[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”250″ size=”21″ bg_color=”#f6f6f6″ txt_color=”#999999″]“The Mass contact programme will not only restore the Congress to power, but much more importantly, it will restore the trust of disillusioned masses in the democratic set up”[/mks_pullquote]
Ghulam chacha was beaming with smile as he saw a man dressed in white kurta and a blue Jeans heading towards his humble tea-stall at Maisuma in the heart of Srinagar. The peddlers around him too looked overjoyed. Normally, this is a busy street where incessant chatter from the crowd and sound of vehicles give you an annoying feel. But today, the vehicles had stopped and the crowd stared in astonishment at Ghulam chacha’s visitor. “You have increased my honour and worth by deciding to stop by my tea-stall,” the old man exclaimed as he shacked his hand in a mark of respect. His visitor smiled back profusely, held him with both hands, and said “Main aapka Rahul hoon.” I am your Rahul. People had already jammed the place and seemed desperate to get a chance to interact with this young politician, who sipped tea with bakirkhani (Kashmiri bread). The spectacle of so many men and women touching him in affection, gesturing at him, and clicking pictures with him made me feel as if this man was not the vice president of India’s oldest political party but a Village boy who had returned to his people after many years, and who was told by everybody that he was missed.
As I watched these touching moments from inside my car, I was reminded that a simple loving gesture has the power to overcome animosity. Not many would know that Maisuma happens to be the hot bed of separatist movement and this place has never allowed any mainstream politician to stop by and chat so freely with people.
In 1953, when Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee tried entering Lal Chowk, or for that matter when former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi attempted flag hoisting at the same place, they were greeted with protest and disdain, and were shown placards with broad hate messages printed on them. And here was Rahul standing at the same place but nobody uttered one word of resistance. This is the power of an ingenuous smile and humble behaviour.
And this is so unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress’s nearest rival, which has always tried to build its space in Kashmir with coercion, little realising that this is only going to aggravate the emotions of people here who already are apprehensive of New Delhi for various reasons. The BJP further alienated the people of Kashmir with their loud howls of ultra nationalism and the use of communal politics as a tool to hold on to parts of the state, especially Jammu.
Even Kashmir’s local leaders like People’s Democratic Party’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the sitting Chief Minister, never had the opportunity to stroll around Lal Chowk without invoking a protest. After all, they have time and again bluffed the people of Kashmir. The PDP mobilised votes on the promise that they would stop the saffron party’s agenda in the state, and then, they changed colour and entered into an alliance with the same party in the lust for power.
The Congress, on the other hand, has a long history of sacrifices for the state. During the worst militancy years, its local leaders braved the bullets but never shied away from spreading the message of integrity and patriotism to the people. It was they who held the Indian flag during the turmoil and championed the cause of unity and oneness of the nation. Over the years, even the separatist camps changed their allegiances and people realised that the conflict in Kashmir was nothing but a tool for them to aggrandize power. Today, as Kashmir has become the hub of widowed wives, mothers with lost children, elderly people with nobody to look after them, the so called Pro Kashmiri leaders are nowhere to be seen, much less coming to their immediate help or rescue. Even Ghulam chacha reciprocated the same feeling. He said Kashmir has always been misled by its local leadership. Nobody cares for the poor, although they excite the poor into anti-state, regional or religion politics. If Rahul can visit my stall, why can’t the other’s ? The mindset of people has changed; people have realised that if they want a progressive Kashmir they need to trust their well-wishers. They need to trust gestures like Rahul’s, remarked Ghulam chacha. He further said that Mufti claimed to be pro-Kashmiri but he joined hands with the BJP whom Kashmiris consider their adversary. On the other hand, Congress has never played any regressive politics here. They have never showed any anti-Kashmiri or anti-Muslim tactics. It is through them that we can hope for peace.
The old man further said that he had seen a seven year old die of bullet injuries after being misguided to join a stone pelting incident. What does a seven year old know of conflict or resistance? But these leaders do not even spare children from their agenda, Ghulam chacha said in exasperation. Rahul’s visit to peddlers at Lal Chowk has sent a clear message, that a leader is one who interacts with his people and mixes with them. The Congress should take this opportunity to broaden its interpersonal relationship with people at the grassroots. They should also win their trust by devising solutions to their everyday problems. Not every problem is at the political sphere. People want stability, and financial adequacy is an important component of that. This demands education and job opportunities.
Congress believes in peace, and I really appreciate Rahul that he has not only won the heart of a shopkeeper, but he has proved that little gestures to the aam admi can soothe the feelings of separation. Rahul also paid a visit to Hazrat Bal and a Hindu shrine, accompanied by the AICC General Secretary Ambika Soni and PCC President Ghulam Ahmed Mir interacting with the youth as well as the flood victims. He further spoke to villagers who had been injured in Pakistan firing at Balakote. This is the beginning of a programme that will not only restore the Congress to power in Jammu and Kashmir, but much more importantly, it will restore the trust of disillusioned masses in the democratic set up. It’s also a message to those who talk big on stages and performs nothing on the ground.
By: Salman Nizami