“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Afshana comments on periodic shutdown of life in Kashmir brought about by stone pelting

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 35, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women’s College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

How long can we stand this Stone Showering Strategy (SSS)?

Fire is on. Kashmir is still burning. The periodic spates of violence continue to consume more and more young lives. The protests are devouring the deaths.

They say movements demand sacrifices. Revolutions are watered by blood. Freedom comes at a cost. A colossal price that entails hammering out anything. Rather everything.

Kashmir has a bank of death and destruction to put a wager on. At least, the saga of last two decades tells us so. The amount of gory mayhem is the certain cost that the hapless people of this land have paid and, continue to pay.

However, the question arises: How Long? The compassion or combatant fatigue, or for that matter, the collective burnout may not be the plausible causes to put the whole issue through the mill. But then, the viability and efficacy of a particular mode of résistance needs to be grilled.

Down the armed insurgency to peaceful marches to stone pelting, the scheme of things has not remained similar. The typology of minds and methods has undergone an alteration. Something that was inevitable, partly due to local situational factor(s) and partly because of changes on the international arena. However, the uncontrollable digression and de-railing of the events at various points of history as also the fracturing of militant and separatist groups, resulting in the presentation of divided multiple voices, took a heavy toll of the image of résistance. As such, the credibility crisis troubled it badly, all through.

Having witnessed one of the most deadly and ruthless counter-insurgency machinery, which consumed some of the best assets of this land, and also sowed the seeds of perpetual mistrust and discord among the various voices, that were apparently longing to achieve the same goal for the people, the public sentiment, survived somehow, witnessing episodic highs and lows, inspite of the counter-insurgency getting firmly institutionalized with each passing day, by growth in men, materials and technology. Because of all those who proved worst turncoats by criminalizing the situation, again by victimizing their own people, the guns in Kashmir never fell silent. Thus began a rising penchant for an alternative modus operandi.

Sandwiched between the guns of natives as well as aliens, the situation in Kashmir has touched flashpoint time and again. Usually it chills down quietly, and rarely does it simmer to a sweeping outburst. The periodic commotion in vale has, conceivably, proven the same. However, the way it has been handled by the people at the helm has unfolded their dithering and dual approaches. One fails to comprehend the consistency and dependability of their individual and collective statements at different occasions. The need of ‘realism’ by highlighting the need of dialogue metamorphoses overnight into an antagonistic mood of “conditional talks”. The ‘flexibility’ of owning the decision of people, whatever that may be, soon narrows back into a blind “wedding with a country” that has so often stabbed the trust of people over here.

The dichotomy is so vivid, even as the bickering is couched. In the backdrop of this politics of claptrap, ambiguity and flip-flop, Kashmir seems destined invariably for betrayals by the clinging classes of stiff interests. The nation sans heroes and leaders: the ones who can rise above their individual level, and have the capacity to be indigenous and independent in their thinking and vision. And, of course, those who possess the political acumen to foresee the swing of national moods that is quite characteristic of this place and historically proven.

Consequently, with these factors at the flipside, the course of action at any juncture requires to be planned critically and pragmatically. The whole population cannot afford shutting down their business of life every now and then. The protests that snatch the precious young blood of this nation cannot go unabated. The Stone Showering Strategy (SSS) cannot linger on and on and on, when the State has the absolute power to trample it forcibly and ruthlessly without any remorse, and reprimand from any quarter.

The youthful prophets of SSS need to understand that mass movements become success stories only when the stability of struggling minds, morals and means coincides with the set goals. We need to understand that this is a land-locked part of a third world, unlike any European country where economies are open and any public outcry is strongly able to carry a point due to enormous intrinsic support, especially material and media back up. This is Kashmir. We are Kashmiris. Let’s accommodate this truth in any strategy.

The throwing of stones, of course, is the manifestation of a typical revulsion that could not get properly and permanently redressed even after the intervention of gun. Stone pelting cannot be looked upon as a deviation from the resistance discourse and a recklessly recurrent rather than persistent force. There cannot be an easy departure from the protest ideology that has a history of decades. More so, when the system is absolutely intolerant and prejudiced towards the unarmed protesting commoner in Kashmir, stone pelting indicates both a bitter denunciation of the prevailing order and a belief of a better tomorrow. For a common mind, the stone pelting is nothing but a crude manifestation of frustration over the failed resistance of past two decades, the confession of which is smothered collectively.

As such, brushing stone throwing as a ‘mob fury’ can be justified if it garners a reproachful attention and fails to overlay the defiance with a reasonable conviction that could sustain sense and sensibility, beyond the villainous contours of crowd passion. Our new prophets of protest need to realise that it is commoners who alone have to pay the price of this kind of protest. They are the ones who shout and suffer, dare and die. Baffled by the complex and invisible forces, they fall to nefarious designs.

The reality is that getting together to yell slogans, pelt stones or smash vehicles including medical ambulances, sporadic rioting does not qualify as a protest. It erupts out disorderly, just to be identified and recalled as a sheer blurring of historical memory. And then, there are always extraneous corrupt elements embedded in every form of protest to aid in manufacturing a kind of moral turpitude over the modes of resistance. It goes without saying that guns and stones have been equally demonized for that matter in Kashmir.

All the same, there is more to improving civil society than mere noisy political activism. There is a dire need of strengthening the ideological impulse of the commoner. His understanding of protest has to be made clear and committed. Civil society has to gear up, before it’s too late. That leaders have fooled us; that intellectuals have duped us; that we have betrayed ourselves; and that Providence has forsaken us—is enough an alarm to wake us up. Guns, Stones or Mindless Mob—the insanity of reason and resistance needs a break. No denying that there is a cause to mourn. A reason to remonstrate. A position to register protest. But all with good sense and judgment rather than turning into a raucous rally or a group of outraged people kicking up a row, and getting self-destructively rowdy.