April 2017 News

The Downside Of Protests

25 April 2017
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: The separatist camp takes a high moral ground when it comes to the Kashmir issue. However, rather than follow up its principled stand by applying the mind to put together an ideological discourse, all that it is doing is to use 'muscle power ' by calling for public protests. Demonstrations are undoubtedly a powerful and legitimate tool to draw attention of the international community on the Kashmir issue. However, they lose their significance on two accounts; one, if overdone to the extent that it becomes a routine affair and second, when protests turning violent is no longer an exception but becomes more of a rule. The unfortunate part is that both these things are happening in Kashmir! One of the probable reasons why protests in Kashmir are so common is because it doesn't require any elaborate planning. Another plausible reason could be that since demonstrations invariably turn violent and protesters do get killed or injured due to firing by law enforcement agencies and this creates a cyclic chain making protests 'self sustaining'. The separatist leadership may try and maintain a 'politically correct' stance by calling for 'peaceful protests', but this is of no avail as by failing to use its influence over the masses to ensure this leaves little doubt in the mind of the international community regarding the Hurriyat's commitment towards peaceful means of protest. It is ironical that though protests are most extensively used tool used by our leaders in the 'right to self determination' movement, its pros and cons are the least understood. There are many who believe that the longer and bloodier the protests are, the closer would they get us to the goal of 'self determination'. This is a completely erroneous assumption that even a person with average intelligence would understand but strangely, no one talks about it. For example, the summer unrest of 2016 saw Kashmir come to a standstill for nearly six months and even though our leaders claim that this 'uprising' was a grand success, but there is no evidence to indicate that we are now nearer to our goal of 'self determination' than we were before this unrest erupted. The next mistake our leaders make is to try and defend mob violence, especially stone pelting by calling it a 'tool of resistance in the hands of deprived people.' While the international community empathises with the oppressed, it doesn't accept use of violence as 'tool of resistance in the hands of deprived people.' Thus, the Hurriyat needs to understand that we cannot complain of excesses against the people and justify mob violence in the same breath as it is like wanting to have the cake and eat it too. Readers would recall that during the bloody summer unrest of 2016, the UN issued a statement that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had expressed regret over the loss of lives and injuries in clashes during the protests and went on to say that he 'calls upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further violence and hopes that all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means.' Our leaders were so ecstatic about UN Secretary General's concern about the loss of lives and injuries in the 2016 protests that none of them seem to have grasped the essence Ban Ki-moon's full statement. What needs to be carefully noted is that the UN Secretary General did not single out the Indian security apparatus for committing excesses. On the contrary, he asked 'all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further violence.' And by stating that he hoped that 'all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means,' he made it amply clear that both the law enforcement agencies as well as the protesters were equally to blame for violence that resulted in the loss of lives and injuries! During the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meet in September 2016, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke at length about 'Indian atrocities' in Kashmir and even handed over a dossier containing details of same to the UN Secretary General and Washington. However, neither has the UN nor Washington has taken any cognisance of this dossier and it is the apathy of the international community on this issue that should be worrying our leaders. However, instead of serious introspection they chose the easier alternative by weaving a web of international conspiracy and blaming vested interests and powerful lobbies. However, the truth lies elsewhere and thus before pointing fingers at the world we must first look inwards. And this brings up a very sensitive issue that could upset many but cannot be left unattended in overall public interests. International response to protests is greatly influenced by the intrinsic worth of the issue that makes people take to streets and since the central theme of protests in Kashmir remains the 'right to self determination' it should have attracted attention of the international community. Unfortunately, the choice of reasons the Hurriyat has been selecting to launch protests has diluted this powerful theme and two illustrative examples are the summer unrest of 2016 and the current by-election related protests. There can be no two views that for resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio international support is a must and protests are a means to solicit the same. What needs to be remembered is that protests are meant to send across a message and garner support of the ambivalent and those not conversant with the problem. International response to protests is greatly influenced by the intrinsic worth of the issue that makes people take to streets and since the central theme of protests in Kashmir remains the 'right to self determination' it should have attracted attention of the international community. Unfortunately, the choice of reasons the Hurriyat has been selecting to launch protests has diluted this powerful theme and two illustrative examples are the summer unrest of 2016 and the current by-election related protests. The reasons for protests have to be both internationally acceptable and convincing. While we may look upon slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani as a hero and martyr, the international community doesn't share this view. This is evident from the fact that despite Nawaz Sharif saying in his UNGA speech that 'Burhan Wani, the young leader murdered by Indian forces has emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri 'intifada' (uprising), no other country except for Pakistan has expressed solidarity with the 2016 summer unrest in Kashmir. So, it is obvious that the major drawback of the 2016 uprising was that its theme wasn't internationally acceptable. In the case of the current by-election related protests, while the theme may represent the collective belief of our leaders, but for the international community it isn't convincing as the 'joint' Hurriyat's call for boycotting parliamentary by-elections is viewed as an attempt to sabotage the democratic process. To further aggravate this problem, the 'joint' Hurriyat's public appeal to complement the boycott by way of protests 'with the same spirit as was witnessed during the people's uprising in year 2016,' will evidently be viewed as blatant anarchism by the international community. Thus, when the 'joint Hurriyat' itself impeded those who wished to exercise their democratic rights by casting votes, who would listen to the separatist conglomerate's complaint that New Delhi is denying Kashmiris their basic rights? Tailpiece: If protests will get us our 'right to self determination' then let's go full steam ahead irrespective of the toll it takes. However, if all that protests are going to give us is death, injuries, pain and impoverishment, then there are all the reasons to take a pause, sit back and introspect on the pros and cons of the decision to make violence an integral part of the 'self determination' movement. Meanwhile, one wonders what happened to the 'joint' Hurriyat's last year's promise of coming out with 'a long term sustainable strategy based on proactive initiatives, programmes and sustainable modes of protests with maximum public participation in their creation and implementation and minimum costs for the people'?

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