Despite emotional appeals by the joint Hurriyat and use of muscle power by groups of young boys to enforce protest calendars, the intensity of ongoing protests sparked off by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8 has petered out. Yet the joint Hurriyat is still refusing to call off protests and their obduracy has created a comical time-sharing situation. In the protest calendar upto December 31, two days in each week have been earmarked for organising protests. On the rest of the days there is full day relaxation (permission for the public to go about their normal activities) with two hours sit-in protests on some days.
Though the joint Hurriyat maintains that the current protests have been a grand success it has not given out even a single gain that has accrued from these protests. Such assertions are being repeated so frequently that they have now started irritating the public since the situation on ground doesnt support the claims being made by the separatist conglomerate. And the latest hybrid protest calendar issued by the joint Hurriyat is only making a mockery of the struggle for the right to self determination. How can protests ever be enforced upon the people? And how can the public be expected to follow the weird routine of leading a normal life on five days in a week and then turning into protesters for the balance two days?
At a time when the joint Hurriyat has in its wisdom decided that Kashmir will be closed on two consecutive days every week, the statement that Tourists and pilgrims who intend to visit Kashmir are most welcome issued by it has only compounded the confusion. In the first place, why should a tourist visit Kashmir where two days in every week is reserved for carrying out protests? If some adventurous tourist does decide to visit Kashmir then choosing the five day long full day relaxation period spelt out by the joint Hurriyat would be the only option. To ensure uninterrupted sightseeing and frolic, tourists would have to reach Srinagar on Sunday and plan to leave on Thursday!
However, those wish to spend more than a week in Kashmir should have the ability and be prepared to remain indoors on Fridays and Saturdays so as to avoid getting caught in protests which are supposed to be peaceful but invariably turn violent. Tourists venturing out on these two days run the risk of being either hit by pellet guns of the CRPF or stones pelted by protesters! And so one really wonders if any tourist would be so foolish as to spend his money and time visiting a place where protests are conducted on a weekly basis as a matter of routine. Thats why the Hurriyats invitation to tourists makes no sense!
The joint statement issued alongwith the fresh protest calendar upto December 31, says, Now it is time to consolidate our gains and build upon them in order to move ahead further. In this regard the leadership feels that a long term sustainable strategy based on proactive initiatives, programmes and sustainable modes of protests with maximum public participation in their creation and implementation and minimum costs for the people is the way forward. Though extremely impressive, this well articulated statement unfortunately reveals the complete lack of unison between the thought process of the separatists and their actions.
First of all, what are the gains that the current protests have given us that the separatists are talking about? No one has cared to qualify this claim. Next, how will the two day long protest every week help in consolidating the gains that the joint Hurriyat keeps referring to without elucidating? Lastly, except for protests, where is the long term sustainable strategy based on proactive initiatives (and) programmes that the joint Hurriyat is talking about? Ever since the currents protests started, there have been various international and regional meetings like the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meet and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meets. While the current protests in Kashmir did find some mention in these meetings, nothing meaningful came out.
In his UNGA address Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif talked about the current protests and said, Over a hundred Kashmiris have been killed, hundreds, including children and infants, blinded by shotgun pellets and over six thousand unarmed civilians injured over the past two months. However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon did not talk about Kashmir in his UN General Assembly (UNGA) speech, prompting Hurriyat (G) Chairman SAS Geelani to lament that It is very shocking that while referring to conflicting zones in world he did not make any mention of Jammu and Kashmir. So, it is evident that the current protests have given us no gains as far as the UN is concerned.
The OIC contact group that met on the sidelines of the UNGA annual meet reaffirmed its solidarity with the people of Kashmir and demanded an end to oppression in “Indian occupied Kashmir” with special reference to the use of force by law enforcement agencies during the current protests. However, no resolution to condemn India was passed, nor was there any move to diplomatically isolate New Delhi and so all the OIC did was to pay lip service to Kashmir. To add insult to injury, while violence affected places like North Africa, West Asia and Afghanistan found mention in the Tashkent Declaration of the OIC Foreign Ministers meet, there was no mention of the Kashmir issue. Thus, it is clear that the ongoing protest in Kashmir hasnt got us any meaningful gains from the OIC side.
There was a ray of hope when the media carried a report that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that in the capacity of the OIC Chair of Human Rights, his country would make arrangements to send a fact-finding mission to Kashmir. However, this assurance given on sidelines of the UNGA meet has not fructified even after nearly three months. The story is the same when it comes to the international community. While many countries have expressed concern over the current situation in Kashmir, none has spoken up strongly for the Kashmiris and so it is evident that the current protests havent aroused the moral conscience of the international community!
The current protests have once again shown that while agitations may be a useful instrument for attracting international attention to the grievances of Kashmiris, they by themselves cannot get us our right to self determination. While the joint Hurriyat may talk about the gains made due to the current protests, is it also not true that despite the humungous loss of life, blinding and injuries, the perfunctory response of the UN, OIC and comity of nations has once again proved that the world doesnt consider the Kashmir problem to be an issue meriting international concern?
The separatists need to realise that human capacity for enduring suffering and remaining patient is not infinite. The current protests have once again shown that while agitations may be a useful instrument for attracting international attention to the grievances of Kashmiris, they by themselves cannot get us our right to self determination. While the joint Hurriyat may talk about the gains made due to the current protests, is it also not true that despite the humungous loss of life, blinding and injuries, the perfunctory response of the UN, OIC and comity of nations has once again proved that the world doesnt consider the Kashmir problem to be an issue meriting international concern? Protests are undoubtedly beneficial but only up to a certain extent and stretching it beyond the will only cause hardships to the people without giving any advantage to the movement for the right to self determination. This is what the separatist leadership should seriously think about before issuing the next calendar.
There is no point in carrying the non rewarding burden of protests into the New Year.
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