For the first time in four months, Kashmir will have two complete working days on Saturday and Sunday according to the latest weekly protest calendar issued by Hurriyat. The protest roster will continue unchanged for the rest of five days. The modification in the calendar has followed a week after the Hurriyat’s consultations with the civil society groups, a large percentage of whom reportedly batted for the continuation of the agitation.
The situation at the venue of the meeting was very tense. As Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik were holding the marathon meeting with the civil society groups at Geelani’s residence at Hyderpora, a large gathering of people outside shouted pro-Azadi slogans and called for persisting with the strategy so far. The slogans also held an implicit warning against any separatist leader who might seek to rethink the protest programme in force since the killing of the popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. It was in response to this shrill sloganeering that Malik felt the need to come out midway through the meeting and reassure the gathering outside that they hadn’t embarked on any radical departure from the ongoing protest strategy. And a day after, the Hurriyat leaders extended the protest program till November 17 with shutdowns continuing uninterrupted.
But this time, people partially observed the shutdown, suggesting a deep undercurrent of resentment against the continuation of the same old programme. This was apparent from an increased movement of traffic on the roads, now supplemented for the first time by the public transport. Shops too started opening even during the period of shutdown.
If anything, this has shown that the Hurriyat has failed to keep up with the public sentiment and its silent demand for a shift in strategy, now that the old one has started giving diminishing returns. But Hurriyat, as the new calendar reveals is bent on persisting with the discredited old programme. Though, it has given in to the mounting public pressure by lifting shutdown completely for two days, it hasn’t given up on the self-inflicting exercise of hartals which far from bringing Azadi an inch nearer is creating widespread despondency and the disillusionment with the cause itself.
Any strategy that directly hurts the people fighting for a cause rather than the adversary will only move you farther away from the achievement of your goal. But this is a basic and a very simple fact that our leaders have struggled to get their heads around. The scenario that has unfolded now could have been foreseen with even less than basic intelligence. But unfortunately none of the spearheads of this uprising have chosen to apply their mind. The result is a dead-end scenario. Pro-freedom camp, on their part, have once again exhibited little political imagination. With uninterrupted weekly protest rosters, they have decimated Valley's economy.
Four months on they have appeared unable to innovate on the protest timetables, a strategy that they also practiced over five months in 2010 to no avail. None of the parties involved in the conflict seems to have gone through a learning curve. For now, situation seems to be going on regardless, with none of them pausing to think where Kashmir is heading. Meanwhile, at the last count, 96 people have been killed, several hundred blinded and over 15000 injured in the ongoing unrest.