Was the Hartal on October 27 a ‘Flop’ Show?

While her observation that the separatist leaders “Themselves don’t know what they are doing and in which direction they are going” may have some merit, but by terming the hartal on October 27 as a “flop- show,” the Dukhtaran-e- Milat Chairperson Ms Aasiya Andrabi has been rather unkind for more than one reason. Firstly, by using the phrase “flop- show,” Ms Andrabi has trivialised a serious issue like a hartal by making it appear to be merely a publicity-seeking event. Secondly, by saying that, “Those people who did not observe civil curfew today forgot the sacrifices of their brethren for the sacred cause,” she has sought to blame all and sundry for the same.  The Dukhtaran-e- Milat Chairperson seems to have overlooked basic facts- that a hartal is no movie at the ‘box-office’, the success of which is measured purely by attendance and that the people of Kashmir are certainly not the type who will ever forget “the sacrifices of their brethren!”

There is no doubt that Ms Andrabi is amongst those at the forefront of the ‘azadi’ movement and so, her anguish on the poor response to the hartal call for protesting the entry of the Indian army into Kashmir is understandable. Yet, it is strange that a person of her stature should make such derogatory public statements against not only the Hurriyat leadership, but also the people of Kashmir and this is the problem with Ms Andarabi. While it is not intended to cast aspersions on her commitment towards the Kashmir cause, the Dukhtaran-e Milat Chairperson certainly needs to tone down her overbearing rhetoric as it has a distinct flavour of autocracy, which goes against the very fundamental ideological character of the movement for the ‘right to self determination’.

There is no gainsaying that the ongoing struggle in Kashmir draws its strength from voluntary participation of the masses and thus, coercive means to ensure a complete ‘shut-down’ for any hartal call would only harm our cause. And so, it goes to the credit of the Hurriyat leadership that they did not make the hartal call on October 27 an ‘ego issue’ or treat it as a ‘publicity-seeking event’ by attempting to ‘enforce’ a shut-down. Thus, even though the hartal call may have evoked a ‘mixed response’, it is certainly not a ‘flop-show’, as none can now accuse the separatist leadership of authoritarianism. Therefore, in the overall analysis, it has been a ‘victory’ for the Hurriyat as it has proved its detractors, who accuse this separatist conglomerate for exercising a domineering attitude over the public and ‘orchestrating’ mass protests, completely wrong!

By saying, “These (separatist) leaders failed to respect the emotions and sentiments of common people who laid down their lives for Kashmir Movement: people who follow these leaders blindly need to introspect. We need a spiritual leader who can show us the right path and who could persuade us to follow the tenants of Islam,” Ms Andrabi has belittled the Hurriyat leadership, the Kashmiri people as well as the Kashmir cause. While one is free to express one’s views, but by stating that, “People who follow these leaders blindly need to introspect” and suggesting that, “we need a spiritual leader who can show us the right path,” an erroneous impression is being conveyed that while the people are fools, our leadership is incompetent. It also questions the role of ideology as the basic motivating factor behind the ongoing struggle and seeks its replacement by religious considerations under a “spiritual leader.” 

Ms Andrabi needs to understand that the people of Kashmir are no fools and know exactly what they are doing. And unlike her sphere of activities which is restricted to local social issues where she can propagate her own interpretation of religious practices, the separatist leadership has a far larger role to play. The Hurriyat has to take into account numerous complex issues, both external and internal, to maintain a very fine balance so that the ongoing movement is not hijacked or derailed by ill-considered decisions, like giving it a religious or radical hue.   

The respected Dukhtaran-e- Milat Chairperson needs to keep in mind that inimical forces are hell-bent upon destroying the ideological character of the ongoing struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ by projecting it as a communally inspired movement. While there is no doubt that people of Kashmir would be more than happy and extremely comfortable to live in an environment that promotes the Islamic way of life, this would have to wait till we achieve the ‘right to self determination’. Until then, any attempt to replace ideological aspirations guiding the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ with religious issues would only help reinforce the propaganda that the struggle in Kashmir is communal in character. It would therefore be prudent to take a step at a time rather than just blindly jump ahead and start counting chicken before they are even hatched.  

Castigating the public, Ms Andrabi said, “Earlier, people used to observe October 27, the day when Indian occupational forces entered into Valley as black day without waiting for call from separatist leaders, but what we witnessed today offended our sentiments.” While the Dukhtaran-e- Milat Chairperson is well within her rights to feel “offended,” her accusation that we should not give a “certificate of innocence” to the people of Kashmir, is to say the least, uncharitable. Frankly speaking, I for one have failed to comprehend what have we exactly lost with the hartal call evoking only a ‘mixed response’ and what would have been the additional gain if there was a complete ‘shut-down’ on October 27. The people of Kashmir have been protesting on this day for years and thus the intended message to the world has already been conveyed- so why this hue and cry over poor participation in the protest? 

It is unfortunate that even while New Delhi acknowledges the mass support of the people of Kashmir for the ongoing struggle, Ms Andrabi seeks to belittle the sacrifices of the people by saying, “They too are equally responsible for bringing disrepute to sacred ongoing freedom movement in Kashmir”. Yes, the weekly ‘Sunday Market’ at Lal Chowk did not close on October 27, private transport, taxis and autos did ply on roads, some shops too remained open and a few educational institutions functioned because of the annual examinations. But, was all this done with the sole aim of “bringing disrepute to sacred ongoing freedom movement in Kashmir,” or simply due to the compulsions of those who survive on their daily earnings and cannot afford the luxury of staying indoors whenever a hartal call is given? Are the students taking their exams to be blamed for doing so? With due respect Ms Andrabi, please don’t curse the people for no fault of theirs!

Suggesting a remedy, the Dukhtaran-e- Milat Chairperson has advised that, “We (separatists) should come out from this forum and constituent politics and show a united face” and this is indeed an extremely valuable suggestion. However, a “united face” can only come about when each separatist ‘constituent’ abandons that component of its ideology, which either causes divergence in opinion, or adversely affects the character of the ongoing struggle. Certain statements made by Ms Andrabi like, “This (Kashmir) struggle is purely an Islamic struggle,” and “I oppose traditional Kashmiri culture,” have often been cited as proof of the communal nature of the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’. Detractors have also allude her comments like, “I don’t believe in secularism, I don’t believe that all the religions are good and that they’re all based on truth,” to religious  intolerance that governs the ongoing struggle in Kashmir. 

The migration of the Pandit community, whether voluntary, enforced or contrived, has become a very potent propaganda tool in the hands of our enemies to portray the ongoing struggle in Kashmir as a purely communally motivated movement. So, in order to take the wind out of the sails of those maligning the Kashmir struggle by attempting to convey to the international community that it is a ‘radical communal’ movement, would Ms Andrabi be willing to help the larger cause by temporarily abandoning her public penchant for creation of a theocratic State in Kashmir? For those who feel that this may be asking for too much, I would only say- isn’t there an old saying that, one should “practice what one preaches” and that all said and done, doesn’t  “Charity begins at home?”

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