Azadi and vote, militant funerals and political rallies

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Kashmiris have always been in a fix when it comes to the vexed political conflict in the state. On certain occasions, the people of Kashmir seem to be utterly conscious about their struggle for self-determination. Yet, on other occasions these very people act as if there is no issue. We gather for every kind of political rally, be it the mainstream political rallies or the separatist rallies. We enthusiastically participate in public rallies and even chant slogans. Our behaviour is so paradoxical. How can we support two completely different ideologies at the same time?

 Kashmiris have been mercurial when it comes to politics since the eras of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. We have never been clear about our stance or our goals. During Jagmohan’s rule which lasted up to October 9, 1996, the people of Kashmir joined many rebel groups and were fully conscious about their right to self-determination. People from almost every age group contributed in some way to the struggle for self-determination. The freedom movement was at its peak. People felt they were about to achieve something but none of them knew exactly what that something was. 

Some rebel groups were fighting for complete independence while others were fighting for a merger with Pakistan. As normalcy started to return, the state assembly elections which were held after a gap of six years recorded an overall turnout of 53.92%. The Indian mainstream media exploited the poll percentage at both national as well as international level. This had serious implications on Kashmir’s freedom struggle.

While it couldn’t completely dissuade the people of Kashmir from joining various rebel groups, it certainly decreased the number. Most people started to shun the path of violence as they began feeling that violence was not the solution to their issue. 

However, the freedom struggle got a new life in 2008 as people in every nook and cranny of the valley joined together to protest against the Amarnath Land row as it was seen as a gross violation of Article 370. 

People once again started answering to ‘Chalo’ and strike calls of the separatists. It seemed the people of Kashmir had been united at last but this bubble of joy did not last long. Soon after this agitation, assembly polls were held and the people of the valley once again enthusiastically participated in these elections, defying the poll boycott calls of the separatists. The voter turnout increased by 17 percent and the overall turnout was recorded at 60.5 percent. 

The Indian media called it as “the triumph of Indian democracy”. In June 2010, a new wave of pro freedom movement swept through the valley following the killing of a local teenager Tuffail Mattu. The separatists launched the “quit Kashmir movement” and a new slogan “go India go back” was introduced. While the people showed huge enthusiasm in the movement initially, as time passed, the people once again got busy in their lives and the freedom movement once again took a backseat. The assembly elections held in 2014 again recorded at huge turnout of 65%, the highest in 25 years. India termed the overall polling percentage as “historic and unprecedented”. 

A new trend of participating in the funeral prayers of slain rebels is emerging now. People are attending these funerals in huge numbers and at some places such prayers are offered several times. But the irony is that these very people are the ones who participate in elections and help strengthen India’s claim over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The separatists too are in dilemma as they too are divided like the common masses. There are various pro freedom parties and each party has a different ideology and agenda.  Some groups believe in complete independence from both India and Pakistan, some seek freedom from democratic laws while for many freedom means a merger with Pakistan. 

The ideological divide among the pro freedom leaders has also driven a wedge among the people. These different ideologies are only creating widespread chaos and confusion. The need of the hour is unity. The pro-freedom parties should unite under a common goal and then try to unite the entire valley under one banner. It has been rightly said that united we stand, divided we fall. So, we need to have a united voice if we are to achieve what we desire to. 

 

 

 

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