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20th April '2013
Raiyih Padshah!

There is a well-known Kashmiri saying about someone being a “Raiyih Padshah” or the Ants’ King! It is said about a person who does not have to work but just live on others’ toil. The Kingdom of Ants is a very interesting set up. The Ants do not have a King but a Queen. The only job of the Queen is to mate and then lay eggs in thousands. Interestingly, after the Queen mates, the male dies, and the Queen then starts laying eggs in thousands to continue the future generation of ants. So the survival of the generation of ants depends on the Queen who lives for a long time. The ants work laboriously to feed the Queen who has just to sit in the nest and live on. She lives for a long-time.

Kashmir’s leaders have most of the time been living like Ant Queens. One of the dynasties has proved the saying totally right! They started with the first Padshah who enamoured people so much that they left their whole fate to him. The popular slogan was “Alle kari wangan kari Bab kari” which translates into “Whether we are turned into Gourd or Brinjal, only the Bab (father) will do it”. He in fact ultimately turned people into Gourd and Brinjal by his numerous somersaults. Like the Ant Queen, he had a long life and on his death, the people really accompanied his funeral procession like the proverbial ants. Almost a million of them were there. He was lowered into the grave by the uniformed Generals of the Army which he is alleged to have invited here even though historically he did not play any significant role in this episode except giving it local support. This fact he is reported to have regretted till his death.

The next Padshah too lived on the toil of the common people. The slogan that time was, “Assi choo babas wadeh kormut, mott banawone badshah” which translates, “we have promised the Bab (father) that we will make the eccentric our king”! Dr. Farooq Abdullah was popularly known as an eccentric because of his unpredictable behaviour. He would sometimes ride a motorbike taking popular actress Shabana Azmi on the pillion. Sometimes he would go and sit with the people in the lanes and by lanes. However, the eccentric behaviour was only a cover and he would know everything that was happening all round. He did gain lot of popularityby his behaviour. He also had a very good sense of humour and truly believed in the saying that a kind word and a joke would get the best out of a Kashmiri. He succeeded in running the administration in a better way because of his two excellent advisors totally loyal to him. Due to his eccentric behaviour, the Central Government did not trust him fully. This was evident at the end of 2008 elections which the National Conference had fought with him being the next Chief Minister. However, the Central Government ditched him and forced him to make way for his son who had lost the previous election.

The present Padshah seems to be lost and confused. In fact, he did not earn his crown but he got it thrust upon him by outside intervention. No doubt he is very presentable, young and smart and has the knack of speaking emotionally bordering sometimes on histrionics. As Kautilya says in Arthshastra, a King is either a born King and knows how to run the kingdom or he is a king by accident in which case he needs good advisors to run the kingdom. Omar seems to fall in the second category but he has made a mess of the kingdom because of his most incompetent advisors! He is truly living like a Raiyih Padshah doing nothing. He only makes promises and promises which he knows he will be never able to keep even though he may have miles to go.

This Ant Kingdom is not unique to Kashmir only but the entire South Asia is full of Ant Kings and Queens be it Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan or even India. Nepotism and dynastic rule is prevalent in many places. However, Kashmir has had probably the longest stint of these Ant Kings and Queens in the recent times. A friend recently remarked that “the Abdullahs are a sad case. They have no interest in the people or the state. It is a dedicated family enterprise. It has come apart now and this is positively the last time that an Abdullah will rule”. Kashmir may at last be rid of the Ant Kings and Queens provided the people do not go back to the slogan of the Gourd and Brinjal story and the eccentric becoming the king!

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