Srinagar: The famous but rather apocryphal quote, “who do I call when I want to call Europe?”, attributed to the famous or infamous former US Secretary of State and scholar, Henry Kissinger is relevant to the politics or the political condition that obtains in Kashmir contemporarily, of course, albeit in a different set of contextual conditions. Our reference is to the shutting out of the separatist leadership of Kashmir from public consciousness by either placing them under house arrest or in prison.
The state has since Kashmir irrupted after the killing of Burhan Wani effectively shut the separatist leaders including the troika of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwai Umer Farooq and Yasin Mallik from public view and consciousness.
These leaders have been reduced to making statements through the media. The obvious premise of the state to shut these leaders out is to engineer and create a split between the people and the separatist leaders. But the question is: is this a prudent approach?
The answer is a clear cut no.
The reasons pertain to the very nature of protests-both in broad and specific terms- and in terms of communication. Consider a run of the mill, pedestrian example. If there is a ruckus in, say a school, or university, the authorities do not speak to all protesters; they speak to people who are held to be either a representative sample or the leaders.
The same dynamic or approach applies to public protests. In this schemata, Kashmir and the protests that have had the vale in a vise like grip are no exception.
Hypothetically speaking, if the state were considering initiating a dialogue re the resolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir, it cannot speak to the protestors on the streets; the obvious contender for the dialogue would be the people who represent the sentiment behind the protests. This means the separatists but if the separatists are shut out and barred from public, who can the state speak to?
The theory that the state can talk to separatists while they are behind bars does not hold water. Any dialogue behind bars will be seen by the broader public as a “deal” or a “ sell out”.
Why then does the state persist in what is obviously a flawed approach?
The answer, admittedly speculative, may be two pronged: the state is paranoid. If it releases the separatists, the state may be fearing that it will add grist to the mill of protests and the protests will acquire a poignant and a sharp edge. The other reason flowing from the first may be that the state thinks that by shutting out the separatists, the protests will die down. Both these reasons flow from flawed premises.
A certain dynamic defines the ongoing protests in Kashmir; by and large they gyrate to a rhythm and momentum of their own. The state by shutting out the separatist leadership is depriving and denying the protests of leadership. This means that the protests will evolve along a dynamic and momentum of their own. There then is no one to talk to. A broad inference can be made here regarding the state’s strategy and approach: the state does not appear to be wanting a dialogue about the conflict in and over Kashmir. All that it is interested at this point in time is an attritive process where it wants the protests to fizzle out. But even if the protests fizzle out, there are bound to be psychological repercussions beyond the protests that will impact and impinge the conflict in and over Kashmir. These repercussions might lead to a condition where the state, even if it then wants to talk or initiate a dialogue about conflict resolution, there will be no takers for it.
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