The fresh spell of agitation in Kashmir and parts of Jammu is being described as the endorsement of armed resistance against Indian rule in J&K. Proponents of this thought argue that the mobilization vouches for Kashmir's approval of the path charted by the young armed leader Burhan Wani. While the July uprising of 2016 indeed seems a sharper throwback to 1989, when the masses would shoulder armed men during processions, the facts on ground tell a different story.
The emergent trinity of Kashmiri resistance- Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik- while deploying Burhan's assassination as a rallying cry, have unmistakably relied on the nonviolent methods. For over three weeks now, there have been no shrill calls for revenge or categorical appeals for armed confrontation. On the contrary, Burhan's assassination is being mourned with a well-weighed and cautious vocabulary.
Hurriyat has instituted the long-practiced tools of resistance such as strike, protest , prayers on curfewed roads and evening blackouts etc. Of late the threats of excommunicating legislators have followed fervent appeals to "come back to people." And the youth, who keep shouting Hum sab Burhan hain (All of us are Burhan) , might have the inherent proclivity for guns yet they have been ardent participants of this nonviolent civil resistance. While the Hurriyat's first, second and third-rung leaders remain jailed or cordoned in their houses, volunteers across Valley keep a watch on the shops, malls and other businesses for their adherence to the Hurriyat programs. They have not retreated to woods.
There are enough testimonies to debunk the state's "self-defense" theory with the emerging facts in certain sections of press, suggesting that the mob furies have only followed the target killings. Isn't it obvious that a pitched battle between heavily equipped armed forces and the masked stone-wielding youth take place only when a march is blocked at the gunpoint. Didn't the world witness boys forming human chains around bunkers and government installations during those marathon marches in 2008? Back then the government was yet to introduce the Pump Action guns, the Tazer guns , the pepper spray guns and the most lethal of all the lead Pellet guns.
With so many irrefutable ingredients of a civil, nonviolent resistance why the Kashmir's collective cry should remain a crossbreed of the armed violence and the unarmed, civil resistance campaign? This question should bother Hurriyat more than their struggle to find an alternative to shutdowns and protests. Kashmiris' dilemma about the violence as a tool of resistance has certainly provided the authorities with an alibi which they employ whenever they wish to justify an atrocity.
Since Hurriyat is no longer an amalgam of self-serving individuals and has rather grown to be an idea, the idea of 'Hurriyatism', it is high time that an "idea audit" be conducted so that the sacrifices such bouts of agitation exact from people don't go down the drain. The first and foremost area where the audit is required is Hurriyat's ambivalence about the effectiveness of armed resistance, which has been far too asymmetrical to the militaristic, structural and institutional might of its adversary. This disproportionate war has certainly piled up sacrifices, upon which Hurriyat often tends to build further its ideological edifice, it has not served the basic purpose of the resistance: out-smarting or out-administering of the adversary.
Salvaging a concrete idea of resistance from the deadly mix of armed and unarmed struggle is more important than feeling jittery about the social media criticism of prolonged strikes. It's not like abandoning the gun-wielding boys like Jamaát-e-Islami did to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in 1997. The idea to transform a movement has to be inclusive. At a time when feeble yet influential voices from Indian civil society have acknowledged Kashmiris' right of self-determination, merging the armed and unarmed parallels into a unified body of civil resistance seems all the more necessary. Let the Hurriyat and it's chapters in Pakistan reevaluate the effectiveness and relevance of low-level armed resistance, which has existed on the sidelines ever since 1994, and find ways of its dignified merger with its unarmed cousin Hurriyat, in order to evolve a potent, legitimate and formidable civil resistance. That will certainly rob India off its terrorism talk. If the miracle happens and the Kashmir movement overcomes its operational dilemmas, the ideas of improvising upon the single and worn-out tactic of strikes would certainly sprout from among the masses.
When movements rely exclusively on rallies or protests, they become extremely predictable: sitting ducks for regime repression. In case of Kashmir, where the regimes find it easy to dub the protests as being violent, the state violence is conveniently described as "the efforts to restore order." During the Egyptian uprising against Hosni Mubarak, the civil resistance was so much organized and so much clear in not to use violence as a tool that the Egyptian army at a point refused orders to shoot the protesters. In Serbia, when hundreds of thousands descended on the roads against Milosevic, the Police officers refused to shoot. One of them was asked why he refused and he replied, "I know my kids would be down there in the crowd." How much of that has ever happened in Kashmir, except for a brief stir within Jammu & Kashmir Police during 1990s.
Nonviolent struggles are waged not to ask your opponent nicely what you want. The adversary regimes don't concede to campaigns that are not aimed to out-administer them. Such struggles are designed to destroy the opponent not physically but by identifying the sources of power the opponent needs to survive and then denying him those sources of power. Such struggles have neutralized the regimes by attracting security forces into the fray, weaning away civilian bureaucrats, legislators, engineers, business and educational elites from the clutches of power. But a tactical nonviolent resistance, which would involve all walks of life, has to be inclusive and of course without any strings of violence attached. Imagine large sections of Kashmir's administrative elite joining a march, holding placards and shouting slogans for justice. Would that happen unless they don't run the risk of being booked under anti-militancy laws. A society is largely comprised of people who might not collaborate with the power but are averse to taking risks for a holy cause. When the resistance has a visible appendage of violence, the risk-averse people remain at the fence. Hurriyat and the adherents of Hurriyatism must remember that more the violence creeps into the resistance the more refurbished you will find the state's apparatus of violence. The moment, therefore, calls for yet another asymmetrical war with genuinely nonviolent methods.
(Author is a Srinagar-based journalist, presently BBC's J&K Correspondent)