Moving Ahead ?

THOUGH I am not a fan of Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq but what I appreciate about him is that he is the one separatist leader who does not shy away from speaking his mind on issues that most of his compatriots would prefer to avoid. Remember, he was the one who in 2007 earned the wrath of his colleagues and the Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin when he spoke about the futility of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir and how it had only “created more graveyards” without achieving nothing! Though he quickly altered his position on the ‘armed struggle’, the same cannot be held against him because in an environment where all other separatist leaders are lauding the ‘armed struggle’ it would be naïve to expect the Mirwaiz to do otherwise for obvious reasons!

Recently, in a news conference held at the Hurriyat (M) headquarters in Rajbagh, the Mirwaiz raised two very serious and equally contentious issues. The first was about hartals and on this issue he rightly stated that “Hartal is the natural reaction for killings.” However, what is more important is that he had the moral courage to say that there was a “need to move ahead” and “think beyond hartals” since “after two days we forget the person (whose death sparked the hartals)!” Past experience vindicates the Mirwaiz’s observation and hartals have become so commonplace in Kashmir today that they no longer attract international attention anymore and there is a reason for this.

In almost every hartal in Kashmir protesters turn violent and the moment a crowd becomes an unruly mob and taking law into their own hands start pelting stones and damaging public property, the hartal loses its significance. The use of retaliatory force by the law enforcement agencies to control often results protesters being killed and suffering serious injuries, that could otherwise been prevented had the crowds not turned violent. Here it may be pertinent to mention that there are some who want us to believe that the killing and injuring of protesters would turn international opinion against New Delhi and thus help the Kashmir cause. However, this is just a fallacy as experience has shown that this is certainly not the case!

During the 2010 protests, 112 lives were lost and this is by no means a small number.  However, even though the international community and human rights groups expressed concern over these deaths, this criticism was not regarding the use of force but only because it was considered “excessive.” Yet, no resolution condemning these killings was ever passed against India in any international forum, nor did any country summon the Indian ambassador to register its protest. Even in the recent Handwara incident, Amnesty International has asked New Delhi not to explain the killings but only investigate complaints regarding use of “excessive force.” Thus, the Mirwaiz’s decision to consult civil society members and other stakeholders for devising another strategy on what should be done when any civilian is killed in Kashmir is a positive development as far as reducing (if not completely eliminating) the hartal ‘culture’.

The second point the Mirwaiz raised during this presser is regarding the situation in J&K which he has rightly pointed out was “going from bad to worse.” The Hurriyat (M) chairman has correctly stated that conditions have deteriorated “especially after 1990, the inception of black laws and military might, the rights of the people have been snatched and such things are getting deeper with time.” Unfortunately, he has not spoken anything about why this happened or how can this problem be overcome. It is no secret that ‘black laws’ in J&K came about after militancy erupted here in 1990 and though the international community and human rights organisations may be upset by these laws, New Delhi has been able to convince the world that the ‘desperate times’ created by militancy calls for the adoption of ‘desperate measures’ in form of stringent laws!

We are told that the ‘armed struggle’ has helped rejuvenate the ‘right to self determination’ struggle by attracting international attention to the Kashmir issue. However, while it is true that militancy in Kashmir has indeed drawn attention of the international community, but this has been for the wrong reasons.  It may sound brash but it is fact that even after the loss of so many lives ever since militancy took root in J&K, the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ still hasn’t made any progress that is visible to the people. So, let us have the courage to accept the fact that though our youth have displayed commendable valour and willingly sacrificed their lives, militancy has failed in Kashmir because of reasons beyond their control. And this is not my view alone as in the past, our leaders have also admitted to the same through actions and words. 

Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has stated that “The armed struggle won’t serve its purpose unless and until it is well coordinated. It needs support of a country which could provide supply of weapons, resources and training camps which we don’t have. It also needs ideologically perfect youth. It needs strategy. The militancy in Kashmir lacks these things.”The Mirwaiz has also expressed the same sentiments in his ‘graveyards’ remarks that have been mentioned earlier in this piece. By forsaking the ‘armed struggle’, JKLF chairman Yasin Malik has demonstrated that he too doesn’t believe that the Kashmir issue can be resolved through violence. Even UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin has himself publically admitted that Kashmiri militants are “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir!” 

However, what is most depressing thing is that instead of sitting down with civil society members and other stakeholders to finds ways to avoid death of civilians, a distinguished leader like the Mirwaiz is more concerned about what should be done when a civilian is killed in Kashmir. And when separatists and the civil society starts indulging in such morbid discourses then with what face can we stand up and tell those who accuse our leaders of using innocent people as “cannon fodder” that their allegations have no substance? Prevention is certainly better than lamentation. Most respected Mirwaiz, why don’t you channelise your energy and efforts positively by trying doing something that would force New Delhi to repeal ‘black laws’ in J&K which are the root of all our problems? 

The Mirwaiz as well as all other separatist leaders have always been claiming that the Government of India is using the excuse of militancy for imposition of ‘black laws’ in J&K in order to suppress the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’. If this is really the case, then why doesn’t the separatist conglomerate expose India’s sinister designs by calling off the ‘armed struggle’ and thereby taking away New Delhi’s excuse for defending imposition of ‘black laws’? Moreover, when the chairmen of the Hurriyat (G), Hurriyat (M) and JKLF as well as the UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo have spoken about the futility of the ‘armed struggle’, then why is no one considering the option of ceasing hostilities? There is no way in which New Delhi can afford to continue with the imposition of ‘black laws’ in J&K when the causative factors for invoking the same that it has cited cease to exist and the example of Tripura is there right in front of us to see! 

So, whenever a separatist leader expresses his anguish over concern about the safety of the people, the plot only thickens!


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