Kashmir is going for yet another election, by polls for the two parliamentary seats. Elections in Kashmir are at best a contest between pro-India political parties who all belong to one of side of the conflict. For the other side, usually referred to as the separatists, who wins is absolutely inconsequential because their politics are outside the statist realm. So elections in Kashmir, whether for the state legislature or for the parliament, are never a contest between two sides of the conflict.
It may then appear totally baffling that all the contesting groups or candidates in the electoral fray must refer to the separatists during their almost always subdued campaigns, so much so that most of the time they appear competing only in terms of their attempts to denigrate the separatists. Gone are the days when the ‘mainstream’ political parties would care to sustain even a pretence that they had ideas or agendas for resolving the Kashmir dispute, claims they make at different points in time of their existence and silently give up to stay in synch with the State.
Parliamentarian Muzaffar Hussain Baig, a successful lawyer of some forgotten repute, took the art of saying nothing relevant about a Kashmiri being elected to the Indian parliament to an absurd level. On Monday Baig of PDP said that separatists lived luxurious lives and asked children to throw stones at the government forcers. One would believe that Baig actually thinks a life in jail or years under continues house arrest — that is the average life of a separatist if the state is generous to them — is luxurious. Be that as it may. But if Baig was asked to come out with proof that any separatist leader ever called upon anyone to throw stones he would probably pass the burden.
Baig also said that India is a unique country. It is true, as every country in the world is unique, just as every individual is. In the same breath Baig said, “as much as you (a Kashmiri) abuse India, Indians still respect you.” From his statement it might appear that for Baig respecting a Kashmiri means denial of political history and rights of an entire people, a belief that having to live under the heaviest militarised conditions is so easily acceptable that it cannot even be an issue for an election to the parliament. The mainstream politicians like Baig may believe they are dealing with a dumb people, but in the process they have spawned such a culture of intellectual laziness among themselves that separatist-baiting is enough of a political objective and cause de existence. Each election the practice of democracy in Kashmir manages to hit a new low.