people are looking forward to a new world of progress and prosperity. Despite being aware of these changing ground realities, our separatist leaders are stuck to a hardline attitude, fighting an ill-defined fight equipped with the weaponry of stone-pelting and sloganeering which has become such a routine now that it does not seem something unusual any more. In fact, there is a widespread view that a special “workforce” is receiving proper wages for creating disorder and mayhem and would like to carry on with it as long as they receive perks. Unfortunately, the people who have to sustain the brunt of all this destruction are poor daily-wagers, laborers, small business owners, and school-going children and youth. The priciest of the prices that we are paying for this “struggle” is the future of our next generation. And whether we admit it or not, the fact of the matter is that this fight is gradually robbing our society of its civility, sensibility and morality.

It is not that a struggle for independence, nationhood or any political cause can never be won, but until and unless people stand unified behind a well-defined cause, an agitation such as the one we are conducting is a totally futile exercise. Perhaps a general public debate is long awaited, which brings to table both the mainstream political parties of the state as well as the separatist leadership who must unveil their political agendas and proposals for the resolution of Kashmir issue keeping in view the long-term interest of the people of the state. There has to be a monumental change not just in the political rhetoric, but also on the political platform – a major overhaul of the parties and partisanships that will need to shed their malignant components and their unrelenting ideologies in the wake of a unified cause. As part of a political entity, Jammu & Kashmir, which is defined by divisions at regional, ethnolinguistic, religious, as well as ideological levels, this “sacrifice” (if that is what it can be called) has to be made if our “leaders” are true to their commitment in serving, as opposed to leading, or MISLEADING, their people. There is no way we can come up with a feasible solution to the problem of Kashmir except by cooperating and compromising by way of finding a common and consolidated ground on which all factions can and MUST agree. It is high time that this be done!

 

About the author: Dr Sadaf Munshi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication at the University of North Texas in the United States. She can be reached at smunshi2002@yahoo.com.

(This article appeared in the November 6, 2009 issue of the Daily Kashmir Observer. URL:
http://kashmirobserver.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3621%3Ato-our-leaders-and-politicians-a-lesson-to-learn&catid=8%3Aopinion&Itemid=9 )

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