100 Days of Lockdown across Kashmir; What is the way forward?

Government has failed to fulfill the moral and democratic responsibility to break the deadlock

100-days-of-lockdown-across-kashmir-what-is-the-way-forwardSunday marked the completion of 100 days of 2016 summer uprising with curfew, shutdown and restrictions paralyzing the life in Kashmir valley and affecting every section of the society. Over 90 persons have been killed and thousands injured, some of them blinded by pellets, while thousands of youth have been detained across the Valley in a massive crackdown launched by the state police. As uncertainty prevails, Kashmir Post spoke to people from different fields to elicit their views about this summer’s uprising and the way forward.

Ertika, college student
We are suffering because of the mistakes made by our elders including politicians, whether mainstream or separatists. We have not achieved any big thing since 1989. We have witnessed only dead bodies. I see it a waste of time to continue with strikes. We don’t know what we want as most of us are unaware of the real meaning of Azadi. We really don’t know what Azadi means. Some people call it freedom from India, some freedom from Indian army and some call it a new beginning with Pakistan. In this confusing situation, we should make people understand the real meaning of Azadi and the effective and peaceful ways to achieve it. For me, Azadi means right to live freely. I think youth like me want fundamental rights. We really deserve fundamental rights because we are not “terrorists”. The political system is pushing us towards terrorism; we too love peace and development, but freedom comes first. It’s high time for India and Pakistan to solve Kashmir issue by way of dialogue and reach out to the people in the troubled region.

Roshan Ara, academician
Every resistance movement should lead to some conclusive results and achievements. However, the present unrest is directionless and leaders are not able to communicate with the people properly. The killings and subsequent curbs on the movement of people and communication made it worse leading to a frustrating situation. The government has also failed to fulfill the moral and democratic responsibility to break the deadlock and relieve people from the psychological burden. As a common man, we should also contribute to the resistant movement without harming our basic essence of non-violent struggle. Our inspiration should be the leaders who promoted non-violent and effective ways to protest and show our disagreements. Hurriyat should also devise such a strategy to have long term impact. It will make our goal sustainable and will do minimum harm to our own people. The policy should also include education sector as well because it is a very important component of our society. If children loose direction, our society will be of dead and ruined people.

Wasim Raja, artist and producer
Kashmir completed 100 days of Hartal. It’s in itself a victory for Kashmiris. Now it’s time to rejuvenate ourselves to prepare for another struggle in future. We can’t forget our brothers and sisters who lost their precious life and who lost their sight during current turmoil. Kashmir is purely a political problem and it should be solved politically through dialogue. We have suffered a lot since 1947 and till date, nothing has been achieved. We have suffered mentally, economically and suffered from loss of lives but nothing has been achieved so far. All the political parties both mainstream and all separatists need to sit across the table to find a lasting solution to Kashmir issue.

Taizeen Khan, physiotherapist
The present unrest in Kashmir has been very detrimental to all the sectors, be it education, healthcare, online businesses or any other type of institution. Personally, I would speak on behalf of start-ups. Post-2010 was a period of start-ups. Many highly qualified students had returned to the Valley to make a difference. We not only intended to utilize our skills and expertise but also wanted to generate employment for others. But right now we are in a dilemma whether to continue working here or to move outside Kashmir because right now our institutions are not only closed but we also don’t see any hope for resolution of Kashmir issue in near future. Startups usually have lots of overheads like rents, but when they have to close their venture for a long time how will they pay that money? Some of us even have huge loans to pay. Until and unless Kashmir issue is resolved we will keep on facing such uprisings. I am not a political person to decide if Hartals are the only way, but I do want to tell that the past three months have rendered us very weak economically. This has happened in 2008 and 2010 and will happen again if Kashmir dispute remains unresolved. So, it becomes a very difficult decision for a person like me to decide whether to stay or move back. We came back to help our own community grow. I belong to rehabilitation sector and have many expansion plans in this sector. But right now my own survival here is becoming difficult, how can I further think to expand my rehabilitation center? I would like to add that if we want Kashmir to grow, we need to look for alternatives to Hartals or else a day will come when everyone would want to move out and there will be a brain drain at large scale.

Ar. Aabid Hussain Khan, Buchpora, Srinagar
“Who will blink first?” is the situation that has become evident from the present standoff. One must say that the word “Shame” sounds little sober for the behavior and mess the ruling government has displayed. 100 days of lockdown and there is no outreach towards the solution. I don’t remember when I have heard last from the Chief Minister. She seems to have totally vanished along with her whole entourage. Delhi is mum and the media has been gagged. So what happens next is a big question everyone is left with. Hurriyat leaders seem to be hunting for options as how to carry forward this resistance and where to go from here. Many sections of the society have mixed reaction to the present scenario. Some think it is enough and clear message has already reached Delhi and some say let us nail it this time. But the fact remains that overall situation is grim and sad. In the process people have been killed, loved ones maimed, property worth crores ransacked and the economical loss runs in millions. People are suffering, education system is in shatters, development has gone for a toss but yet the resolve is much stronger and tougher this time. Any sane person can analyze that the governments (centre and state) have totally failed in handling the situation in Kashmir or rather have complicated it further to settle their egos which in the process has given birth to a new generation of rebels. By merely attributing figures of five percent and so on does not change the ground reality. The administration has closed its eyes or atleast is pretending to do so, but that doesn’t change the reality on ground. After failing miserably on all fronts which includes literally begging Geelani to help in normalizing the situation, the administration is now trying to blackmail parents and students by threatening them that they will conduct the examination in November. This is nothing but desperation of the government to try and normalize the situation to show the world that everything is in control. But unfortunately yet again they are choosing the wrong direction and fooling themselves. If sincerity would have been shown in previous uprisings and an honest effort would have been made to settle this issue of Kashmir once for all, peace would have prevailed long back or rather there would have been no Burhan Wani and no more loss of life. Unless administration does not learn from its previous mistakes there can be no better future. We are moving towards more and more aggressive nature of uprisings with every passing year. In 2016 it is much stronger and louder than it was in 2010 and the next one will be fatal. Those who do not accept it are living in fool’s paradise.

Idress Bhat, daily wager
I belong to the poor section of the society, whatever I earn during the day I spent at night on my family with a little saving. It has become very hard for me to manage expenses of my family. It is people like me who have to suffer and those who are in government service are getting their regular salaries. The education of my children is suffering. I made a mistake by casting my vote, for the first time, that too for PDP. PDP looted us. Hurriyat was right when they called for election boycott. However, I completely support the freedom struggle of Kashmir, but at the same time I request the leadership to please consider our economic conditions before planning another mass-agitation. They should plan it without hartals. Hartals have given us nothing, but pain and agony.

Abrar Gul, shopkeeper
The long and continuous shutdown has had a bad impact on our economy. Shutdown calls have become redundant and ineffective because many of us lost livelihood. Most of us have become poor in these three months of shutdown. So, our leaders should come up with an alternative for our resistance and protest. To achieve a long-term goal we have to be consistent in our approach and ideology rather than becoming turncoats. Some of our resistant leaders contradict themselves as they overtly support one ideology and covertly oppose it. They need to consult each and every stakeholder in the society and start the dialogue process with every party. Our strategy should be inclusive without putting a negative impact on our economy and education. Because without proper education, our children can’t differentiate between right and wrong, friend and enemy, oppressor and oppressed. Starting a dialogue process is also important and relevant after unrest so that we get a chance to convince the opposite party.

Izat Amin, college student
The revolt of 2016 against India is totally different, people are more exuberant plus they are angrier this time around. Kashmir continues to bury its youth in graves and at the same time authorities keep talking about “reconciliation and dialogue”. I think Indian delegates should meet the youth representatives and hear from them of what they actually want. Kashmir can’t remain like this forever, we cannot remain in our homes forever, schools can’t remain closed forever and people can’t keep dying every day. People in Kashmir are peace loving. Youth throwing stones at forces, shouting anti-Indian slogans and trying to destroy each and every symbol of government shows us how angry youth are. Instead of firing pellets and bullets on them they should be called for the talks with delegates and government officials. India should listen to the youth of Kashmir otherwise this agitation will never subside.

Zaid Ahmed, college student
What began as an agitation led by the local boys in streets was soon brought under the leadership of the “United Hurriyat”. With nearly four months on and over 90 people dead and countless injured, we have to ask ourselves and the leaders as what we have achieved from our protests through strikes and chalo calls. With nearly a million military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir, it’s hard to think of any chalo call being successful. From Tral chalo to Raj Bhawan chalo, forces with their strictness and ruthlessness have foiled almost every chalo call. It is like a chalo call has been reduced to only filling the blank space in protest calendars. Until not so long ago, it was impossible to venture out during the strike hours with locals blocking the roads and markets obviously shut. After Eid the trend somewhat changed. There is a sense of normalness with transport plying on the roads and shops partially open. While many people will brand them as traitors, we cannot ignore the hardships that these people have faced during this unrest. In many areas local committees have set up the Bait-ul-Maals but obviously the help has not reached to all those affected.

Sadiya Malik, 12 class student
In 100 days of hartals, we have lost 1000 eyes and 91 lives. I am not against hartals. I know hartal is a weapon to show the world how oppressed Kashmiris are. But is it the only options? Can’t leaders think of some other strategy? In all these days we have not achieved anything, we have just lost – lost an academic year, lost the peace of mind, and more importantly lost the precious lives. I am a student, and ideally this time I should be studying and preparing for my exams, but I am sitting whole day at home with a hope that no one dies, or gets blind. I live in downtown, a place where pellets, bullets and teargas shells are the things which wakes us up, but the point is for how long the thud of a bullet and tear smoke shell will wake up us all. The separatists should plan things which have a meaning. I don’t think we have achieved anything in these three and half months of shutdown.

Abdul Rashid Najar, street vendor
I am a poor man who has not earned anything in last three and half months of hartal, but I am ready to sacrifice and support hartals because next year I cannot again afford to be at home and not earn anything. So whatever has to happen should happen now? I know how I have managed to feed my family in these three months, but I am not complaining to any separatist leader because we are all fighting for our freedom. So what I am doing is very little, since we all sacrificing in our way or the other we should at least reach near to our destination, so that our efforts don’t go unanswered.

Firdous Ahmad, a pellet victim
The moment hartal will be called off we will stop following separatist leaders, who we consider our heroes. I am blind now but at the same time I also feel proud that I have sacrificed my eyes for a pious cause, however, I don’t want my sacrifice to go waste. We have to fight till we get Azadi. Let the entire Kashmir go blind, let we all die, but we should not leave our mission half way and run to bring normalcy. Normalcy will only come once the Indian forces will go back.

Habibullah, Habbakadal
There is no doubt that the continuous hartal has affected every nook and corner of our society. I am also upset that all the development works are going to the Jammu division and we are suffering here. What will happen to the labourers, unemployed youth and to the vendors? I was unable to send my children to schools as one of my daughters is in 12th standard. Well-off people managed to send their children to Jammu for coaching. We are even afraid of sending our children to our relative’s home due to heavy presence of forces everywhere, given such a situation how can we send them to coaching centers.

Mushtaq Ahmad, Pampore
Hartals have affected the education of our children. It will have impact on their future also. Government as well as people should take as final decision now, but it should be a people favourable decision. We have seen a lot of sufferings since 1947. In last 100 days, for consecutive 14 Friday’s congregation prayers were not allowed by the authorities at historic Jamia Masjid and nobody speaks about it. It is also a sort utter violation of human rights of Kashmiris. It is impossible for us to send children to schools or allow them to sit in exams given such a situation. Conducting exams is just a mere eye wash to divert the attention of the world bodies from ground realities of Kashmir.

Javid Ahmad, school teacher
As 100 days of shutdown are over now, but as of now there has been no positive political engagement. I think the separatist leaders should also call for hartal so that people could get an economic breather. We live in 21st century and world has reached to new heights. Hartal is a powerful tool for showing our resentment towards them, but side by side we have also keep in mind that the education sector remains the worst hit because of these hartals.

Abhishek Saha, journalist
Around 91 people have been killed, young men and women have been blinded and maimed, and there is an extreme anger against the Indian state on the streets of Kashmir. In last 100 days, schools have remained shut and many children I spoke to are at a complete loss, trying to make sense of what is going around them, while some others ask questions as to why they have been made to remain within their house for so long and why there are so many soldiers outside their homes. In any other situation, it would have been very easy to say that schools should reopen immediately. But in this case, considering the situation on the ground, it’s difficult to give an opinion because the issue is multi-dimensional. On one hand, there is a tremendous loss for children who are not being able to pursue schools and colleges for such a long time. But then, their safety needs to be assured. Can they and their parents fall between protesters and forces while going for school? As long as the situation is not “normal”, will it be safe for children to come out of their homes. All these should be looked at carefully before any decision on schools are taken.

Raashid Bhat, teacher
Every sector is facing the brunt of the ongoing situation. Hurriyat leaders must prepare a roadmap with a clear vision so that other sectors including business and education are no more hit. People are tired of prevailing situation now. If Hurriyat wants to prolong the shutdown program, it should also give the strategy to sustain the education of children and economy of the people. As education sector is the worst hit so far, we should not wait for the mass promotion of our children under the garb of this prevailing unrest but instead should have introduced alternate form of schooling for them. When we can’t do so, let the mainstream schooling go on and exempt it from the shutdown and strike programs. Let’s not play with the future of kids any more. Mass promotions would only hit the academic session. The Hurriyat needs to come clear. They should give timeframe policy and come up with the long term policies. They should not keep people in the dark and should not duck the responsibility. There are hundreds of ways to protest, we should not follow a particular way of protest, which only hits the economy of the people and make them more miserable. Let Hurriyat come up with other forms of protests.

Jibran Khan, student
Hurriyat leadership is at crossroads with some voices from some quarters saying that they will never support a shutdown call again if this agitation ends like it did in 2008 and 2010. People today want results and if they can’t deliver them through shutdowns, perhaps they could sit and look for better and more acceptable ways. We could perhaps start an awareness campaign through which we could tell the tourists who come to Kashmir from other parts of India and the world about the political nature of Kashmir problem since the partial Indian media never tells them about our situation. Hurriyat should propose an idea which is acceptable at least in the sense that people from various quarters including government of India, people of Kashmir and other stake holders can sit down and deliberate. The problem of Kashmir is a complex problem, but we can at least make a new start with more modern and acceptable ideas to find a solution that harms no one, that renders no one to sleep hungry or fear.

Shakir Ahmed, businessman, Sopore
Three months of siege, more than 90 dead, over 16,000 injured, huge losses incurred to businesses, losses towards schooling and education – have we arrived at a better place than before? Arguments to vouch for either a yes or a no to the question could be raised. It is a sensitive question in Kashmir where every individual can relate to the struggle against Indian rule to varied degrees. Kashmir has been witnessing India’s brutalities for decades now, the perpetrators acting with impunity. The local sentiment defined by anger, dejection, and disaffection vents in various manners and the events over the past three months have been yet another expression of the dissent against their rule. Similar uprisings happened in the past with, unfortunately, the same result – no significant change in their behaviour. International media picks up the news, we rejoice, that the world is talking about us. India media portrays us all as “terrorists” paid by Pakistan and glorifies the “security” forces. It happened in 2010 and it is happening now. Why should we expect any different outcomes if the methods employed are the same old ones? The current philosophy of the resistance camp (Hurriyat, etc.) always culminates in a deadlock which ultimately has to break because there is no sustainable fragment to this philosophy. I, personally, find myself in a dilemma when looking at the way forward. Emotions tend to suppress sound judgement but the head almost always has the right of it. School examinations may seem futile at this point but can we simply eliminate the need for education? How long can businesses remain shut? Even the staunchest adherents of the current state of affairs cannot fathom a scenario where the status quo leads to Azaadi – it is incomprehensible and outright obtuse. Unless a more sustainable approach comes up, my dilemma shall linger.

Masood Hussain, doctor
Kashmir has been put on the backburner after recent development and border skirmishes between India and Pakistan. To avoid this situation in future we need to devise a permanent and sustainable plan. Though separatist leaders are issuing non-violent protest calendars but, I don’t think at present it’s proving as an effective way to show our resistance. People mostly youth are tired of this redundant way and they are defying these calendars. My quick comment can’t get even quick solutions, everyone needs to sit down and find some alternative which will prove successful in every sense.

Omaan Omar, social activist
The uprising of 2016 is no different for the people of Kashmir. The suffering is same, economic crisis is same and loss of lives is same. Hurriyat no doubt is standing with the people of Kashmir, but are they guiding us on the right path? Have these strikes and hartals led us to any result or will the outcome be same as of previous uprisings. There are a lot of ways to protest other than hartals, ways that do not slash our economy to floor, ways that won’t make us sick, mentally and physically and ways that will make our voices reach the destination and we will be able to survive too.

Ravees Bhatt, business manager NIIT, Srinagar
Centre needs to realize it is quite imperative to scrutinize whether or not the people of Kashmir are satiate off present governance. I bet if centre comes forth and puts pressure on Mehbooba bluntly that she is not welcome among the people she will also change her strategies and become a bit people caring minister. If PDP started present governance with the word that all stake holders will be taken care of including Hurriyat, have they done that?

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