EDITORIAL

Maintaining discipline

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Now it is getting ugly, really ugly. The way people are being targeted on the roads and streets by their own people, has become a cause of huge fear and hearty-ache. Needless to say this unruly behavior is also turning away people, and with it their sympathies for the “cause”. So those in the leadership roles, who always boast of their politics as being “inherently nonviolent” and accuse governments of “violent oppression” must try and do something about it. That bloody street-fights with people training stones, and fists, and blows at each other (those deriving sadistic pleasure from using violence to enforce shutdowns regularly clashing with those who have to move out of their homes to attend some or the other necessary chore, or an emergency) have become a routine. Having allowed the situation to go adrift and come this far, we can no longer accord this mayhem the sanctity of the status quo.

Now the separatist leaders may claim, and perhaps rightly, that the people and gangs mounting violent campaigns on the fellow people, are operating beyond their (separatists’) control and at “someone else’s behest”. In that case, they will have to somehow guarantee that the violent acts occur separately in time and space from the “non-violent” protest programmes announced by them, and that the two are easily and clearly distinguishable to the general public here. If this is impossible, then the only recourse would be to distance aggressively and denounce publicly the non-violent behaviours, and make sure that the general population understands why that has been done.

If one is to draw from the general rules as articulated and argued by the countless scholars and votaries of the non-violent political struggle, it is essential for the participating public to understand that when called to chip in their contribution to the “movement” by way of participation in its activities, “they are not being invited to join a new religion or change their basic world view”. To participate in the struggle, they must keep their behavior within a certain modus operandi for the duration of the campaign. Peter Ackerman and Christopher Krugler, two leading scholars and authors of the ‘Strategic Non-violent Conflict” argue that both participating public and the leading activists “need to know what behavior is expected, in specific terms, and why it is essential to strategic success”.  Obviously any deviant behavior comes with a huge unnecessary baggage of diminishing legitimacy, general embarrassment, and turning off and turning away potential supporters!

They maintain the groups engaged in nonviolent action must “issue easily understandable codes of conduct and discipline their own members who stray.” In Kashmir context, the instructions for remaining nonviolent could include such things as injunctions against pelting stones — irrespective of the identity and circumstances of the target— for in any case, this actually compromises the safety of the common people – directly when stones are targeted at them or their vehicles, and indirectly when trained at the police and paramilitaries whose retaliation is then again directed at the people, not necessarily at those who throw stones.  It could also mean asking people to withdraw from a protest march or a rally or a congregation if and when they feel their resolve to remain nonviolent is giving away. Borrowing again from the authors, “keeping nonviolent discipline is neither an arbitrary nor primarily a moralistic choice; it advances the conduct of strategy.”

The least that is expected from the leadership at this juncture is to ensure that awareness of all these facts permeates all levels of the society. Everybody and not just the leaders need to understand that nonviolent campaigners too are, in so many ways like the soldiers. While the latter is trained in the efficient use of weapons, former are expected to refrain from violence even while “actively resisting in order to change the alignment of forces on the strategic and policy levels.”

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