As Kashmir unrest enters 100th day, separatists mull over alternatives to strikes
The churning in Kashmir completed 100 days on Saturday with no end in sight to the spate of protests, curfews and shutdowns that have kept the Valley on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani on 8 July.
However, a new debate has been recently resonating among the masses over whether the separatist leadership should revisit their strike strategy.
A united Hurriyat Conference and the man spearheading the current agitation – Syed Ali Shah Geelani – is already under pressure from different sections of the society over the continuation of the ongoing protests. The Hurriyat is also struggling with the ideas on how to proceed and there is a strain within pro-freedom camps on how to keep the current momentum intact.
The Rising Kashmir reported on Saturday that Geelani has written a letter to different separatist political outfits seeking their suggestions on how to proceed. But the newspaper said, “most of the groups and stakeholders are yet to respond to the letter shot to them by Hurriyat Conference”.
The ongoing unrest that erupted after the death of Wani left 91 people dead and injured over 12,000 civilians in the forces firing in the last three months, two security personnel have also been killed while hundreds are injured.
The state government has launched a massive crackdown against agitating leaders and stone pelters. A statement by the Kashmir police on Friday evening said that “in its continuous drive to curb the activities of the trouble-mongers, police arrested 63 such individuals in the last 24 hours involved in disrupting the public order in different parts of the Valley.”
Kashmir police have arrested over 7,000 people in the Valley while more than 450 people have been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
The separatist groups have extended the strike up to 20 October but announced daily relaxation from 5pm to 7am barring Fridays. After which the traffic was seen playing on the roads at a snarling pace since the last few days in the capital city of Srinagar and other districts of Kashmir barring four districts in south Kashmir.
However, after 100 days of strikes, the masses are thinking about an alternate strategy of the pro-freedom camp in the wake of the waning effectiveness of the protest calendars.
Asem Mohiuddin, a journalist based in Srinagar, wrote on his Facebook page that “70- years back the longest shutdown in the history of Palestine achieved nothing for them and it amply clears Hartal is the failed model of resistance politics and still we follow it with no roadmap ahead.”
But Geelani, the Hurriyat leader, said in a statement recently, that calling or observing shutdown after each innocent killing although does not meet the demands “but there is no other option left by the government”.
“Many voices were heard about finding alternatives to strike calls but so far no concrete or practical idea has come to fore from any quarter,” Geelani said in a statement.
Mir Zeeshan, a resident of Srinagar, wrote on his Facebook page that the ongoing “struggle” from last three months is going on similar lines as the previous two uprising of 2008 and 2010.
“Kashmiri people have always been forgetting all the sacrifices since 1947. I must say leadership also failed to take Kashmir issue forward they too are in dilemma what should be next? They had a chance to sit on a table but repeatedly they refused. But talks are the only way by which indifferences are being solved. If India asked them talks under India constitution Hurriyat should have replied they will talk but unconditional. It was Peoples movement but now same people are giving up their movement. At last Kashmir gonna sleep again and will rise again when something untoward happens. (sic),” Zeeshan wrote.
The state government of Jammu and Kashmir is also sniffing some exhaustion among its people after three months of continuous strikes. The government on Saturday morning allowed the mobile operators to resume their pre-paid services after 98 days, which have remained blocked since the beginning of the unrest. However, mobile internet services continued to remain suspended.
“In Kashmir, a shutdown is the only predominant form of political protest they should come up with alternative modes of protests which are effective, prolonged strikes set in fatigue among the people,” Nissar Ahmad, a resident of Raj Bagh area of Srinagar said.
“There is no doubt that these prolonged strikes are the most viable option to mobilise public opinion but they are also detrimental to the public that causes self-inflicting loss,” Altaf Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Indra Nagar locality of the Srinagar told Firstpost.
“Strikes are an effective tool to send a strong political message but its arbitrary use is fatiguing,” Shafiq Mushtaq, another resident of Srinagar city, said.
Residents say prolonged shutdown ensure into a fatigue among people, which is ultimately harmful to the very idea for which people have been struggling for the last three months.