Need of the hour is for separatists to devise a strategy, both long-term as well short-term, to take the struggle forward but not at the cost of Kashmir’s economy, and education of our future generation

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|| YASIR ALTAF ZARGAR

                  The 2016 uprising changed a lot of things in Kashmir. It gave a new face to the longstanding political dispute of the region. The mass involvement of people from rural areas surged the uprising sending the message that Kashmiris are out on their own to seek their political rights. While the uprising was purely intrinsic even acknowledged by political leaders like former chief minister Omar Abdullah the Indian media left no stone unturned to use inflammatory headlines to defame the movement and tried to give a wrong perception that the uprising was drive from across the line of control by Pakistan. This is not for the first time that Kashmir witnessed months-long civilian uprising with clear for azadi (freedom). We vividly 2008 an 2010 when people hit the roads against transfer of land to amaranth shrine board and civilian killings respectively and how peoples’ participation in the protests led to mass uprising during the two years bringing to fore the debate for resolution of Kashmir issue. People of Kashmir are witness to the suffering that they are subjected to by the mainstream parties once they come to the power.

              During 2014 assembly elections, the two regional parties, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference competed with each other to secure the highest chair, promising people that once in power they would start the process for resolving the long pending dispute of Kashmir. But once in office the ruling PDP turned back on its promises and has become an ally of Bhartiya Janta Party which wants complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with union of India. On the other hand, out of power National Conference too has been changing its colors to garner the peoples’ support. The recent example is the statement of party President Farooq Abdullah who in a surprising move pledged support to Hurriyat leadership on the 111th birth anniversary of his father and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. In power Abdullah sings the mainstream songs and sides with India but now his party is trying desperately to occupy the space lost by the PDP in Kashmir following the killing of 96 civilians by the security forces during the summer uprising that was triggered by the killing of rebel commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani by the forces on July 8 in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. It is a common thing in Kashmir that any political party which comes to power forgets the promises they make with the people during the election campaign. During the last Assembly elections the PDP campaigned against BJP and in their election manifesto they clearly claimed to strive for the self-rule. But it is the same PDP which cobbled the coalition with the right wing BJP. After become the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose politics is based on human rights and justice, took a complete U-turn from her 20 years of political career. Her statement that those who were killed had not gone out to buy toffee and milk while attacking the army camps and police stations exemplifies the total change in her politics. On the other hand her government allowed the use of pellet guns brazenly on protestors, rendering over 1200 people, mostly young boys, blind by one or both eyes.

While the status quo continues people have time & again expressed their aspirations, be it the armed movement that broke out in 90s or the ongoing phase of the struggle when young boys in the streets of Kashmir turned to the oldest weapon, stone, which Kashmir have used to fight for their political rights

             The use of these deadly pellet guns on peaceful protestors and the terrible impact this weapon has left on the faces of young boys and girls who lost their eyesight forever, gives us a sense of brute force that Kashmir were subjected to during the five month long uprising in the Valley. The sufferings have in fact continued since autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh who later signed the instrument of accession with India ignoring the demand of majority of people in Kashmir for continuing as an independent state. While as of now there has been no change in the status quo of Kashmir people have time and again expressed their aspirations, be it the armed movement that broke out in 90s or the ongoing phase of the struggle when young boys in the streets of Kashmir have turned to the oldest weapon that Kashmir have used to fight for their political rights: stone. There is another reality that people of Kashmir are faced with. Eternally they have mixed feeling about what to do next. While most of the times they are seen siding with the separatists but in times of elections and political functions during “normal times” people do provide space to the mainstream political parties as well despite the fact that people of Kashmir have always faced betrayals at the hands of mainstream politicians.

           Kashmir’s tumultuous history reminds us of those promises which political parties usually claim during election rallies – Sadak, Pani Bijli and employment to the youth. During the election campaign, each and every place is being visited by political leaders and the hollow promises are being delivered during the rallies. They get a response in form of huge participation of people in these rallies while forgetting the suffering they have been subjected to over years and decades. But when the state flex its muscles on the same people for protesting against human rights violations or seeking political rights the Valley witness long periods of unrest. There is another distressing reality that there always had been exploitation of people by both sides from time to time. No nation has ever achieved freedom purely by framings its resistance policy on protests. It can be considered as part of a struggle which could be used to bring world attention towards the peoples’ sufferings. But it can’t be the only strategy that would help any nation to achieve its political goals.

It is a common thing in Kashmir that any political party which comes to power forgets the promises they make with the people during the election campaign. During the last Assembly elections the PDP campaigned against BJP and in their election manifesto they clearly claimed to strive for the selfrule. But it is the same PDP which cobbled the coalition with the right wing BJP

               It needs to be noted also that there are many leaders in resistance camp who are struggling for fame than focusing on the struggle. They usually rebut each other just to grab headlines of newspapers. We have just witnessed five month long uprising that consumed so many innocent lives. The need of the hour is to devise a strategy, both long-term as well short-term to take the struggle forward but not at the cost of the economy of Kashmir and education of our future generation. By following the protests calendars in letter and spirit during past five months people of Kashmir have already shown their resilience. It is time for the separatists to rise to the occasion to show the way.