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South Asia’s double curse

Two things.  If I could just wave my wand and “change” something in South Asia, there are two things I would take care of immediately.  Only then, I am convinced, would the hard-working, long-suffering people of the region get the better society they deserve.

Maybe not all rainbows and streets of gold, but certainly an improvement.

Ready, here goes that wand - Wooooosh.

Gone is the whole region’s skewed sexuality.  Let’s get rid of the prejudices and taboos, the gender inequality and the cultures that makes it so very hard for men and women to relate to each other as equal human beings in an equal world.  But that’s a story for another day.  Today, I’m more concerned with that second swish of the wand.

Whooooosh.  Let’s eliminate once and for all, the curse of dynastic politics.India, Paskistan, Sri Lanka, Bangaldesh, Afghanistan - all of them countries where a particular name dominates the politics and power structure of a society.  Ok, I know in many places in the world, a shoemaker’s son may well become a shoemaker himself, but the idea of passing the title of Prime Minister or President or Chief Minister on to your son, wife, brother or concubine - well, that’s a particularly South Asian idiosyncrasy.  And its made a sham of democracy, and brought on ever more oppression of the voiceless poor, and of free speech.

Let’s take Kashmir, a place I find hard to get out of my system especially since my recent visit.  The situation there on the ground has only grown worse day by curfew ridden day: food is in short supply; fresh vegetables and meat are becoming increasingly hard to find; baby powder is now a black market commodity; people can’t get to the hospitals, which in any case are running out of drugs.

Schools opened this week and 200 privileged children were airlifted to Delhi to sit their exams, but the other hundreds of thousands of school and college going kids have been getting mixed messages about whether to make the herculean efforts to get to school or not.  Some school buses were stoned by the small but dangerous contingent of Kashmiri hardliners who want disruption at all costs.

More than 75% of Kashmiris are under 25 - and it’s the young who have been targeted in this latest round of Kashmiri violence.  They’re the ones being pressured by peers or society to join the protests, or who are simply angry enough to want to join.  They’re the ones who are mainly getting killed, the ones who are lying on hospital beds having to listen to the murmers of doctors about whether they will come out of the hospital alive or with their bodies intact, the ones who don’t have a hope of a job or education, the ones who are seeing their futures vanish before their very eyes.

Meanwhile Chief Minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, son and grandson of Kashmiri rulers is miserably aware that his people detest him, but disallowed by his famous name and his overbearing father to quit the job.  And why - because the Abdullahs of Kashmir have become entwined with the Nehru/Gandhis of Delhi’s central government.

According to veteren journalist and Kashmir watcher Prem Shankar Jha, the solutions are so simple as to be common sensical:  change the present government which in turn will inevitably lead to a roll on effect.  The next government would surely be sane enough to retract the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, withdraw the overwhelming number of security forces in the region, lift the curfews and generally take a deep breath and call for calm.  But, he says. “This first step of removing this government is essential.  Without that nothing else can happen.:

But dynastic politics means that the status quo will be maintained at all costs.  Chief Minister Omar is also married into a powerful Congress Party family which only cements the alliance.   And that, along with Daddy telling him to hold firm means that the Abdullahs and their Gandhi/Congress Party backers are not gong to let go the reins of power lest they slip out of family hands forever.

But oh, what a relief that would be for everyone else - the reins of power held by a leader with a popular mandate rather than the right surname.

2 Comments on “South Asia’s double curse”

  1. #1 Team SAI
    on Sep 28th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    our whooooosh from colonel gopal karunakaran

    I have lived ten years of my life in Kashmir, Baramulla District, Kupwara district, Badgam district and Anantnag, across the Pirpanjal, the shamshabari Range,Tanghdhar and the Gurez Valley – 1983 to 2003 – virtually all around the beautiful Kashmir Valley.All these years I have genuinely felt for the Kashmiri people – whose concerns are the same as any other people around the world – a better life for themselves and for their children. Sadly, this generation of Kashmiris are victims of their geography and the difficult phase of their history.

    What is conspicuously missing, however, in virtually ALL Kashmir discourse; from political commentators, media to Huriyat leadership is this – what is their version of the possible “solution” to the Kashmir problem? dialogue for what? What magical solution will come about by a “Composite Dialogue”?

    For a State which has five different regions,Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, POK, and Gilgit and Skardu; ethnically, demographically, regionally divided; is Independence the answer? Can it be partial independence? Obviously it will not be accepted by a large majority of the stake holders.

    The real truth, sadly, is that there is no solution except Status quo - the Buddhist Ladhakis, the Punjabi Muslims across the Shamshabari, the Gujjars close to the Pirpanjal, and the Hindus of Jammu will not want anything else but status quo. Forget the BJP – will anyone in J and K, other than the Valleys Kashmiris Muslims, want independence?

    Anyone who knows Kashmir will know this – but for those who know it, is not fashionable to say so, most of the media has little sense of geography or history, and the new breed of politicians have insulated themselves from their own people and will never get to speak to real people except in the most unnatural of circumstances thrown up by their security people….. so god help us and the Kashmiris!

    If you are emotive about sacking the government do so, the next one would be as incompetent. But removing AFSPA would be an open invitation to ISI and their acolytes to run amock in the region and create a mayhem which would make the present condition appear innocent. Kashmir needs an iron hand in velvet gloves and army is for conflict management not conflict resolution…that is a political process which our shurt sighted politicians and babus do not deem fit to indulge in.

  2. #2 David Berridge
    on Sep 28th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    The major problem with the removal of dynasties in South Asia is that they are known entiities and quantities to foriegn powers and interests who are now bringing more and larger buisness agreements than ever before. Armaments sales from the West and nuclear power from China in the multiple billions, are at risk should relitiveatly unknown or very lesser known politicians come to the fore. The “old hands” in the game will always hold this decisive advantage until their own dynasties collapse from their own greed and over extension, leaving foreign influences to face a new undeniable reality. Time and the historical forces which play themselves out in the life of national politics, are the only ingredients to effect such changes.

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