SHOCK AND AWE IN PARADISE…

Social media is abuzz about the developments in Jammu and Kashmir. From serious political comment to flippant jokes, the news breaking over the future of the once geographical entity called the State of Jammu and Kashmir has created ‘shock and awe’ – I daresay, more awe than shock. Shocked as everyone is, people across the national and international spectrum cannot but admire the guts of the political executive of the Republic of India for taking steps which were till today, the equivalent of assured political hara-kiri. The timing has also been perfect. Riding the wave of pro-incumbency, this big-bang decision has been a responsible gamble. I say this because the government has a full five-year term to stabilise the situation and claim its fame in the annals of Indian history for addressing a vexed problem that defied resolution for over seven decades.

Without crystal-gazing or going into historical, political or legal discourse, I propose to outline a few striking features of this bold move from the perspective of a citizen. The polity of India returned a government to power with a thumping majority. Of what use is a thumping majority if big decisions are not taken? There is no need for any majority if we are happy to cruise along with toothless coalitions, mindless consensus and frustrating status quo. Not this time. Firstly, the status quo, the alteration of which was even a taboo in discussion has not just been disturbed but completely re-engineered. If this was a crying need for national cohesion, then the popular mandate has been forcefully utilised. We, the people, have given our representatives this mandate.

Secondly, the timing has been responsible. If there has been any miscalculation, the government has a full five years to press the ‘reset’ button. If there has not been any, it still has a full five years to consolidate and bring normalcy back to the troubled region – people who swear by the ideals of their beloved, lost Kashmiriyat will rejoice at the chance that this provides to restore the Paradise on Earth. The homeless will hope to return. The jobless will aspire to earn a living without resorting to the gun. Children will perhaps outlive their mothers if peace returns. We, the people, must expect no less.

Thirdly, the preparation has been worthy of unqualified commendation. Not only has security of citizens been ensured, the surprise element has been stunning. Despite warnings from several quarters about the disastrous fallout of drastic political changes in Jammu and Kashmir, not a drop of blood has been shed – this by itself is a superlative achievement. It is not a miracle by any stretch of imagination. It was a result outstanding preparation to deal with any blow-back, no matter what. This included deft political signalling and excellent strategic communication – adequate clarity that something serious was afoot but ambiguous of what exactly was brewing. Definitely sound strategy. We, the people, must believe in those we have entrusted the responsibility of governance.

Fourthly, there has been a demonstrated will and ability to find a solution to such a vexed problem. So far, open source discussion revolved around abrogation of Article 370 but not much of what was the alternative in its place. The current formulation has pulled the carpet from beneath the feet of those who never envisioned anything beyond the status quo. What after abrogation of Article 370? The proposed solution is not a shot in the dark. It is proof that adequate thought and strategising has gone into this move. It is a solution – only time will tell whether it is the best solution. That a plan has been thought out beforehand is by itself reassuring. We, the people, must hope that a lasting solution is found for peace to return to the region.

Finally, we will do well to remember that nobody will solve our problems. No United Nations, no superpower, no divine intervention. We have to be the architects of our own destiny. In the words of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, “Jodi tor dak shune keu naa ashey, tobey ekla cholo re” – If nobody heeds your call, walk alone. We, the people, have the power and confidence to walk alone.

May the apples blossom, may the birds chirp in the Chinars, may tourist-filled shikaras glide silently through the serene waters of the Dal Lake and may holidaying in Paradise become a reality once again. We, the people, must harbour this hope in our hearts.