Is Bloodshed A Must For Azadi?

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The killing of two policemen in the busy Hari Singh High Street near Jehangir Chowk of Srinagar on Saturday is not the first incident of its type and readers will remember that on May 10, Farooq Ahmad Sheikh, an ASI of J&K Police performing traffic control duties in Pulwama was gunned down in a similar manner.   Both these incidents are a grim reminder of what happens when, in Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s words, the “Gun loses control.” However, while the latest attack on unarmed policemen, for which the Hizbul Mujahideen has taken responsibility, has drawn sharp criticism from mainstream political parties, the separatists, who otherwise vociferously denounce ‘any form of violence’ have, as expected, maintained a stoic silence.
 
What exactly did the Hizbul Mujahideen want to achieve by this act is not clear as the ‘targets’ they selected, though policemen, were not part of any anti- militant squad hunting down militants, but just traffic cops posted at a busy market place. And by choosing a busy market place to launch this attack, the militants have once again demonstrated that they have scant concern for any ‘co-lateral’ damage that their actions may cause. In this case, a bullet fired by the militants did injure a 16-year-old girl and though she is out of danger, it could well have been otherwise.
 
A few years ago, committing such an irresponsible act of violence in crowded market place by the Hizbul Mujahideen would be inconceivable. For the Hizb, being an indigenous militant group always did display due concern for the safety of their brethren. Readers will recall of how in past the security forces were often accused of using civilians as ‘human shields’. But such allegations are not heard now a days. Is it that the security forces have turned a new leaf, or is it just that they have realised that now use of locals as ‘shields’ would be ineffective?
 
Recently, the issue of the highly educated joining militant ranks made headlines in Kashmir and experts predicted that this trend would make the militant groups more focused and discerning in their activities. However, is it not paradoxical that when the poorly educated comprised bulk of the Hizbul Mujahideen, this outfit was comparatively more ‘humane’ and desisted from wanton acts of violence, taking pains to ensure that their actions did not endanger innocents? Can the Hizb justify the killing two Kashmiris just because they belonged to the Police?
 
The silence of the separatists and the civil society is, to say the least, appalling. If the Hizb feels that this by this act the Prime Minister of India will cancel his visit to Kashmir, then it is sadly mistaken. The visit will take place for sure and it is only be the public, which will be put through greater inconvenience by additional security measures that would be enforced. In fact, by attacking the policemen in a crowded market place on the eve of the PM’s visit, the Hizb has actually done New Delhi a great favour. For now, the low turnout of people during the visit of the PM can be conveniently ascribed to ‘fear psychosis’ generated by the militants and not as a response to the hartal call given by the Hurriyat (G) Chairman SAS Geelani!
 
But then, both the separatist and militant leadership in Kashmir refuses to see the writing on the wall and prefers to remain fixated with their hard-line and ambiguous stance. By taking responsibility for unprovoked attacks on traffic policemen, the Hizb is damaging its image as a righteous group forced to pick up the gun to save their people from ‘forces of oppression’. And in recently declaring that, “We never denied or ignored the role of gun in our struggle, but we, Hurriyat Conference, favour peaceful struggle and we will continue to fight peacefully,” the Hurriyat (G) Chairman has made it clear that its stance on violence is grossly subjective.
 
It would also be worthwhile to note that of late, there is a perceptible decline in the calls for repeal of AFSPA by the civil society in India. And this is not because things have improved in Kashmir or that the civil society has lost interest, but simply because continuing acts of violence by militant groups makes it very difficult for anyone with a rationale mind to press for removal of this draconian law in the prevailing situation. The Hizb should realise that the era of regime changes through the force of arms is long over, while the separatists must come to terms with the fact that seeking the ‘right to self determination’ solely through the means of hartals will not succeed and there is no other opinion but to enter into a dialogue. And the Hurriyat should not shy away from this, because as President Kennedy once said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate!”

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