‘198 Methods of Non-Violent Action:’ Gene Sharp’s books attract new readers in Kashmir

Owing to continued unrest in Kashmir, American author Gene Sharp’s extensive work on Non Violent Movement has been steadily attracting readers in Kashmir in both separatist camp and security establishment.

Owing to continued unrest in Kashmir, American author Gene Sharp's extensive work on Non Violent Movement has been steadily attracting readers in Kashmir in both separatist camp and security establishment.

The freely available books of Sharp have gained newfound relevance in the present circumstances in the valley. Separatist camp has been particularly interested in the book to find alternatives to stone-pelting, which in the long run is proving fatal for youngsters as government forces have been reacting to stones with bullets and pellets. Already 52 youth have been killed and over 4500 wounded by bullets and pellets. According to insiders some people had suggested the separatist camp to study Sharp's books after Hurriyat Conference had called for ideas to replace self harming shutdowns. Though nobody among separatist comes on record to admit being influenced by Sharp's work, but the experts say the books are being widely studied.

Many have already read Sharp's books and even shared them with others to build a case for non-violent struggle. 88 year old former Professor of Political Science, Sharp is regarded as world's foremost expert on non-violent revolution. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages and often slipped across borders and hidden from secret policemen all over the world. The Nobel Peace Prize nominated professor currently lives in Massachusetts US.

Protest painting, disrobing, shaming and taunting of public officials, social boycott, demonstrative funerals, homage at burial places, sit-in, non-violent obstruction and other such tactics which protestors have been using in Kashmir comprise of few methods of struggle written in Sharp's '198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.'

"There is no harm to look outside Kashmir for ideas and strategies. American scholar Gene Sharp, for instance, has done a lot of work in this regard. His writings on nonviolent revolution have inspired dissidents around the world, including Burma, Bosnia, Estonia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Egypt. Sharp's "198 Methods of Nonviolent Action," also available online as PDF file, provides a list of tactics, ranging from 'popular non-obedience' to 'disguised disobedience," said a visiting professor from outside, who also recently wrote an article about need to be creative in resistance. "The separatists can use Sharp's ideas as a theoretical basis for their campaign."

Sharp in his book discourages use of violent tactics like stone pelting which cannot sustain the movement for a long time. "Peaceful protest is best, not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. If you fight with violence, you are fighting with your enemy's best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero," writes Sharp in his book.

Though some people are wary that non-violent resistance advocated by Sharp won't work in Kashmir in the face of severe State repression, but its advocates say there is no harm in experimenting with it. "He even gives alternatives to strikes. And above all they are all non-violent methods that don't harm anybody and having less chances to be declared as illegal," said a Kashmir University scholar.

Regarding general strikes, Sharp writes, "The common error of past improvised political defiance campaigns is the reliance on only one or two methods, such as strikes and mass demonstrations. In fact, a multitude of methods exist that allow resistance strategies to concentrate and disperse resistance as required." He has identified about 200 specific methods of non-violent action.

Sharp's popular book has been 'From Dictatorship to Democracy' that was written on 40 years of research and writing on non-violent struggle, dictatorships, totalitarian systems, resistance movements, political theory, sociological analysis, and other fields. It was used by Serbian activists and was translated into Arabic, Mandarin, Farsi, French, German, Nepali, Kurdish, Pashto, Russian and very many other languages.

Renowned author A G Noorani was the first to introduce the idea of Sharp in Kashmir in 2011. After the 2010 agitation failed to yield any results, Noorani encouraged separatists to explore Sharp's writings. "Sharp's 93-page guide to toppling autocrats is published by the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston which seeks to advance the worldwide study and strategic use of non-violent action in conflict. Like Sharp, it advocates peaceful means exclusively. The use of brains to chalk out a strategy is as important in non-violent campaigns as it is in battles of arms. Massive and peaceful rallies can have a telling effect. Omar Abdullah dreads them," Noorani wrote on July 10, 2011.

Security agencies are also aware of the influence of Sharp. Army top brass and security think tanks had been reportedly studying Sharp's work to explore alternatives to counter them.

Syed Ata Hasnain, former GOC 15 Corps, wrote in his column titled 'The battle is now for the Tipping Point in Kashmir,' "Someone did tell me then that Geelani's advisers had possibly read Gene Sharp and were applying them in principle." He further adds, "In 2010-2011 we were at one of those periods of impasse. Gene Sharp's 198 ways of non-violent revolution were working against us with the separatists finding new ways of raising the pitch, just as they are doing so today with symbolic acts of defiance such as raising Pakistani flags."

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