Public protests play an important part in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of all societies. Protests encourage the development of an engaged and informed citizenry. They strengthen representative democracy by enabling direct participation in public affairs. However there is a thin line that separates protests from public violence. Though the Constitution of India protects the right to assemble peacefully, however demonstrations, whether political, religious or social or other demonstrations, which create public disturbances or operate as nuisances or create or manifestly threaten some tangible public or private mischief are not covered by protection under Article 19(1) (free speech). Why am I talking about all this is because the manner in which protests are being carried out in Kashmir dont only fall outside the lines of Indian constitution but they also fall beyond the lines of humanity. Public violence is increasingly evident in our valley. Whether it is people protesting about lack of services or about Kashmir conflict or justice for Asifa, the participants keep pushing the envelope so that violence and damage to public and private property or persons becomes the norm. It is time for this to stop.
When, where and how protests should be carried out seems one important question that Kashmiris should think about seriously. While the manner in which our little Asifa was raped and murdered represents the heights of human brutality and barbarism, it is unfortunate to see the violent manner in which protesters are registering their anger on the streets of Kashmir. There is already lot of violence happening in her name which Asifa would have never liked. Thanks to the commendable work done by the concerned investigating team and the uncompromising stand taken by Chief Minister Ms Mufti, the case seems to be resolved to a great extent. The accused have already landed in the jail and are being tried in the court. In this situation, it becomes a bit irrelevant on our part to carry out protests in the manner in which we are doing it.
Demanding justice for Asifa is great however adopting violent approaches is surely not a good idea. The process is not only hurting our young school going kids physically, it is also hurting them mentally. For a young student, a night or two in a police station can never be a good mental tonic. And police here is not as sauve as that of Europe. They are alawys on a lookout to show their prowess on the hapless people. Mind it they will never spare a chance to break peoples limbs with their canes. Had the students behaved peacefully in their approach, chances of that happening could have been minimised. Remember Nelson Mandela, who once said to his people that we can wait for independence but we cannot wait for education. If our students are thinking that violence on streets would bring justice to Asifa, I am sorry, it will not. This violence in the name of Asifa is only bringing us more tears. Our innocent students are getting hurt, roads are being blocked, businesses are suffering. And all this is happening inspite of the fact that the case seems to be going into its right direction. What do we want now? Inspite of all that if we still feel we have something to protest about, why cant we do it in a dignified manner? How do we expect a stone thrown in the name of Asifa will do any justice to her when it is only hurting another innocent kid like her in return? While these protests might help us in putting some pressure on the concerned judge to speed up his process of delivering justice to Asifa, however how meaningful is it to lose more Asifs or Asifas in the process by involving ourselves directly with the armed forces is a moot question.
I feel as Kashmiris we have a habit of messing up things. We have messed up our own history and enslaved our identity, making it difficult for us as well as others to decide who we really were. We continue messing up ourselves through our actions. We hardly know how to react to a particular event. We make it easy for others to label our protesters as violent mobs. We make it easy for our own crowds to go against us by blocking our roads and shutting down our own businesses. We make it difficult for all peace loving folks of our society who aspire for a peaceful and dignified life. We seem to be destroying ourselves as a tribe.
Department of Journalism
University of Mumbai
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