Ahead of abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A, the government had enforced strict restrictions to maintain peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Many political leaders from the state have been placed on detentions to prevent them from creating a ruckus. However, there are strange rumours emanating from Kashmir.
Abusive troll and alleged journalist, Swati Chaturvedi, said on Twitter that a certain ‘newbie’ in Kashmir politics is actually Ajit Doval’s man. According to her, he is part of the NSA’s bid to create a ‘managed opposition’.
A newbie Kashmir leader currently under detention is a Doval agency asset. Another bid to create a managed opposition
— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) August 20, 2019
People in their minds don’t take Chaturvedi seriously, given her track record, but similar sentiments have been echoed by others who are known to be more reasonable.
Except that in next few months you will see the Centre propping up the likes of Shah Faesal and other candidates whose names will come as big surprise to Modi supporters. These include some currently tweeting vociferously against New Delhi. At least one of them has two PSOs
— Rahul Pandita (@rahulpandita) August 17, 2019
Chaturvedi didn’t take any names but Pandita did say that leaders such as Shah Faesal would be propped up by the Centre. Thus, it appears, and we are only speculating here, that the person Chaturvedi calls Doval’s asset is none other than the former IAS officer. Rahul Pandita says that these people want to remain in detention for now, as in future they will be able to tell that they were in jail for the sake of Kashmir and ask for votes. These people will be acceptable to the Left “intellectuals”, who will join BJP, thereby suggesting that it is a grand strategy of BJP.
Why Faesal could be a Doval asset
Before we dismiss these assertions as ramblings of a delusional mind, we must admit that there are certain merits to the argument. In the long run, the Indian government would need to engineer a new political mainstream in Jammu & Kashmir. The Abdullahs and the Muftis have been held responsible for the dire straits the state is in by the central government, as has been evident from the statements made by Home Minister Shah and others of the ruling dispensation.
The Indian State would want to ensure that the political careers of the two families which have ruled the state thus far are destroyed. However, that will create a vacuum and that vacuum has to be filled by someone or some people. It’s only natural that the Indian State would want to fill that vacuum with individuals who are conducive to their interests.
Shah Faesal appears to fit the bill quite nicely. He is educated, outspoken, easy on the eyes and is rather meek. He may be lacking in charisma but it’s not that big of an issue. It can be easily fixed. Moreover, he is a marked departure from the stone-pelter variety of young men that are found in abundance in the valley. In short, he comes across as the guy who can convince people that you can win a war against the state with words.
Most importantly, however, he is quite the antithesis to the Abdullahs and the Muftis. He hasn’t become popular due to his family, he is where he is due to his own efforts. Certain elements in the state machinery may have catapulted him far above where he deserves to be but nonetheless, it can’t be denied that he at least made some efforts.
Faesal’s public statements on the abrogation of Article 370 may be problematic but they are the sort of statements a newbie Kashmiri politician would be expected to make to garner public support during the initial phase of his career. Thus, if the decimation of the existing dynastic political order in Jammu & Kashmir was the objective, Faesal is a very potent bullet.
Reasons that make Faesal an unlikely candidate
As convenient as Faesal may be, there are very good arguments against this line of thought. For all the obvious stark differences between Faesal and the Abdullah-Mufti brand of politicians, making him the new political alternative in Jammu & Kashmir is still a soft-reset. And the actions of the government since the beginning of August have been anything but.
The MADmen trio (Modi-Amit Shah-Doval) has pressed the hard-reset button on J&K and pressed it hard. Henceforth, it appears unlikely that they will settle for Faesal whose brand of politics differs from his predecessors by only a few shades of grey after going through so much trouble.
Faesal’s statements, too, have been far too radical to allow for an easy climb down. If he does back away from them, it will be perceived by residents of the state as a betrayal of trust. Therefore, he may not be as viable a candidate going forward.
Furthermore, Faesal doesn’t come alone. Shehla Rashid comes along with him as part of a package deal. How Shehla could be possibly accommodated into the scene given her conduct thus far is anybody’s guess.
Even so, there is one way they could both be accommodated. Faesal takes upon the mantle of the Abdullahs, Shehla fills in the spot vacated by Mehbooba Mufti and both of them are locked in a rigged battle against each other orchestrated by the central government.
The only problem is, the larger goal of the MADmen here would be to eliminate separatist politics from the scene. Substituting the Abdullahs and the Muftis with Faesal and Shehla respectively will only eliminate the erstwhile dynasties, it will not alter the dynamics of the Kashmiri political order itself. For the lengths the MADmen have gone to, it appears extremely unlikely that they will be satisfied if the existing political order itself is not eliminated altogether.
A Possible Subterfuge
An integral feature of the MADmen Doctrine has been the manner in which they have kept the enemies of the nation guessing. Article 370 was abolished in a matter of 3 or 4 days flat. It was a blitzkrieg that no one expected. A mind-numbing Confusion was the predominant feeling among the enemy camp. Thus, it’s quite evident, with them at the helm, expect the unexpected.
Political leaders, in any democracy, serve as the focal point for public anguish. They are a rallying point behind which people gather to further their own agenda. It’s as true for Kashmir as it is for any other region in the country, or for that matter, the world. Since Narendra Modi assumed the seat of Prime Minister in 2014, the Indian government’s strategy in J&K has been very sharp.
The Indian Army has eliminated every top terrorist in the valley behind which people could organize. It is indeed a sad state of affairs that in Kashmir, terrorists are a rallying point for people. In that sense, they are political players too, albeit with a gun in their hands. Thus, since the moment the NDA government came to power, there has been a concerted attempt to eliminate the rallying points for the people in the state with separatist inclinations.
Therefore, it appears only likely that the central government’s approach to politicians in the Valley will be the same. Of course, since Abdullahs and the Muftis and the Faesals are not armed terrorists, they cannot be eliminated with a gun. They can be eliminated from the political scene only by eliminating the source of their power: The goodwill of the Kashmiri people.
It is safe to say that there’s no better way to destroy the political career of a Kashmiri politician than by giving people the impression that he or she is a stooge of the central government. It is undeniable that Mehbooba Mufti suffered a huge loss of public support by allying with the BJP. Looking back, if the BJP’s goal was to make Mufti unpopular among her constituents, allying with her was an extremely smart move.
It could be said with a fair bit of certainty that the political prospects of Abdullahs and Muftis were destroyed with the abrogation of Article 370. For a long time, they had promised their constituents the skies only for their hopes to be smashed on the rocks. Thus, there doesn’t appear to be any way for the erstwhile dynasties to recover from this.
However, Shah Faesal could have proven to be the new political focal point in the near future. He, along with Shehla Rashid, could have fed the people of the state new myths to sustain their grand delusions. If this is how it was to pan out, only the personalities would have changed. The political order would have survived. And as we have said before, by pushing the hard-reset button on J&K, the MADmen trio have indicated that they want to fundamentally reform the political order in the state.
For this reason, the political career of Faesal would need to be destroyed. How does the central government achieve it? By giving people the impression that Faesal, and by extension, Shehla, are stooges planted by Doval himself, the MADmen are essentially destroying their political careers even before it truly began. Thereby, eliminating rallying points of the residents of the state.
Why Subterfuge appears more likely
For a movement to be successful, it needs a face. The masses find it much easier to associate themselves with specific individuals rather than abstract ideals. It is exactly why Narendra Modi was essential for the success of the Hindutva movement in recent years. Abstract ideals could not unite Hindus of all castes and creed under a single banner, it needed Narendra Modi for it.
Hindutva is an abstract concept, a man is a concrete. You can see a man, hear him, he has a story that the masses can relate to, he is certainly more ‘real’ than abstract concepts. A man can make promises and fulfil them. A man is capable of action, abstract ideals can only make abstract promises. Secularism has failed spectacularly in India not because the idea itself has failed, it has failed because the people swearing by the word, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rahul Gandhi, have been extraordinary charlatans.
Of course, secularism is a remarkably bad idea but a bad idea can still be sold if the salesmen are exceptionally gifted individuals. There are obviously numerous other factors involved but it’s a fair assessment based on a single metric. In short, a bad idea can still be sold and it takes hugely talented men to sell a bad idea but a good idea can be very well sold by ordinary individuals. The difference between a bad idea and good is that one requires a great deal of intellect to justify it while the other only requires common sense. However, that is a discussion for another time.
To cut to the heart of the matter, the Kashmiri separatist movement too requires able individuals for it to be successful. If there are no able individuals in the fray to lead the masses, the movement will wither away in due course of time. Therefore, it’s essential that leaders are not allowed to emerge at this moment in time for the MADmen doctrine to succeed in J&K.
The hard-reset would entail that at a certain point of time in the future, a new breed of politicians will emerge who will not toe the separatist line. The most they will demand is the restoration of J&K’s statehood. Depending on the prevailing circumstances, the central government could then decide on the matter. But for a new breed of politicians to emerge, who will essentially represent a new political order, the existing one needs to be destroyed in its entirety. And as such, the political careers of Faesal and Rashid needs to be destroyed as well.
Who is playing into the MADmen trio’s hands? Shah Faesal or Swati Chaturvedi?
At this moment in time, it does appear more likely that it is Swati Chaturvedi who is unwittingly playing into the MADmen trio’s hands. By sowing the seeds of division in the minds of the people of J&K regarding Faesal’s loyalty, Chaturvedi and others are helping destroy the goodwill Faesal supposedly enjoys in the state as of now. Swati Chaturvedi may be loathed to admit it but it does seem that she has been pwned.