Watching Trump Presidency from Kashmir

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For days in early November, 29-year-old Sheikh Imran and his family in uptown Srinagar watched the US election results unfold, with awe.

As television channels declared the results, Imran and his father focussed on the outgoing President Donald Trump’s speeches. For four years Trump had been his favorite — a provider of free entertainment. “When was the last time a politician of a superpower acted like a child?” Imran said referring to Trump’s denial after his defeat.

While there were different views on Trump, whose tenure saw the US plunge into chaos and anarchy, arguably everyone enjoyed his loose comments. In Kashmir, the elderly who could not pronounce his name, called him “Drum” which also drew laughter among the populace.

Trump is arguably the most widely recognized American president in Kashmir. The reason being his undeterred offers of mediation on Kashmir. He has offered mediation between India and Pakistan at least nine times. His nonchalant attitude meant that he did so at the cost of offending Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

His latest offer on mediation on Kashmir had come during his trip to India in early 2020.

“The fact that he was able to talk about Kashmir in India, showed his pure-hearted nature as well as bravery,” said Waqas Khan, a resident of downtown Srinagar. Khan added that for him Trump was a good-hearted “fool”. 

“He was a businessman, but not a statesman, that reflected in his speeches. What I liked about him was that he was able to agitate right-wing Indian trolls despite them worshipping him. In fact, that is what every Kashmiri liked about him,” added Khan, a government employee.

However, many see him as the one responsible for the abrogation of Article-370.

The apprehension was fuelled by the event on 22 July in 2019 — on Imran Khan’s first visit to the White House and just thirteen days prior to shutting down the internet in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

As Khan made a direct appeal, Trump replied, “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator.”

Days later the Modi government did away with the J-K’s limited-autonomy. “I think that offer made India itchy and that is why they abrogated the article. While Modi was Trump’s friend, even he could not trust his uncertain nature and hence Modi abrogated the article,” said Bashir, a youth from south Kashmir.

Trump’s Kashmir remarks would be removed from the White House statements as a gesture to show to India that they were not going to interfere in their “internal affairs.” But what made Trump the talk of the town was the way he would demur on Kashmir. “I didn’t say anything about that (being a mediator). Kashmir obviously is a big problem between India and Pakistan, they are going to work out their problem. They have been doing it for a long time.” The business tycoon turned politician said when asked about previous times when he spoke about mediation and India rejecting his offer.

While he was not able to solve the Kashmir issue, Trump in Kashmir will certainly be remembered for his antics and the entertainment his comments and speeches provided to the population that is politically sound.

Although his Kashmir remarks generated a sense of hope among the populace, his inability to go beyond the rhetoric made it clear for the common people that he was all talk and no substance.

For now, it remains to be seen whether Biden will have a similar response in Kashmir as that of his predecessor or will he be able to go beyond the rhetoric and meme front and do something substantial.

On 21 January, much to the relief of the world and Americans in particular, 86 year-old Joe Biden became the forty-sixth president of the United States.

Only a couple of weeks ago, in an unprecedented turn of events, Trump supporters had stormed Capitol Hill. This made the oath ceremony of the former vice-president under only Black President of the US even more interesting.

The speeches of new leaders like Biden and Kamala Harris drew widespread viewership, even as social media users had a slugfest.

The event had its viewers and analyzers in the Kashmiri populace too, who had a mixed reaction to the happening that will change the course of the world in the coming years.

While there was renewed hope in the Joe Biden led administration that has three Kashmiris in it. There was a sense of sympathy for Trump, “He was all threatening, did not fight a single war during his four years. I believe he was better than Obamas and Bushes,” said Kaiser Irfan, a businessman from Srinagar.

Forty-four-year-old Irfan was part of a gathering on a shopfront in Srinagar comprising half a dozen people. On 22 January a day after the swearing-in-ceremony of the democratic leader, much like the rest of the world, Trump and the USA were on everyone’s lips in Kashmir, “He was a tyrant, who made the life of Muslims like hell,” said Younis Bashir from Tral in south Kashmir.

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