Finding Alternative to Hartals

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When it comes to supporting calls for protests and shutdowns no one can fault the people of Kashmir. There are times when hearths in the homes of many daily wagers remain cold whenever a hartal is observed but this does not appear to dampen their enthusiasm. Nor do people seem to complain when their kith and kin requiring immediate medical attention can’t make it to hospitals on hartal days. And no one ever protests when some poor shopkeeper gets bludgeoned to death with cricket bats for not ‘downing’ his shop shutters in response to a hartal call. Similarly, there is no public outcry when drivers who had no choice but to ply their vehicles on hartal days are stoned to death by their own people. 

All this is being borne by the hapless people of Kashmir since our leaders cannot (or do not wish to) think beyond hartals and shutdowns.

Rather than being more concerned about the hardships that frequent shut down calls given by them impose upon the poor people, our leaders seem to be so over obsessed with their single point ‘hartal agenda’ that the resultant plight of the masses doesn’t seem to worry them. This why the decision of Kashmir Reform Group’s (KRG) to explore alternative and effective ways to protest for the rights of the people is a reassuring development! President of KRG Khurram Wani’s observation that “Hartals and stone pelting have not been fruitful to a great extent and have negatively affected our economy instead,” is the undisputable truth that reflects the views of the majority in Kashmir and therefore cannot be dismissed as something inconsequential. 

Though the ‘right to self determination’ campaign is a movement of the masses, our leaders have unfortunately never paid much importance to public sentiments. Moreover, by not only overlooking but also defending acts of violence, they have unwittingly promoted an aggressive psyche amongst the youth that has eroded basic cultural values and accelerated moral degeneration. Consequently, Kashmir has become a bundle of contradictions. When the Hurriyat calls for a hartal, the public obliges but that is all! When the people are asked to boycott polls, they don’t and nor does the youth pay heed to our leaders appeals for observing peaceful protests or not waving ISIS flags during demonstrations! 

It may be too early to endorse the KRG. However, this NGO does appear to be non-partisan as it is critical of both India and Pakistan’s role in Kashmir. While it firmly opposes New Delhi’s imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Kashmir as it is a hurdle in creating an environment of peace, it strongly feels that Pakistan’s meddling in Kashmir has been a waste of time and resulted in loss of precious lives. From the casual manner of both India and Pakistan indicates that neither country is in any hurry for the Kashmir issue. Thus an alternative to reinvigorate the ‘K’ issue resolution process is in the best interests of the Kashmiris.  If KRG can honestly work towards this end without ending up becoming a proxy of New Delhi or Islamabad, then it would have the leverage to prod both New Delhi and Islamabad with equal vigour and this could well prove to be a game changer. 

At a time when none of the strategies to take forward the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ seem to be working, there is no harm in supporting KRG. On its part, the KRG needs to realise that it has an extremely challenging task ahead. Though “pen is mightier than the sword” is a saying that has universal acceptance as it highlights the superiority of thoughts over brute force, unfortunately in Kashmir this axiom is currently being practiced in reverse. Therefore, changing the perceptions of a generation that has been made to believe that retaliatory violence is legitimate and the ‘right to self determination’ can only be got through ‘armed struggle would require herculean efforts

KRG would have to work overtime to establish its impartial credentials and come up with viable alternatives that appropriately express sentiments of the people. Lastly and most importantly, KRG should never overlook the fact that it is entering something akin to a Gladiators’ arena where impatient spectators expect quick results and don’t give the player a second chance – either you perform, or its ‘thumbs down’ for you!

 

 

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