Quite surprisingly, Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor, the former BBC broadcaster, joined a pro India political party last week. A known name in the journalism, she has had an outstanding stint first locally in Radio Kashmir and then internationally at BBC Urdu Service. There are many people with outstanding work in Radio Kashmir, but Nayeema has the credit of having worked in or having conceptualized mass interest programs like Zoone Dab, where she performed as a child artist, Nanne Kour or later in her career her association with the Shaherbeen, a current affairs program of day to day public issues and problems. She was known for her innovative media service to public and at BBC despite fixed and specific corporate guidelines served the world listeners in general and to Kashmir people in particular quite well.
Known for her unbiased reports, her joining pro India politics has stunned many. A cursory look at her writings that have appeared in newspaper and where she has had the possibility of writing her opinions, the shock for her admirers has overwhelmed. High profile people talking political route is not new in a place like Kashmir. Joining politics and asserting influence has been seen as a natural course, and perhaps Nayeema is not an exception. The point is people who hold positions of authority feel the need to stay relevant even if the positions offered are only that of pawns.
We are in an election year— both for the state assembly and the Indian parliament. But the situation would be quite unique to Kashmir. This time round pro India parties may well be categorized in a binary-status nomenclature: pro Indian mainstream and pro Azadi mainstream.
Kashmir has seen a rise in the number of parties and candidates who even after elections under the Indian constitution demand either the implementation of United Nations resolution on Kashmir or independence. Political groups or individuals with a motive to plead for freedom of Kashmir talk of ‘change’. We heard tales of change from Nayeem also when she addressed the press on the day of her joining Peoples Democratic Party headed by a former Indian home minister Mufti Mohammad Syed. The "change" in the system is long overdue and it being a motivational factor for the new entrants in politics must be seen with a lot of skepticism. The curiosity and desire of these new entrants can be understood, but so can be their gullibility.
The question is can even a small change be expected? Leaf pages of history and you will find the answer is a big no. In a state where New Delhi ‘rules the roost’ and ‘elections are staged’ and where the right wing Hindu groups are stoking the communal divide particularly in Jammu, the chances of people or parties hoping to bring change remain slim.
Nayeema joining the PDP has added to our surprise. The party which was formed to give an alternative path towards Kashmir resolution hasn’t found many takers for its Self Rule formula. Although a popular belief is that Mufti brought respite from the torture in the valley during his tenure as chief minister, but that ‘change’ can’t be seen separately. The decline in militancy by the time he took over allowed him to follow a certain policy. One wonders how would have Mufti's party dealt with civil protest in 2010 in which over 120 unarmed people including children and women were killed and that brought Kashmir back in focus. A man who is blamed for many massacres during the onset of armed rebellion wouldn't have showered almonds and flower petals on protesters. If Mufti reigned in the troops he was allowed only when the rebellion was nearly crushed by New Delhi and its apparatuses in Kashmir. New Delhi couldn't have gone ahead with its suppression. We all know the human nature, oppression breads rebellion. Nayeema, who has written comprehensively in favor of independence and has even shared stage with resistance leaders, interestingly failed to take note of Mufti's past.
One also fails to understand the reasoning behind she preparing the Vision Document for the party and advocating it to the world. There are several such documents which moths feed on. How does a Vision Document prepared by one political group make more impact that the document of another group. A closer look at the Self Rule will reveal that it is old wine in new bottle.
Nayeema declares that she will never contest elections, neither has she joined politics to become a lawmaker or a minister. Did she put her reputation at stake just to prepare the Vision Document. Bearing in mind that she is an achiever in her filed, PDP needs her not in cozy office but in field as a campaigner. She can certainly build the hope for young people only till they get disillusioned.
The former newsreader didn’t care about her burden of her inheritance. Being married to the son of Kashmir poet, Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor, didn’t stop her either from joining a pro Indian group. Mehjoor, a legend known for his pro freedom and pro people poetry, indeed must not have perceived a Kashmir that Self Rule promises. If the inherited vision is pro people one must carry the burden of inheritance and not shun it Nanne Kour!