Protesting against any genuine issue is ok, but it must be said that nobody is allowed to agitate and protest lack of certain rights and liberties of some people by undermining the rights and snatching away the liberties of some other people. One has to draw a line between what constitutes a protest and what makes for an unruly behaviour. For instance, taking to streets can be a justified action only as long as it does not violate other people’s rights, their liberties and their safety. However, it is unfortunate that more than anything else, it is sheer anarchy that has become the characteristic feature of the street protests in Kashmir where people train stones on almost anything and everything, break people’s cars, damage shops and do whatever they want and yet get away with it. No doubt the provocations for street protests are certainly there, but then it is also in the interest of the people here to educate themselves about the nuances of protest. They cannot go on protesting in a manner that turns away their most ardent supporters and sympathizers to the other side. And nobody can claim that sure-loser suicidal confrontations — which is what most of the protests here end up being — are a genuine and justified way of political protest and expression.
Similarly blocking the all-important arteries leading to some premier health institutions can never be a justified act. Irrespective of the importance of the issue that is being agitated for or against, the protestors, at least, need to show some respect to the emergency medical needs of people who have to reach to the hospitals. But when the roads leading to the important hospitals are blocked for protests, it risks the lives of the people who may need immediate medical help. Mind it, in case of disturbed situations, the load on emergency units of all hospitals records a surge, as so many people suffering trauma during the protests too have to be ferried to these hospitals. Needless to say that thousands of other people who need to attend their ailing near and dear ones undergoing treatment in hospitals too have to bear great mental trauma when they are not able to make it to the hospital.
General public as well as the political leaders share the blame of unconcern in this regard. The general public have, over the years, perfected the art of silence, they prefer to be mute spectators to every fair and foul action, hardly ever bothering to utter a word even against the worst of traits that are settling into being a permanent feature of our collective behavior. As for the politicians, they are ever involved in a rat-race in taking lead in provoking youth to come on to the streets for protests. Blinded by their narrow political interests and obsessed with showing their writ on the street sentiment, these people never hesitate in giving strike and shutdown calls and asking young people to hold what they describe by a clichéd term – “peaceful protests” even though these so-called peaceful agitations invariably end up in violence. And as if this was not enough, they use every cruel tactic in provoking violence on the streets.
Provoking mob fury is easy, what is really difficult is channelizing this rage into something constructive and productive. But this seems to have never been anybody’s priority here. They are only interested in getting people out of their homes on to the streets to protest and then ensure that a few people get killed in these protests so that they could base their future politics on these civilian deaths. This is a vicious conflict trap and Kashmir has been caught in it.
In such a situation, wherein everyone is out there to exploit the sentiments of the youth for their own vested interests, it is for the young people to realize how and why they are being used. A river is a river, full of life and promise only as long as it respects its banks and remains confined within them. It becomes a flood and brings death and destruction the moment it overflows it legitimate limits — the banks. This simple reality is there for the youth to understand. If they are not able to read through the selfish designs of those who do their politics over their heads, history will never forgive them for their naiveté. Instead they too will be remembered as a party which pushed this otherwise simple society into unending vicious circles of spiraling structural and political violence.