Niloofar Qureshi

Breaking the ‘Kashmir Struggle’ Stereotype

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Kashmir is once again on the boil which is not good news at all. And what makes the current situation more worrisome is that it has an uncanny similarity with the summer unrest of 2016 that saw a humungous loss of life and property. For one, the initial ‘trigger’ is the same-while it was Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter which initially sparked off the 2016 summer unrest, it is the killing of thirteen militants in multiple gunfights with security forces on last Sunday that ignited the current protests. Next, in both cases the situation worsened subsequently when law enforcing agencies used force against violent mobs causing fatal casualties and major injuries amongst protesters. A tragic cycle of activities ensued – casualties led to further protests and crowd violence during protests resulted in law enforcing agencies again using force which led to more casualties.

Lastly, though it’s the Hurriyat that called for protests in both cases but the separatist leadership soon lost control over protesters. In 2016, the separatist leadership was unable to restrain protesters from indulging in violence and Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani’s own admission that “we cannot say we are in absolute control of the situation” proves this fact. Though it is too early to say that such a situation will also arise this time but one doesn’t have to a Nostradamus to predict that things won’t be any different from those in 2016. And even though the “peaceful protest” announced by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) after Friday prayers on April 6 made has yet to commence as I write, I can say with utmost certainty that today evening’s protest will be anything but peaceful!

Before taking to the streets and indulging in acts of violence and arson, I would humbly request my dear brothers to put their emotions aside for a moment and think rationally.  I can well understand your anger and anguish but we must realise the adverse consequences that our actions taken in the heat of the moment will have on the Kashmir struggle. During the nearly six month long summer unrest of 2016, more than a hundred young Kashmiris were killed and a similar number blinded while thousands were left seriously injured. And even though Geelani sahib had then assured us that “Never before have been so close to freedom with such clarity as now,” nothing has changed on ground even today. Thus, before we decide to get into yet another prolonged ‘uprising’ once again, we must first weigh the cost that we are paying and the benefits which the unrest will yield.

Introspection on the 2016 unrest can provide us many valuable lessons provided we rely on logic rather than emotions. Thus, we must first address some uncomfortable yet unavoidable issues. Is it not a fact that despite the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raising serious concerns on Indian atrocities in Kashmir at the UN and with Washington alongwith Islamabad providing dossiers which it claimed contained “irrefutable evidence” of the same, no nation has specifically admonished New Delhi on this issue? And instead of castigating New Delhi for its “unprovoked” atrocities in Kashmir, an official UN statement simply said that the Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon) “Calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further violence and hopes that all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means.” Thus, instead of censuring India, the UN has found both New Delhi and the Hurriyat equally blameworthy for the violence in Kashmir!

Even the response of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the 2016 unrest is disappointing as all OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani did was to express “sorrow” over the killings, “deplore” use of force by Indian security forces and extend “condolences” to the families of victims. It could be argued that the OIC did call for a “through and expedient investigation” of Indian excesses in Kashmir by its Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHC). However, there is nothing reassuring about this because when New Delhi denied the inquiry commission entry into Kashmir, the OIC didn’t even consider it necessary to collectively apply diplomatic pressure on India for allowing it to carry out a “through and expedient investigation”!

Thus it’s time to break the stereotype by shedding escapist tendencies like sweeping this vital issue under the carpet by ascribing it to some ‘grand conspiracy’. Instead we need to find realistic reasons for the international community’s apathy towards the Kashmir issue. If protests, stone pelting and the ‘armed struggle’ are actually helping the Kashmir cause then let’s do these 24 X 7. However, if these activities are not taking us anywhere nearer to our goal of ‘self determination’ and instead alienating us from the international community then we must put an immediate end the same. Venting anger or seeking retribution through acts of violence may temporarily gratify individual angst but in the long run it does have an adverse and irreparable impact on the moral standing of a mass movement.

Unfortunately this is exactly what has happened to the ‘self determination’ movement in Kashmir and though arguments like crowds resorting to violence because of “oppression” and youth picking up guns on being “pushed against the wall” may give us a ‘feel good’ effect, it doesn’t convince the international community. It is not that our leaders aren’t aware of this reality- it’s just that for unknown reasons they don’t want to upset the status quo by re-evaluating  the efficacy of their quarter-century old ‘shutdown strategy’ even though the same has caused immense suffering without giving us any positive results. And since the ‘old guard’ refuses to abandon its unfruitful stance, the only ray of hope comes from the present generation. However, this is only possible if our youth intelligently applies its mind and gives the ‘self determination’ strategy a through ‘makeover’ which compels the international community to take note of the Kashmir issue.

Tailpiece: A food for thought- no country in the world has endorsed the accusation of Islamabad and the Hurriyat that New Delhi is resorting to ‘state sponsored terrorism’ in Kashmir and nor has any nation accepted the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir as something legitimate. On the other hand US President Donald Trump has acknowledged that India is a “victim of terror” and the most embarrassing part of this for Pakistan, OIC and those supporting the ‘armed struggle’ is that President Trump chose to make this declaration at the Arab-Islamic- US summit.

Even after a quarter century, the ‘armed struggle’ and ‘shutdown strategy’ haven’t got us anywhere nearer to our goal of ‘self determination’. So isn’t it time that we gave these ‘offensive’ strategies a rest and instead focused on resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully ‘in accordance with the UN resolutions’?

Writer is a Delhi based columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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