Searching for Alternatives Beyond Calendars

The killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, a 22-year-old Hizb-ul-Mujahidin commander, ignited a situation that had long been bubbling.
Searching for Alternatives Beyond Calendars
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The killing of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, a 22-year-old Hizb-ul-Mujahidin commander, ignited a situation that had long been bubbling. State administration encountered these demonstrations with "violence", resulting in the death of more than hundred civilian protestors. The situation gave rise to third Intifada – a surprise to most observers. It was not less than a seismic shock.

That is why when the cycle of violence persisted, defense intelligentsia, security agencies, local decision makers and even separatist groups failed to grasp its influence and outreach. Such powerful and widespread public demonstrations against "occupational powers" indicated that people of Kashmir were no longer ready to bear the pain of being the world's highest militarized state, and they will not pause till they achieve what they struggled for. 

The third intifada strengthened and unified the scattered "separatist" voices under "joint resistance camp", which were otherwise at lowest ebb and, of course, losing political relevance. The popular character of the intifada, for the first time, produced unexpected international support for the Kashmiris and their legitimate struggle for right to self-determination. More important, it exposed the state's "sell-out" perception that Kashmir is moving towards a "determined" normalcy and people are progressively getting more akin to state owned political ideology viz. merger with India. It also made clear, that in spite of massive state suppression, New Delhi would always face "resistance sentiments" in Kashmir till "conflict" isn't solved according to the local aspirations.

Nevertheless, the separatist leadership again failed to fix the problem as had happened previously, in 2008 and 2010. Instead of transforming this implausible but of course unorganized "situational opportunity" into meaningful "symbol" of resistance with specific, well-defined and timely objectives, an intense wave of "calendarisation" of the protest was injected into the strategy and tactics of the struggle, which was totally devoid of lessons from previous experiences. The new "hartal" movement also overlooked and didn't keep psychological, social, and economic behavior of the people in consideration. The fomenters of the intifada largely represented the "youth bulge" – a generation that grew up in the shadow of relative deprivation, injustice, political oppression, economic constraints, and communal aggression – who were unable to realize that long-term objectives can't be achieved through short-term frameworks. 

Consequently, they responded to a violent context with repressed emotions, aggression and frustration. However, the intifada adopted the idea of "nonviolence" in the beginning but this approach ultimately collapsed under the weight of indefinite "calendarisation", the state violence and occasional civilian counter-violence. The longer it lasted, the more it shifted from "civic rebellion" – peaceful demonstrations – to increasingly uncontrolled "mob-action" and then, ultimately, distrust between supporters and neutrals and disconnect between "higher decisions" and "ground applications". It also gave rise to conclusive description that spontaneous revolutions actually bring nothing except human and material damage. Being a short-spanned emotional outburst against a situational cause, the effect of such revolutions doesn't abide people for a longer period of time and eventually they lose faith both in revolution and leadership. On the contrary, separatists came up with a typical formulation that the intifada must not be seen as "reactionary approach" to a provocative incident; instead, it is historically established and unequivocal position of the Kashmiri people. 

While comparatively analyzing these contrast viewpoints, it seems both are true. Those who advocate of denouncing achieving "long-term" objectives through "short-term" frameworks are contextually right. Since Kashmir is a conflict zone and every time immediate "calendarisation" is unjustifiable and politically immature. Initially people welcome higher decisions but due to state oppression and human weakness they fail to retain the heat and intensity of "protest calendars" and finally leadership is trapped to find a "compromise" within. Then the same people, quite strangely, start blaming "separatists" for softening their "political stand" and allegedly accuse them of corruption and compromise for the other. However, the separatist formulation is also true within the historical context of the Kashmir problem. They are absolutely true in saying that just someone's killing in some part of the Kashmir isn't enough to invoke intense protests all across the valley until and unless there is a historical connection between that killing and deep-rooted sentiments of resistance. Therefore, the idea of calling widespread demonstrations as mere "reactionary approach" demands second look. 

So far as the "calendarisation" is concerned, to my understanding that, of course, happens to be reactionary. Since separatists knew these things very well; overuse of force to curtail protests, changing behaviour of people, criminal silence of world powers, and India's rigid political stand. Therefore, keeping these things in view, they should not have "calendarised" the movement for a longer period of time. That is probably why, after the movement seemingly failed, they don't have an appropriate explanation regarding the survivability of intifada in the face of the price it exacted from the Kashmiris in terms of life and matter.

In such a crisis like situation, instead of discussing emotional slogans and historical narrative, the separatist conglomerate should focus on developing alternate creative outlets other than "calendarising hartal" to continue the resistance movement. Searching "alternate" outlets doesn't mean "hartal" is an irrelevant option but the trend of "long hartals" is obviously less productive. It has been experimented over the years but so far it proved nothing good except putting strong bearing upon the socio-economic, educational, intellectual and psychological development of the people. To my understanding, in the face of state of oppression, simple acts of daily life—awareness campaigns, writing against injustice, organizing community discussions, intellectualization of the resistance, caring for "victims" family—became acts of "nonviolent" resistance. Moreover, it is still believed that "separatist" voice is generally heard by low profile of the society and participation of community leaders, university and college professors, professionals and leaders of women's organization is almost negligible. 

In that case, engagement of such socially influential groups is important because they could support the movement financially and more importantly, intellectually. Organizing some quite important "institutional outlets" such as Youth and Student Movements, Trade Unions and Voluntary Work Committees, Relief Committees and Women's Committees can also be helpful in communicating the legitimate demand of denied political rights through "non-violent" means of action like production of literature, group discussions, media based social interactions with national and international civil society organizations and conducting workshops and seminars. 

(Bilal Ahmad Malik is a Research Scholar at CCAS, University of Kashmir)

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