Mirwaiz Detention: Is the State Vested in Hartals

The state government made a bid to scuttle the meeting that the Mirwaiz Umer Farooq had convened on Wednesday, 18th of November by detaining him and other key separatist leaders. The agenda of the meeting was to deliberate on and find alternate means of protest to hartals. Hartals, it needs to be noted, for non Kashmiri readers, are a form of protest where businesses , and allied establishments  remain shut and, public and private transport off the roads. Naturally and inevitably, our economic life and economy takes a hit.  Whilst all suffer but the worst sufferers are small businesses, blue collar workers and those who eke out a subsistence living like rediwallahs. Given that the Mirwaiz was supposed to address this issue and seek inputs from a cross section of society, the state’s action to throw a spanner into  the meeting by arresting the Mirwaiz stretches credulity. 

The question is: why did the state do this? 

This is a question that the state can best answer. We can only speculate with informed guesses with the vantage point of being observers of the Kashmir condition. There appear to be basically two strands to the answer: one is state complicity and the other is state paranoia. In the first angle, the state appears to tolerate if not encourage a degree of disturbance in Kashmir. There are many takers for this theory. In this schema, it is believed that the state to justify troop presence and extraordinary measures like AFSPA wants a certain threshold level of violence and disturbance to remain in Kashmir. Hence, the implied support for hartals and other forms of disturbance.

The second strand of the answer pertains to state paranoia and the institution of a security paradigm in Kashmir which is inflexible and whose thrust is taking recourse to the coercive apparatus of the state to impose order or a semblance of order in Kashmir. In this schema, the state is so paranoid that it deems and hold any form of  protest or activity by the separatist spectrum of Kashmir’s politics as anathema. The default reflex of the state here is to pre-empt separatist activism through arrests and what have you. This approach blends and meshes with a policy paradigm wherein coercion and utility of the state apparatus is accorded primacy over other measures. Here the operative policy framework or more accurately idiom is containment. The assumption appears to be contain the conflict or themes pertaining to the conflict long enough and it will go away. State paranoia and inflexible policy measures then go hand in hand.

Both from a sober perspective are flawed approaches. They lead to the obvious: resentment and further alienation of the people of Kashmir. In the former sense then a certain conflict ecology has developed and evolved in Kashmir where even the state is a stakeholder. And in the latter senses, the state’s policy paradigms rest on flawed and even silly premises which is unimaginative , to say the least. This also reveals the ‘mind’ of the state: it does not appear to either have gone on a learning curve nor has any substantive learning accrued from dealing with the conflict in and over Kashmir. These two components- conflict in and over Kashmir- are critical and both need to be addressed. But the state in dealing clumsily insofar as the internal dimension of the conflict is concerned and actually closing off talks with Pakistan-the external dimension of the conflict- suggests what may be called the closing of the mind – an approach that is defined by hubris and an ill conceived view of the conflict. If this is indicative of the future thrust and direction of state policy in and toward Kashmir, then statistical probabilities suggest that the conflict in and over Kashmir by being sustained- whether by design or default- is likely to linger on and at some point in time, Kashmir, due to the stress that people are subjected to, may once again implode. The state is being cavalier, clumsy or even deliberately instituting a paradigm whose repercussions can only be insalubrious and negative. The arrest of the Mirwaiz  and other separatist leaders is one clear cut indication of this. The flip side, at least for the short term ,will be more hartals. This is the sad but prosaic reality of Kashmir and its politics.


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