Of Hurriyat and Strikes…

Writing is always a good way of venting out your feelings. Since the strikes started in Kashmir in May my resentment against the Hurriyat leaders kept brewing up. It was nothing new, but the calls were getting more and more irrational every day, with a fifty hour strike for an eight hour election depicting the irrationality. Boycott does not necessarily mean that we go for strike, close our schools and businesses. Boycott could have been by way of carrying out our regular chores and ignoring the fact that election is taking place at all. But if we would have done that, how would people around the world know that Hurriyat leaders like Geelani existed? So we were asked to go for strike, making the presence of separatist parties like Hurriyat felt. We did go for strike in the state elections as well and strikingly we had the highest voter turnout in the last few years.

So strikes kept irritating me and wondering at the irrationality of our post- freedom leaders who are supposed to get us freedom and lead us from there, apparently with no vision and plan at all. All these feelings of resentment are not only built up inside me. Everyone else I knew, at home, at work, family, relatives and friends shared the same feelings. Everyone wanted to know the rationale behind such irrational strikes. How could our leaders put their own people to trouble, loss and suffering? How could they snatch away the daily wager his only source of income and support to his family? Does such a leader deserve to be actually called a leader?

All our leaders forget that Islam is not based on dictatorship; it’s based on council and a mutual decision making. We all believe that strikes are not the only way of registering protest, but still we are forced to close down our schools and businesses and sit back at home. Where is the mutual council? Whom does Hurriyat consult? Citizens in an Islamic state have the right to participate in the affairs of the state. We are not a declared Islamic state, but we are all followers of Islam. Everyone has the right to have a direct say in the affairs of the state or by a representative chosen by them and others. Geelani or Hurriyat are not representatives of all of us, so they do not have the right to decide how we should live or how we should protest. Let them have a poll which is free and fair and ask people how they want to live and how they want to protest.

Our leaders are now giving reasons and explanations. They want people to endure all of the loss and suffering due to strikes because it is a sacrifice for the nation. The same people who asked people to send their young guns to join the “tehreek” , while they sent his own children to study abroad. They want people to go out and reach the poor and the daily wagers and provide them with money and basic amenities. Can anyone ask them how? The daily laborers and workers do not live in civil lines so that we can just walk over to them to help them. They stay in faraway places. How do we go there amongst stone pelting when even ambulances and emergency cases are also not spared from it? These are all ways to justify their irrational strike calls, because they know that public resentment is building against them for such unending strike calls, which incidentally are made during the peak season in Kashmir.

Why do not these leaders ask us to protest without violence? Why does Hurriyat provoke all the youngsters to come on to the streets and go berserk? All those people who died during tear gas shelling could have been saved if these leaders opted for other ways of protest. If they died, they died because our leaders who provoked them to come onto streets, while they sat house arrested at home. These leaders are also responsible for their deaths because they are the ones who pay a group of people to start stone pelting. These same people burn tires on roads, just to give the visual effect to the violence they want to spread. This all results in retaliation from police and army that leading to injuries and deaths. Once this happens, people get provoked on the basis of violence against innocents. This creates this chain of events again. People protest, and then there is stone pelting, followed by tear gas shelling and beating up of protesters by the police. Not that police and army is clean in the whole act, but like they say “ taali ek haath sey nahi bajti”. We are responsible for creating such situations as well. This all starts because our leaders cannot find other ways of protesting. They cache on violence to highlight Kashmir in the international arena. They use the sentiments of people to make their point and in this process cause deaths and injury of so many innocent civilians. If at all they would lead protests in a different manner, the situation would not be as violent as it is in Kashmir now a day.

There was a time when Yasin Malik went on frequent hunger strikes. At least he had some guts to do that. On the other hand the leaders now would rather see people dying of hunger and basic needs, than to give up their irrational ways of protesting. While people suffer they sit comfortably inside their houses, apparently under house arrest, but with all the comforts surrounding them. How can they eat when so many people are surviving on bare minimum and who knows on nothing at all?

We could protest with candlelight vigils in mosques. We could file petitions, wear protest bands on our wrists, banners on our vehicles, but not stop working. Why can we not show our resentment by other means rather than go for indefinite strikes? How can we protest by sitting idle at home, probably watching cricket, discussing politics or what is going to happen next? When we close down our businesses, schools, what effect does it have on anything? Who cares for it? Does the government care? Do people outside the state care? Does anyone on the international arena care? I guess they have better issues to address than to think why Kashmir is shut down for so many days. And it’s very foolish to think that the oppressors are going to be affected by these strikes. How can we harm or affect them by shutting down schools and businesses? We incur suffering and losses on ourselves and expect the oppressors to react or rectify their misdeeds? Isn’t this an ideal situation for them, to have more sufferings inflicted on people they have made to suffer all these years?

People argue, freedom does not come without sacrifice. Freedom and development cannot be expected together. In that case we should wait till everything is razed down to ground in Kashmir, till Kashmir gets freedom and till we get real leaders to rebuild the nation. If we want freedom and think that it can only come if we incur more suffering on ourselves, then we should stop complaining about lack of proper roads, lack of power, lack of proper health care, proper infrastructure and proper management.

Kashmiris sit here and watch the crème of the nation settling outside Kashmir just because they are not creating situations favorable for people to return and settle and invest in Kashmir. Then they have problem of unemployment, for which the same oppressing regime is blamed. If the situation is like how it is now a days, why would someone working outside Kashmir come and spoil his career in this strike ridden state. So many people plan to come back and do something in Kashmir, but how can they do it when the conditions are like this? Do we necessarily have to break the bone of our economy and our people, raze everything down to ground and then get freedom? When India and Pakistan were formed, did they do it by way of strikes? They did it by way of movements and by way of leaders who struggled in the cause of freedom. I do not believe that protesting like this would give us freedom. Neither do I believe that if we shut down work and sit idle at home are we helping our minds. We are rusting ourselves sitting at homes, rusting the minds of our children, helping them continue the legacy of laziness that Kashmiris are well known for.

When something happens in the Muslim world, we are the first ones to go for strike, probably because we have no other way of showing protest. But what do the same people do when something happens in Kashmir? Do they close down their businesses and sit at home? We are not only affecting ourselves economically, but we are hampering our future generation from what is rightfully theirs, the right to education. We are denying proper medical care to those who are sick. We are denying many people with basic requirements to survive while we think that we are protesting for a good cause.

Government employees get their pay at the end of the month. No wonder government jobs are so much in demand in Kashmir. You sit and home and earn for nothing you did practically. Imagine if the government cuts the pay of employees for all these days of strike, the scene in Kashmir can turn upside down. Even our leaders who were MLA’s at one point of time are getting pension at the end of the month. Pension can at least be qualified ‘halaal’, but what about other employees?

All those people who got killed as a result of human rights violation in Kashmir have not got justice till now. There are over one lakh cases of deaths and disappearances. Did we go for indefinite strike for them? If that is the basis of protest, than we should not have had any working day since the nineties. So many people disappeared over these years. Their parents assemble and protest in peaceful ways, they do not call for shut down. Even if they did, that would have been more logical than the strike calls that Hurriyat makes. The point is that so much has happened in Kashmir, so many cases of human rights abuses are unresolved then why don’t these leaders raise a voice against that. Why is that they have these sleeping periods and they wake up only after fresh incidents take place. They wait and watch and as soon as something happens they capitalize and politicize the issue for their own personal interests. They entice people to protest and sometimes pay them too. Have they forgotten the one lakh Kashmiris, for whom, according to their logic we should strike forever? Or is it that a new incident only helps them to reassert their presence and control over the people.

People come on roads; they pelt the army and police with stones. They obviously face retaliation, resulting in killing or injury to someone. Then that killing or injury becomes a valid reason to protest again, and the cycle continues. All the Fridays since last year have been witness to stone pelting and the same cycle of events. Jama Masjid was closed for many Fridays for the same reason, to avoid this vicious cycle to start. I thought it was an attempt to restore normalcy and probably save many from getting injured or killed in the retaliatory action. But it was also politicized as an attempt to stop holding religious activities in the mosque. Imagine! You create trouble by stone pelting and in an attempt to stop that you are stopped to gather at one place. It is presented as hindrance of observation of religious duties and is used to entice people again. People are made to see that they are not allowed to pray there, and asked to protest. But why can’t these people see the truth behind it. Do they ever ponder as to why it is done, who is the culprit and what is the reason?

As I write this, I wonder what actually goes on their minds as they call for strikes. What are they thinking? Do they have a heart for the poor and needy? Do they actually think that these indefinite strike calls will make India withdraw its forces and grant them freedom? Do they think that the same country that rejected talks with them will oblige to them just because Kashmir closes down on their strike calls? Did the uprising in early nineties, where people would protest in thousands and with real fervor and patriotism give us anything? Did the armed struggle help us? Now this violent and self inflicting style of demanding things from India is leading us to loss and depression. But at the same time it is also showing us what our leaders are actually worth!

A hadith of the Prophet says: “You see believers being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness and fever with it”.

We share the pain of every Kashmiri who had to bear the brunt of the unrest that started since nineties. There are incidents that send shivers down the spine, and tears rolling down from our eyes. It pains to hear what happened in Shopian. No one was against the first strike for this cause. Everyone genuinely sat back to protest. But what followed was not genuine, it was forced upon us. Nowhere in the hadith or nowhere in the lifetime of the Prophet did he prevent people to do their business or prevent people to go in search of knowledge. We need real leaders, not those who have no rationale and vision. We need to learn from our past mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again.