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There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth

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Unlike a lot of political actors in J & K, my work is not based on hearsay, which is the reason I emphasize that resuscitating the pre-1953 position in the state is not impractical and does not completely nullify the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India over J & K. Achievable solutions get relegated to the background when federal countries emphasize centralization as opposed to decentralization.

The generation of Kashmiris that the PDP-BJP coalition is trying to govern is technology-savvy, and has witnessed the agonies and upheavals of armed insurgency. This generation is swayed by the strength of mass mobilizations in the Arab world to dislodge monarchies and dictatorships, which had successfully crushed forces of dissent for decades.

It is a generation that although disconnected from the grassroots movements of the thirties and forties, is trying to get political mileage out of the symbolism of the subversive power of a mere stone pelter, whose only weapon of war in the age of nuclear warfare is a rock.

But, it is important to remember that the Arab Spring fizzled out, and elements/ organizations that replaced the old order, sans a political roadmap, turned out to be even more regressive, politically as well as culturally. Left-wing celebrations of the Arab Spring turned out to be delusional. The romanticization of the movement that one saw on facebook and twitter did not bring about progressive and long-lasting transformations on the ground. Countries and societies in the Middle East are now even more fragmented, rootless, and battlegrounds for the resurgence of Cold War dynamics.

The innocence of the generation of Kashmiris of the 1990s and 2000s was cruelly ripped apart by the forces of armed insurgency and counter insurgency; the romanticized image of Kashmir fails to hold a lasting appeal for these children of an internecine war; the sense of peace and security historically provided by a democratically elected government has eluded these denizens of a paranoid state; the machinations of electoral politics as well as separatist politics have vitiated the sociopolitical fabric; this post-lapsarian generation has never known the allure of a political edifice built on a well-defined ideology; it has been bereft of a nationalist and political discourse within which it could blossom; its scarred psyche is yet to be healed. In a democratic set-up, however flawed it might be, the will and aspirations of the electorate are ignored by politicians at their own peril. The youth in J&K clamours for democratic rights, efficient governance, a stable infrastructure and a much less fractious polity.

Once the successors of popular leaders, who established their credibility through ideology, conviction, perseverance, and working for the well-being of their electorate, become complacent and rule with carte blanche, electoral politics can only suffer. The current regime has not been able to create an environment in which the young people of today would be energized and persuaded to actively participate or to revive civil society institutions that could initiate uncoerced collective action around shared interests, values, and purposes.

For those of us who have learned to respect the strident potency of the voice of the people, the unequivocal and pitiful assumption of mainstream politicians in J&K that power unilaterally flows from New Delhi and that of separatists that power flows from Islamabad, reeks of a reprehensibly unrepresentative character. Kashmir today is split into two nations, the plutocracy and the plebeians, with a lackadaisical middle class between the two, which lacks ideological unifiers across class and other social divides, and icons of national unity in the face of political and military oppression.

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Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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