Politics of self-interest
Published on March 18, 2017

It is like a festival season here – with bypolls for the Srinagar and Anantnag parliamentary constituencies round the corner, the kind of political brickbats that are at display are like the fireworks one gets to see during festivities. And what is interesting is that both mainstream as well as the separatist political groups are involved and engaged in public ridicule of their respective adversaries. While National Conference and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party are openly sitting on each-other’s throats, charges are also traded regularly between the mainstream and the separatist groups and leaders, which each side calling the other as Indian or Pakistani “agent” and blaming it for the suffering and miseries of the people.  In this maze of charges and counter-charges, which more than often border on outright indecency, common people are hard at understanding what their so-called leaders are up to. While they have so many doubts about the promises and pledges and claims of the leaders of both sides, the one thing they are unanimous about is that the people and their interests actually figure nowhere in the checklist of priorities of the “leaders”, who only try to rationalize their self-interest under a huge, limitless umbrella of general “moral” principles such as liberty, justice, freedom, public welfare and prosperity, and a ‘law higher than the man-made law’, and so on.  

Remember in World War II, the United States (USA) fervently allied with Russia against Germany, Japan and Italy, and shortly after victory passionately allied with its former enemies – Germany, Japan and Italy – against its former ally, the USSR. Indeed this historical fact is an attestation of the key role played by the shifting self-interests, which for some reason, the breed of ‘our’ politicians fail to acknowledge, at least publicly. Probably due to layers of inhibition in the kind of moralistic civilization we have had – it seems shameful for the politicians to admit that they operate on the basis of naked self-interest. So they desperately try to reconcile every shift of circumstances that is to their self-interest in terms of broad moral justifications or rationalizations.

And common people, who have never really been exposed to ‘political realism’, take pride in according ‘their leaders’ the ‘holier than thou’ statuses. Thank God, in Islam, there is no tradition of conferring sainthood; otherwise this place would have had saints in every lane and by-lane, several in each city and every town. Imagine the pain when a perceived saint fails to live up to that conferred sainthood, and instead behaves like any other ordinary person, with similar weaknesses and vices, making larger political choices on the basis of self-interest!  Kashmir has already witnessed this pain on so many previous counts, and political prudence and wisdom lies in not repeating the mistake again.

Let’s be clear about it – in politics there are no saints. And what is happening in Kashmir, even when it is masked in the wrappers of ‘beneficent goodness’ is mere politics that is played by every single person on the basis of his or her self-interest. Those asking the people to vote do so because it suits their self-interest and those asking otherwise also do so because this is how they feel their interests are secured and served.

Those who are scaring people by using a “communal scare crow” they have suddenly discovered in BJP even when they have themselves allied with it in the past, know that their appeals to the people of Kashmir on this count do not have many takers here. But they nevertheless ask for it because it suits their self-interest. Those who claim they will take Kashmir’s fight to the Parliament also know is for sure that it doesn’t please many. Then why do they claim what they claim? Answer again lies in self-interest. Those who look at ‘other’ person and group as being “compromised” and accuse them of weakness, vacillation, betrayal of ideals and surrender of principles, also do it because it suits their self-interest. Those who call someone and Indian or a Pakistan “agent” do it for their self-interest.

Reality is that any society in the midst of a larger political conflict is basically also a huge laboratory of many a smaller and on-going conflicts, which are propelled and programmed by both long- and short-term interests of the protagonists. Common people ought to know and understand it. For once they make it clear that they are no longer going to be the mute recipients of boastful assertions of morality, it may bring in some degree of realism to the general political culture of the Valley.  

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