For the separatist leaders whose main sphere of activity had got restricted to offering funeral prayers and issuing statements demanding the ‘right to self determination’, the post Burhan Wani encounter protests have come as a windfall. Now that they have got the chance to do what they are best at doing, they will not let this chance pass so easily and hence the protest calendar drama is repeating itself once more. The immense hardships that protests cause to the public seems to matter little to our leaders and nor does the fact that ultimately nothing comes out from protests appears to make them rethink on this unproductive strategy.
It’s been three weeks since Kashmir came to a standstill and the civilian deaths in the ongoing protests have crossed the half century mark. Several thousand people have been injured with many likely to lose their eyesight. However, with the separatists issuing a ‘protest calendar’ extending the ongoing protests our problems appear to be far from over. Our leaders proudly tell us that the ongoing protests have brought back Kashmir into international focus and ‘exposed’ the atrocities of the law enforcement agencies. The separatists are right on the international focus issue as UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon has expressed his concern on the ongoing violence in Kashmir and so has Washington!
However, I find no reason to share their optimism since after going through their responses at least I find that there is nothing in the statements issued by UN Secretary General and Washington that even most remotely puts either New Delhi in the dock, sympathises with the people of Kashmir or supports our demand for ‘right to self determination’! The statement read out by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric “calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further violence and hopes that all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means.”
Analysis of the UN Secretary General’s statement clearly indicates that its concerns regarding the ongoing violence is addressed to “all parties” and asks them to “exercise maximum restraint.” Thus, it holds both the law enforcement agencies and protesters equally responsible for the violence in Kashmir and does not see one side as the oppressor and the other as the victim! It also stresses the need to address “all concerns” through “peaceful means.” Thus it is clear that the UN Secretary General does not approve of violence by protesters and this is something our leaders must take note of.
US State Department spokesperson John Kirby has also echoed a similar view by stating that “We have seen reports of clashes between protesters and Indian forces in Kashmir. And we’re, of course, concerned by the violence, as you might expect we would be.” He went on to say that “We encourage all sides to make efforts to find a peaceful solution to this.” Washington’s statement talks about “of clashes between protesters and Indian forces in Kashmir” and thus here too there is no mention of the “Indian forces” being the persecutors or protesters the victims. Similarly, even Washington has emphasised the need for “all sides to make efforts to find a peaceful solution.”
The people will do whatever our leaders ask of them and this is why they need to be all the more deliberate and purposeful in formulating any strategy involving mass public participation. The ongoing protests have entered their fourth week and the international community has already taken note of the same and given its reactions. So what is the point of extending the protests by coming out with a calendar that (with due apologies to the Hurriyat) reads more like a summer vacation activity programme for students? However, if the Hurriyat still feels that the message it wished to convey to New Delhi and the world has yet not gone across; then I’m afraid that further extending the protests won’t help as the real problem lies elsewhere!
There are lurking suspicions in the minds of many that the Hurriyat has made the center’s refusal to appeal to them for calling off the protests a prestige issue and this is the reason for their refusal to terminate the protests, which besides ruining the tourist season is also causing immense public hardship. Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook has once again reminded the UN and the international community that "Today entire Kashmiri nation was demanding their right to self-determination in one voice and were ready to offer all types of sacrifices for it."
With due regards to the respected Mirwaiz, I would just like to remind him that even if we “were ready to offer all types of sacrifices for it,” the ‘right to self determination’ will not come our way until the UN resolutions on Kashmir are implemented. And this can only happen if Islamabad takes the first step by agreeing to vacate Pakistan administered Kashmir as required by the UN resolution on the ‘right to self determination’. Till then all our sound and fury would signify nothing.
Like I said earlier, the real problem lies elsewhere!
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