As has always been the case in the past, this time too shutting down businesses and remaining away from offices would yield nothing worthwhile. In fact history of past nearly three decades of Kashmir’s recent history are replete with the evidence that this tactic of calling and observing shutdowns and strikes has done precious little for anybody to flaunt it as an encouraging ploy. Instead, the sole outcome of frequent strikes and shutdowns has been that they have inflicted mammoth financial damages on the ordinary people, dangerously impacted the schooling of Kashmir’s children, and further deteriorated the already pitiful general work-culture here.
Is there anybody in today’s Kashmir – including among those in the leadership roles — who have always been and still are obsessed with calling for shutdowns — who can point out a few ‘benefits’, if any, of this tactic? Can anybody just bother to explain it to the ordinary people how their (people’s) sitting at home has helped their (common people’s) “cause”? Come on, it’s time to grow up. There has to be a limit to this foolishness. No one can go about endlessly walking a road which leads nowhere!
Without going into debating anybody’s real or imaginary ‘political goals’, which is beyond the point here, let’s try and do some thinking on this tactic of calling for shutdowns. Historically speaking, the concept of calling for and observing strikes and shutdowns was born with the industrial revolution. It so happened that the industrial workers – say those working in some factory or a mill – when pitted against the powerful owners, would use this tactic as a coercive measure to threaten the latter with financial damages in case their demands were not fulfilled. In most cases, the owners would yield to workers’ demands because workers going on strike meant economic losses for them. Even though workers would also suffer as a consequence, but the loss was of far greater magnitude for the owners than it was for the workers. So in majority cases, the tactic worked.
But in case of the political movements, this tactic of shutdown and strikes as a mode and medium of agitation, has even in the best of circumstances only yielded limited success. The reason being that for this tactic to succeed there are so many other prerequisites as well, which too can’t be discounted. For instance, if ‘passive resistance’ worked in case of India’s freedom struggle, it was only because the British Empire was not a totalitarian regime. Now can anybody have two opinions about the fact that Gandhi’s passive resistance would have been of little consequence if he was pitted against Nazi Germany?
For any agitation to be successful, there are so many other things which should also be in complete sync to create the necessary ‘gestational conditions’ or say atmosphere for it. In case of Kashmir, hindsight has it that the shutdowns and strikes haven’t worked – they haven’t in the past and in the future too there is no indication of this measure yielding any meaningful achievements. The sheer frequency with which the tactic has been used, rather overused and abused, has also played spoilsport in rendering the strategy redundant.
Letting bygone be bygone for the simple reason that nobody could re-live an entire era spanning more than thirty years. Prudence demands that this long history of tactical failures is taken as a repository of wisdom to draw wise inferences for charting out future strategies. But unfortunately even this doesn’t seem to be happening. Because certain people are so obsessed with calling strikes that this seems to be the only strategy they know and could think of. Having shrunk their politico-tactical arsenal to shutdowns and strikes only, not only have their political maneuvers become predictable for the ‘adversary’ but it has also lost relevance and meaning with ‘their followers’. This is, as any political theorist and organizer would testify akin to reaching a political dead-end.
Has anybody among the protagonists the courage to confess they actually have reached there?