Since the public has to suffer the consequences of prolonged shutdowns it is not very often that one comes across instances where a mass agitation continues for months together without those who are spearheading it conferring with the people. Thus, even though it took the ‘joint’ Hurriyat more than four months to hold a meeting with whom they consider to be ‘stakeholders’ to discuss the future of the ongoing protests in Kashmir, this is a welcome move.
During this meeting, the stakeholders who were present reportedly expressed full faith in the ‘joint’ Hurriyat and gave the separatist conglomerate a carte blanche for continuing the ongoing agitation. And by raising slogans like “Sauda-baazi nahin Chalegi” (‘No deals are acceptable’) the crowd outside the meeting venue too echoed similar sentiments. The verdict is clear- now they have suffered for more than four months the public obviously wants to see the results that the Hurriyat had promised would come their way soon. With the ball now squarely in the Hurriyat’s court the question in everybody’s mind is, now what?
This question is worrying everybody because of what we have seen and experienced ever since the current protests started more than four months ago. We have been witness to widespread protests, clashes, stone pelting and torching of government assets. We have seen posts of security forces being razed and more recently, schools being burnt down. We have also observed the immense suffering of the kith and kin of the exceptionally large number of protesters killed, blinded and injured in firing by law enforcement agencies. And finally we have seen how the Hurriyat’s impassioned appeals to the international community and Pakistan’s much hyped efforts seeking international intervention in Kashmir have fallen on deaf ears.
Every conscious action is conceived to achieve a specific set of aims and thus, evaluating the results gives a fair assessment about the degree of success a particular endeavour has achieved. Though the aim of current agitation (like all other protests in the past) is to seek the ‘right to self determination’, but this time there is a difference. Despite entering its fifth month which has financially battered the people of Kashmir as never before, the Hurriyat hasn’t shown any inclination of calling off the agitation. And with the ‘stakeholders’ supporting the joint Hurriyat’s actions, continuing the agitation has become a Hobson’s choice for the separatist conglomerate.
The results achieved by the ongoing protests in Kashmir aren’t very encouraging. For one, despite the high casualty figures of protesters, this agitation hasn’t attracted enough international attention that could impel the movement for the ‘right to self determination’. Next, there aren’t any worthwhile indications to suggest that this protracted agitation in Kashmir has in anyway forced the state or central government to concede and accept any of the demands made by the separatists. Though the centre did send an ‘All Party Delegation’ followed by another delegation of civil society members to Kashmir, such actions are just conventional rituals and not something consequential.
Why the current agitation appears to be going the same way as the ones in the past is because like always, it doesn’t have a coordinated approach. The ‘joint’ Hurriyat’s assertion that this is a peaceful agitation for seeking the ‘right to self determination’ as promised by UN resolutions is justified and no one can grudge them this. However, incidents of widespread clashes, stone pelting and arson being reported every day belie the Hurriyat’s ‘peaceful agitation’ claims and instead conveys an impression that instead of protesting in an orderly manner, mobs are being instigated to run riot in Kashmir. And by admitting that “We cannot say we are in absolute control of the situation,” Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has only reinforced this erroneous impression.
Moreover, the marked increase in militancy related incidents during this period and the Hurriyat’s refusal to meet the APD is has only helped in giving more strength to New Delhi’s allegation that the separatists aren’t really serious about dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully. And by saying “our armed struggle and political struggle will carry on simultaneously” during a recent interview given to Sonia Sarkar of The Telegraph, United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin has made it clear to the international community that the current agitation is as peaceful as it is violent.
That the ‘right to self determination’ movement is riding on two horses is what its biggest drawback is and as long as this continues, protests and agitations will achieve nothing. Our leaders need to realise that the moment ‘armed struggle’ comes into the picture, the issue of seeking solution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with UN resolutions becomes redundant. Islamabad and the OIC may feel that armed struggle in Kashmir is justified and cannot be equated with terrorism but the international community doesn’t share their views. And since the Kashmir issue can only be resolved by the international community, our leaders need to redraw their ‘freedom struggle’ strategy.
Till our leaders don’t come out with new strategy we will have to continue living with shutdowns and curfews. If this is our destiny, then we might as well reconcile and start mastering the art of dodging the CRPF on main roads while devising ways to escape the wrath of our own vigilante groups barricading interior streets. And if the ‘armed struggle’ continues to ‘compliment’ street protests then we better draw up both additional insurance policies and our wills.
Tailpiece: When the current protests started, Geelani sahib told us that, “Never before have we been so close to freedom with such clarity as we are now.” And this is probably the reason why the stakeholders called by the Hurriyat to chalk out the future plan of action want the agitation to continue. Now it is for the ‘joint’ Hurriyat to decide whether they want to suspend the current agitation till they can restructure their strategy or continue with the ongoing protests. By opting for the former they may temporarily lose face but their decision will benefit both the Kashmir cause and the people. However, if they don’t do so then we know what lies ahead for us and so there is no point in asking ‘now what’.