Thursday, April 16, 2009

The curious case of Sajad Lone

Vote for the man who promises least. He'll be the least disappointing
~Bernard Baruch (1870-1965)

Politics is a competing enterprise. People will often act lickerish to get to the top. Power, the general thinking goes, brings great clout. History, after all, gets written by conquerors. We have, I fear, confused power with greatness, I recall of Stewart Udall. The truth be told, it is the quest for power that brings out the endless spiel, the big promises, the empty rhetoric. These days no one comes to politics for public good. Kashmir ain't any exception.

Sajad Lone’s decision to run for Indian parliament didn’t come as a bolt from the blue. In our neck of woods, it was perceived as, another seasonal political jolt which we have grown so used to. Didn’t we all stand to attention -- like dazzled cavemen -- to a tall, nationalistic, Hadith quoting Sheikh? And the lion of Kashmir roared and growled and a frightened people clapped. And the confused Maharaja panicked. The lion rechristened his party to make it sound more secular. An Indian prince charming, who always kept a rose in his coat's third button hole, took a liking for the lion and made palsy overtures. The lion didn’t realize that the prince was going to be his master and not a friend. And the day he realized it, the poor thing was thrown into a moth-eaten cage. Only to be tamed forever. Thence he would only purr like a domesticated cat. His progeny continue to be relevant to Kashmir.

Sajad, in that respect, comes from a lesser tribe. He isn’t exactly a lion. His dad was a popular mainstream politician turned separatist leader. As a ninth standard student in Sopore high school Lone Sr was arrested in connection with the Zachaldara bomb blast case. He became a lawyer and later a cabinet minister twice [under Sadiq and BGM]. He joined the separatist bandwagon in the late 80s and was shot dead in 2002. Sajad is the youngest of the Lone sons, the eldest being a permanent fixture in the Mirwaiz court.

Sajad went for higher studies to London. At the time of his father’s death, he accused both India and Pakistan for Lone’s murder. Sajad is married to Asma, the daughter of Amanullah Khan, boss of the separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) the group credited with starting armed insurgency in Kashmir.

Sajad, a blunt bloke never got along well with the separatist leadership in Kashmir, who harbored doubts about his credibility. To his credit Lone II is the only leader to have come out with a comprehensive document ‘Achievable Nationhood’ that discusses various dynamics of the Kashmir issue. He perhaps understood, before anyone else in Kashmir, that the proverbial tide is turning and the last assembly election was the final clincher. Being part of the elite crew helps and Lone II's connections in Delhi proved helpful.

Sajad’s decision to run for Elections-2009 is a huge gamble which he must have thought over and over in his head. He might as well make it to India’s House of Commons and there will be people back home who wouldn’t like the sight of an erstwhile separatist sharing pews with right wing senators, the likes of whom pushed around and humiliated his late dad in Jammu long years back. Political expediency makes you forget things quickly. The problem is that you may like to give voice to your grievances at the altar of democracy but since democracy is all about numbers -- you are bound to be gradually piffled away. The bravado gets lost in the din.

In hindsight fighting for your rights is oft times toilsome. You could very well smirk at the relative impatience of Sajad’s arguments. Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary [made into a fashion icon by the MTV gen these days] was cut up in Bolivian jungles for daring to challenge the powers that be. Freedom is never ASAP. The mainstream Indian media is showering praise on Sajad not for nothing. The poster-boy of separatist camp has switched sides. Geelani and his old ilk can’t be trusted. Sajad can be!

Kashmir has had a trust deficit with India. Locals are more likely to tell you that they trusted India when the Indian troops landed in Srinagar for the first time in October 1947 [Kashmir was a princely state before Oct 47] but the much-promised plebiscite was never held. All elections were historically rigged. One gentleman who lost to an infamous rigged election result from Srinagar’s Habba-kadal constituency in 1987 went on to become the boss of United Jehad Council [an amalgamation of major militant outfits in Kashmir] and calls himself by his code-name Syed Sala-din. His polling agents, Yasin Malik, Javed Mir and Hamid Sheikh all became top militant commanders. While Sheikh was killed, Mir is in Hurriyet, while Yasin Malik, is a major separatist leader.

I’ve no doubt that Sajad is a bright fellow and sounds sincere, especially in the apologia that he wrote for the media the day he officially declared his candidature. He talks about delusions of grandeur, peddling of failed methods or escapism, and avoiding tendencies towards defeatism – nice psychology talk. It remains to be seen how he delivers on the floor of the house. He is going to take oath, if he ever gets elected with his hand on the constitution of India ~ a document that calls Kashmir an integral part of India.

The psychologist knows what the heart wants.