Beyond bandh calls and hartals


Dominating mindset and consequent struggle for existence have always got mankind into vortex of conflict since ages. In a situation of conflict well defined lines are drawn between exploiters and the exploited and a chain of agitation initiates in one form or the other. Conflict and following agitations can have several manifestations, ranging from non-violent movements to bloody wars.

Kashmir is a conflict zone, emitting lava of discontent for the last more than six decades. In real sense whole sub-continent is charged because of existing  political inconsistency and atmosphere of mistrust. The real sufferers at the moment are Kashmiris and if, God forbid, things go out of hand at any point of time many races will suffer for ages. The ramifications of the conflict are so severe that a once beautiful valley has turned into a big garrison and sufferings loom on the whole populace. The political errors committed by the leaders in 1947 and subsequent abrasions and developments had culminated into a situation of severe turmoil, Kashmir is facing at the moment. Six decades of great effort for justified solution of vexed Kashmir issue had annihilated many souls and agonizing three generations of Kashmiri population. ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’. This maxim holds good for Kashmir and its people. In 1947 when majority of Indians were celebrating the dawn of independence, Kashmiris were mollified with a fascinating promise of self determination at appropriate time by the most credible leaders of the time, but history is witness to the delay. May be the delay ultimately will culminate into shameful denial. Kashmir has a history of its own, history of exploitation, subjugation and conflict but last six decades were more painful as it all was inflicted in the garb of democracy. Much has been written about the plight of Kashmiri people and their struggle for emancipation and empowerment and it will be wastage of precious time of esteemed readers and newspaper columns to add more to it.

Real leadership decides about the right move at the right time without giving any consideration to any ego and personal feeling. Real leaders are custodians of sentiments and aspirations of the people and any fudging with people’s mandate is extreme deception. 1931 was watershed of Kashmiri struggle against autocracy and situation of enslavement, a powerful leadership got shaped out of this bloody confrontation. From 1931 to 1947 Sher-i- Kashmir enjoyed absolute mandate to lead and decide the fate of Kashmiris. On the ‘D’ day personal relations prevailed over logic and heart took over the mind in deciding the fate of Kashmiris and that is how seeds of prospective conflict got sown in Kashmir. All other actors and stake holders of the partition can not be absolved of making wrong moves and initiatives, knowingly or unknowingly. Role of raiders, sweet trickery of Indian polity and a hesitant ruler, all contributed in making the situation worse for future. Making it very short and precise, this conflict has carried itself from one century to next and at present we are completely entangled in a situation of unending divergence and relentless deceit. All the three stake holders, India, Pakistan and people of Kashmir seek solution of their choice, on their own terms and conditions which can never materialize in practical norms.

After armed insurgency in eighties and nineties of last century the present non-violent resistance smeared with occasional stone pelting has brought Kashmir issue  to limelight and gained significance not only on national but international level as well. Passion, euphoria and unrelenting spirit of present younger generation have dominated the current agitation. Being predominantly non-violent it has attracted the attention of many advocates of liberty and human rights activists who firmly believe in emancipation through nonviolent means. Energetic agitation and sacrifices of youth changed the landscape and equation of Kashmiri resistance movement and leadership. Many existing leaders were marginalized and a preferred leadership got pushed into this intractable situation , not necessarily by choice. Presently all other resistance leaders are in a state of wait and watch while Syed Ali Shah Gilani is holding the fort and steering ‘Quit Kashmir movement’. For last four months ‘Quit Kashmir movement, has paralyzed every sphere of life in Kashmir, and put enormous pressure on the central government.  Every effort has been utilized by authorities to douse the raging fire of discontent and disturbance in Kashmir. Anger of Kashmiri people is not waning away, even after much of administrative efforts and political handling. People of Kashmir supported every move and call of the leadership without uttering a single word of disagreement. In the words of Gilani “Azadi comes at a cost” and people of Kashmir not only like this argument but supported it resolutely. All segments of life, whether education, economy or social setup got harshly effected and Kashmiris faced it all, willingly.

Now, after months of long drawn strategy of Hartaals and Bandhs many people are of the opinion that the buck of non-violent struggle for emancipation should not  get stuck within the confines of  Hartaals and Bandhs,  but we should explore and open up new options of peaceful struggle and move beyond this myopic concept of resistance. Every saner voice and view can not deny the impact of past four month’s unrelenting agenda of shut-down and Bands. A larger population of India is now aware of the turmoil and pain of Kashmiri people. Many voices within India have come forward to plead the genuine demands and aspirations of Kashmiri people. Impact of present situation has made central government and Indian leadership to accept the fact of discontent within Kashmir and several initiatives and measures are in pipeline to deal with Kashmir issue. How far these measures will address the real issue of Kashmir only time will tell? Until then based on past experience, apprehensions of separatist leadership regarding sincerity of Indian leaders will be valid. Present leadership which has emerged out of a complex situation and is leading people in a much charged atmosphere at a crucial juncture has to intensify its campaign. However it should seek a way-out and explore many other alternatives while sticking to its approach of nonviolence. We should think and go beyond the concept of strikes and Bandhs so that this movement can sustain and end to its logical conclusion.

Leadership should not shy away from changing strategies with honest and sincere intentions and for the betterment of people of Kashmir and their genuine aspirations. Guns in nineties played their role so did the Hartaals and Bandhs. Sustainability of movements demands a simultaneous intellectual, social and economic pursuit along with other forms of resistance. It is not necessary that we get stuck in a particular mindset of struggle. Instead we may have to rethink our strategy but religiously keeping sacred blood of our martyrs and aspirations of people into consideration. In any struggle clock of resistance moves both ways and never remains static. Our earlier experience of last many decades if analyzed properly provides us with an idea of ups and downs and resultant shifting of strategies. Resistance movements demand vigorous strategies with every changing scenario and any static position will prove fatal for situation of seeking justice and our leaders should consider this situation of facts without any bias and malice and redraw their policy.

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[Published in Greater Kashmir:]