December 2016 News

Shutdowns, The Last Vestige Of Unrest, Losing Efficacy

5 December 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Azhar Qadri

Srinagar: The long and violent unrest in the Kashmir valley, now nearing the completion of its fifth month, is almost over and reduced to partially observed shutdowns that are increasingly coming under questioning and losing effectiveness in the region. The widespread protests, which formed the core element of the unrest and made many localities into a no-go zone during the initial months, have now subsided as demonstrators were arrested across the Valley and several hundred were detained under the Public Safety Act, the law allowing a lengthy detention without trial. The vicious cycle of protests and deaths that stoked anger and pushed the region towards anarchy has stopped. There has been no unrest related death in recent weeks now. The shutdowns, called jointly by a loose coalition of separatists, however, remain the last vestige of the unrest with partial observance by the people, many of whom are questioning its results. 'The problem is that there is no freshness in the ideas of (separatist) leadership,' Irfan Ahmad, a bank employee, said. 'After such a long spell of shutdown, there is now a sense of collective defeat, which is with everyone but no one expressing it,' he said. The Valley remained under a self-imposed lockdown for most of the time in the past nearly 150 days as separatists called for long spells of shutdowns, interrupted only briefly by evening relaxations during the first four months. The unrest will complete its five months on Thursday. Over the past three weeks, the shutdowns have been significantly relaxed as separatists called for full-day work hours, allowing public transport to mobilise, businesses to function and markets to open. The first calls for shutdowns were made immediately after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8 evening, which triggered widespread demonstrations as protesters attacked police stations and paramilitary forces. As the toll of death and injuries mounted, the region was swept by anger, and separatists forced to toughen up and show no leniency. 'People pushed us to a dead-end,' said a senior separatist leader, who was involved in calling lengthy spell of shutdowns, while discussing the initial weeks of the unrest. However, as the unrest lost its intensity due to fatigue and arrests, the separatists are making a careful retreat and toning down their warlike rhetoric. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief of a faction of separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference, earlier this week said the separatist leadership was preparing for a long-term plan which would not hurt the livelihood of people, functioning of schools and trade. 'The time has come when a transition from a short-term agitation to long-term initiatives, programmes and sustainable modes of protest has to be made,' Mirwaiz said, addressing a crowd near Jamia Masjid, for a first time in the past five months, on Friday. Mirwaiz said the joint separatist leadership was 'currently working at making this transition,' hintingat a significant scale-down in shutdowns.