Curbing even candlelight protest shows why youth pick up arms

Accusing the authorities of launching a mass crackdown on resistance leaders, the separatist camp on Wednesday said the police have created a situation in the Valley in which even a candlelight march poses a threat to peace and in such an atmosphere youth are deliberately pushed to adopt violent means.

The separatist groups including Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Hurriyat Conference (G) and Hurriyat Conference (M), said that ever since the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) urged the people to observe the human rights week by holding peaceful protests—December 3 to December 9—the police launched a massive crackdown on the pro-freedom leadership.

JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik was detained days before the commencement of ongoing Panchayat polls, Syed Ali Geelani continues to remain confined to his Hyderpora residence and Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was also caged.
A JRL spokesman said that at least 30 pro-freedom leaders and activists are under detention apart from the top leadership.
“The JKLF chief’s health deteriorated in police custody and he was hospitalised and is under observation of doctors at the SKIMS, Soura,” he said.
The JRL had asked people to follow its programs in a bid to attract the world community’s attention towards “Kashmir’s grim human rights situation”.
A source in the JRL said that the peaceful means of protests, which include torch and candle light marches during evening hours, wearing black badges on shoulders, and fixing black flags atop vehicles and shops was also a move to “check how far alternate means to strikes would work”.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umar, who has been under house detention for the past several days, said the rulers have already snatched all the rights from the resistance leaders, be it political, social and religious.
“Now the right to protest too stands snatched,” he said.

“At present, Kashmir is witnessing the ultimate form of oppression where human values stand trampled under the boots of military might with the result every single citizen of Kashmir is feeling insecure due to the fear that looms large in every corner of the Valley,” he added.
Mirwaiz said that since every other avenue for dissent for the youth “has been squeezed”, they have been pushed to the wall and forced to pick up arms to fight the “worst form of state terrorism and oppression”.
He said even the Governor SP Malik-led administration disallowed a peaceful candle light procession.
A JKLF spokesman said that those who participated in the peaceful candle light protest have either been detained or placed under house arrest.
“From JKLF alone at least a dozen leaders have been detained by the police for participating in the candle light protest,” he said.
“An atmosphere of fear is being created in Kashmir and every space is being choked where in even peaceful means of protest aren’t allowed. In such an atmosphere, the youth are left with no choice other than to express their anger by picking up arms. So it is amply clear that it is the government that is responsible for pushing youth to the wall.”
He said a “gradual process” of disallowing peaceful protests in Kashmir started from 2008 after the then mass participation of people in peaceful street protests unnerved New Delhi.
“We want to ask the Governor Malik what should he expect the Kashmiri youth to do when even holding a candle in hands poses a big threat?” he said.
Engineer Hilal War, whose Peoples Political Party (PPP) is a constituent of Hurriyat (M), said that December 10 is observed as the World Human Rights Day and it is a practice across the globe that peaceful rallies because they are guaranteed by the UN charter.
“I believe Kashmir is the only place where even a small peaceful activity poses a threat to peace. Pro-freedom leadership is caged and youth are subjected to harassment or confinement if they raise voice. When the right to protest guaranteed by the UN stands choked, what is the option?” War said.
“In such a situation, young lot can start exploring violent means of resistance and gun is the first choice that strikes their minds. It is high time for New Delhi to understand the gravity of the situation and take steps to resolve the conflict rather than flexing muscles by banking on its military might.”
Javid Ahmed Mir, who heads the JKLF (H), said that the authorities with the direct support from the various security agencies are creating such an atmosphere in Kashmir where youth feel that “picking up arms is the only way out”.
“The situation is deteriorating by the day. The youth are picking up guns knowing very well they would get killed. We are losing young boys just because there is no space for them to register their anger or to lodge their protest in a peaceful way,” said Mir, who is also under house arrest.
“If any youth tries to protest in a peaceful manner he is booked under draconian Public Safety Act,” he said.
A police official said that there is no ban on the peaceful activity in Kashmir. “We don’t disallow any peaceful protest. As far as holding candle light processions in Lal Chowk, there is a proper procedure that needs be followed which includes seeking permission from the deputy commissioner,” the official said.