(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 26, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather - Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai - was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. He is also the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference, led by Mr. Sajad Lone. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music.)
The Courage to Dream
Today’s column is not about a particular issue. It's about the necessity and courage to dream. People often ask me why I – a young financial analyst with a US education and a green-card, decided to move back to Kashmir and then go a step further and plunge into the murky, vaguely defined world of Kashmiri politics. People also often ask me that once I had decided to be in politics, why I chose to join a party that’s in a nascent stage on the mainstream map. Today’s column is an attempt to answer those questions – not an attempt to talk about myself but a humble effort to define my dream for a New Kashmir.
My people, I have gradually realized, have been trapped – with great use of mischievous imagination – into a world of conspiracy theories, history and myths. Conspiracy theories about remote controls and red buttons in Delhi that decide the fate of Kashmir, its politics, its weather, its culture and its economy. Most of these myths have been engineered, propagated and self-validated by our traditional politicians – our ‘Muftis and Abdullahs’, not by Delhi; to ensure that Kashmiris look at mainstream politics with an invective of cynicism. In medieval times villages had these witch-doctors who proclaimed with great resolve that a new motorable road to the village would lead to calamities and social rot – a channel for the devil to enter the village. They did so to ensure that the villagers remained uneducated, disconnected and ignorant – disempowered because their empowerment would lead to an erosion of the witch-doctor’s larger-than-life importance. In 21st century Kashmir, our ‘Muftis and Abdullahs’ have replaced those witch-doctors to design and enforce election boycotts; willfully ensure that Kashmiris are economically persecuted. All this because a cynical, voluntarily disempowered nation is easy to exploit and easy to be ruled over as a family fiefdom. I’m out to debunk that cynicism by reinforcing the power of the common man to choose his leadership and to choose a future for his children, if not his own self!
When it comes to political analysis, a sizeable chunk of elitist Kashmiris – even those who would fail at analyzing their own lives and immediate surrounding atmospheres, become political scientists. They know how Delhi rigs elections to this day, how Mr. X is Delhi’s chosen man and how Mr. Y is not acceptable. These pontificators are generally of a certain type, a vague generalized caricature. The pontificator is a government employee or most often than not a retired government officer. His children have attended illustrious schools and colleges and are either already settled in US or UK or are planning to flee to greener pastures in the first opportunity that comes their way. These pontificators, who form less than perhaps 3% of our population, as government employees or bureaucrats, rule over the remaining 97%. The moment they retire and cash their provident fund, they grow a dignified beard and beeline to the nearest mosque to head the Masjid Committee. Their past sins – corruption, embezzlement and disservice to the nation are all washed away to pave way for moral torchbearing. This 3% of Kashmir that includes government employees and expatriate Kashmiris besides other privileged sections of our society are quick to undermine an individual’s patriotism to effect Change in Kashmir – of charting a new, bright future for the remaining 97%. I have joined politics to sideline this 3% of Kashmir. I have joined politics to work for the 97%. I have joined politics to work for the 97% - unaffected by cynicism and the ever-ready torchbearers of hypocritical morality.
This privileged 3% of Kashmir has access to all public services and utilities and the right to crib and whine without having to exercise their responsibility to elect their government. That’s a moral losing-battle that the remaining 97% has to fight at the inevitable risk of being called foolish traitors who are poor students of history and politics. I joined politics to stand up for that 97% of harassed, exploited and harangued Kashmir – a Kashmir where ration-cards, water connections and motorable roads are luxuries.
I joined politics not for my own vested, personal interests but on the bedrock of an inspiration from my leader, Sajad Lone – an inspiration from his valiant, visionary, pro-Kashmir leadership. For the fact that in his politics the common man forms the center of attention. My party, compared to NC and PDP, is small. In the minds of analysts and moral torchbearers, we are the underlings who are out to conquer the moon with a step-ladder. But in my heart, that of my leader and our workers and supporters – we are all revolutionaries of thought who have decided to overcome disempowerment and cynicism with the courage to dream of a New Kashmir. We are out to translate our history by putting it in the context of our day-to-day realities, the needs and dreams of ordinary Kashmiris. In this arduous journey, our spirits are high and our gaze is lowered in humility. We are dreaming of a New Kashmir – a prosperous, dignified and economically independent existence for our people. Now Kashmiris have a choice – be a part of default cynicism or join the caravan of Change. Let’s hope that we pass on to our children what our forefathers couldn’t pass onto us – a glimmer of hope, for hopelessness is a sin.
This refers the column by Junaid Azim Mattu in which the author has pledged to work for a bright future for the Kashmiris.
About Late Sheikh Abdullah it used to be said, rather it was talk of the town then, that while at Tangmarg once, before 1947, he went out of the residence of his host in the evening. When he returned he looked sad, shed tears and was reluctant to enjoy the sumptuous dinner his host had prepared for him arguing that most of the people whom he had visited had not even an ordinary loaf to eat. Then after assuming power what he as well as his descendants have done is well known. His first term reminds us of the Nazi rule when his henchmen didn't even spare radio sets.
If the author's party at all attains power can he convince us that he and his avowed leader would not sail in the same boat.