Arif conducts a post-mortem of political fallout from Hurriyat’s questionable style of politics
(Mr. Arif Bashir, 26, was born in Check-e-Ferozpora, Tangmarg. He completed his schooling in his native village, and obtained his Arts degree, with emphasis in English Literature, Urdu Literature, Political Science and English, from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He subsequently completed his Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. He is a Reporter for the Kashmir Images, a leading English daily of Kashmir Valley, and is presently an Associate Editor of the Daily Khidmat (English version), that slso is published from the Valley. He has written, scripted and directed two Documentary Films – 85 Degrees, and Faces of Hope – and one fictional Film – Dastak. His ambition is to become an outstanding Film Maker.)
CRISIS OF CREDIBILITY
On Nov 7 (Sunday) Srinagar’s famous Lal Chowk was witness to a different kind of protest – it was a protest against the protests that have engulfed the Valley for the past four months. It peaked with one of the protesters hoisting a white flag atop the Chowk’s landmark, the Ghanta Ghar or the Clock Tower, calling for peace.
The protesters may have been a motley crowd of about 100 which despite being attacked by stone-pelters made its point loud and clear – It was time the separatists stopped making normal life hostage to their petty politics.
Surely the tiger that the separatist has been riding is showing signs of turning upon them.
The anger, frustration and helplessness among the people is clearly visible on the streets of Kashmir where people now readily defy the Hurriyat’s calendar of protests and go about their daily business. Syed Ali Shah Geelani the Hurriyat fountainhead who has been trying to take credit for the fourth-month long protests that have claimed more than a 100 lives today stands discredited.
Political analysts also believe that the Hurriyat’s protest calendars have become an object of ridicule among the people of the valley. The protests do not seem to excite the people anymore and is losing its appeal among a people hit hard by the daily hardships.
The analysts also foresee a difficult time for the separatists pointing out that the people will hold them accountable for lacking any vision.
The result, many say, was not worth the lives lost as political actors continued to display inflexible stands on the Kashmir issue and that a resolution seems a distant dream. “The hostility between India and Pakistan, the Union government’s stand to search for a solution within the ambit of Indian Constitution, the separatist’s ill defined and unclear strategies and poor vision keeps the issue lingering not just for any resolution but for also for any clear understanding,” regrets A senior Journalist, senior Journalist and chief editor of Kashmir Images, a local daily.
The unrest that began with the killing of a student in May 2010 went on to record 110 more killings by the police and paramilitary troops along with heavy economic losses and a chaotic situation.
Police-protestor clashes dominated the news as Kashmir remained cut off.
“Soon after the protests began, various political parties tried to ride the wave in order to regain some relevance among the people by jumping into the fray,” A senior Journalist points out adding that “realizing that it was no less than riding a tiger, some political actors also decided to distance themselves from the unrest while those desperate to claim credit for the unrest, tried to mould their strategies according to the prognosis of the protests. It was clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Moreover the response to all this from the Union government, analysts say was more of diplomacy rather than an attempt to resolve the core issue. “The outright rejection of the initiates taken by the Central government, in the form of an all-party delegation which was sent in September followed by the team of interlocutors, by the separatists squashed any hopes of progress,” says Iqbal Ahmad.
“Now, after more than four months, when the situation seems to have changed and people seem disinterested in continuing with the protests, the tiger seems to be feeding upon its rider,” A senior Journalist concludes.
Political analysts in Kashmir foresee a crucial stage for Kashmir polity and suggest that, at the end of the day, many a reputations might be buried in the bargain. They also point out that the unrest was bound to raise questions for which no answers were available with the leaders who claimed that the tiger was under control and being guided by them.
The protests that had begun in the downtown area of Srinagar city, a volatile area known for stone pelting since long, soon spread to different parts of the valley much like the Amarnath land row agitation in 2008 and the Shopian rape-cum-murder agitation in 2009. It was however reported that Masarat Alam, a third-rung leader of the Hurriyat-G (Geelani’s Hurriyat) was instigating the violence across a few districts.
In an apparent attempt to diffuse the tension, Syed Geelani who was under detention at that time (May 2010), was released to counter Masarat Alam and help the state government in bringing back peace.
Sources in Geelani’s Hurriyat confirmed, on conditions of anonymity, that sensing a revolt in his ranks, Geelani in fact intensified the protests much to the chagrin of the state government.
Alam went into hiding only to be arrested in October. On the sidelines of such political upheavals people continued to be killed by the CRPF and state police and the casualty kept mounting.
Taking a dig at the situation, Manzoor Anjum, chief editor of Uqaab, believes the unrest suited the main Opposition party in the state Assembly as well as the separatists.
“Both began fishing in troubled waters while the intensity of public anger scared away the mainstream party leaving the Hurriyat-G, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani to the situation.
While the unrest was a pure resentment against the human rights violations at the hands of troops, the separatist spread the wrong impression that they were controlling it. The Hurriyat-G gave the impression that the whole episode was being fathered by it, a claim severely contested by the ground realities,” Anjum adds.
He also believes that while most separatist groups maintained its distance from the unrest, the Hurriyat-G pounced upon it and began issuing protest calendars. This way, Anjum points out, the Hurriyat-G gave the impression that the protests were being choreographed by them. But what they had not bargained for was how they would keep control of the agitation which seemed increasingly to be getting bigger on its own steam.
The situation further deteriorated after the separatists refused to acknowledge the all party delegation and the interlocutors.
“Now they have no justification to call it a day as nothing has been achieved yet people have sacrificed their lives. Today Geelani is in a fix and at the risk of losing his credibility,” Anjum says.
Tahir Mohidin, chief editor, Chattan a weekly Urdu newspaper published from the valley believes not much has changed in the context of Kashmir which, he says is the greatest worry for those who have so far claimed to lead the unrest. “While the hostility among India and Pakistan refuses to go away, the initiatives taken by the Centre too have been marginalized by the separatists refusing to talk. Thus the stark reality is that 111 people have been killed while the issue still remains where it was 20 years ago. The Hurriyat-G is facing a crisis of credibility.” Tahir goes on to say, “And now that things have diffused without any concrete measure being adopted either by India or any other stake holder in the issue, the leaders will be subject to serious questions regarding their strategies and policies.” a former professor of peace and conflict studies and editor of local daily, believes that while the unrest made it clear that Kashmir is still boiling it also exposed the bankruptcy of the separatists as well.
He says prolonged strikes, saying no to schools and ignoring the intricacies of economy in a conflict zone are suicidal for any successful agitation. “The leaders, particularly Geelani, ignored the hard realities of life and thus made himself a laughing stock not only among the international community but among the people as well. Now, no strike call is being respected, no call for marches is being paid heed to. It is a clear challenge to the credibility of those leaders who dictated such programmes,” he feels.
Prof Gul Mohammad Wani, senior professor of political science at Kashmir University, cautions India against its attitude, “There are strong chances that leaders who emerged as strong influences during the past four months are at a higher risk of losing credibility since India does not show any serious intention towards resolving the issue.” While the Union and the state governments and the separatists are yet to enter into a meaningful dialogue process, the unrest only blinded the separatists from assessing the ground realities.
This, he believes, could cause serious damage to the credibility of leaders in the valley.