Do not get me wrong. I am contemptuous towards none. With all their sacrifices, political gaucheries and foibles, I hold all my leaders, dwarfs and towering in high esteem. Shopian happenings have set me thinking. On Saturday morning, when I am pushing keys of my computer to write this column, the newspaper headline reads, “Shopian remains caged for 14th day.” On the face of it, this seven words headline is an innocuous statement of facts but within its ambit, it carries a whole story of pain, agony and miseries, some told and some untold.
The story of Muhammad Yusuf Sofi, 24, Tariq Ahmad Mir, 24, Touseef Ahmed Bhat 19, killed in ‘cold blood’ as encapsulated lucidly by Majid Maqbool in this newspaper some days back. Or the reports filled by reporters of this newspaper do give an overview of the Shopian tragedy- 2013. That occurred on the same day when through an international musical concert the state and the central governments were telling the world that everything in Kashmir was hunky-dory. But, no prose, howsoever candidly and beautifully written can reflect the pain and suffering the people of the district have been subjected to during past fifteen days.
It is a different story, if through the offices of Michael Steiner, German Ambassador in India, New Delhi succeeded in getting the diplomatic mileage on Kashmir in the European Union as it had envisaged. But fact remains that the Zubin Mehta and his hundred bagpipers left behind a trail of misery and pain and caused yet another autumn of dissent in Kashmir. To the long history of pain of Kashmir, it added more agonizing tales of infants being lulled to sleep without proper food, the sick suffering for medicines, snatching of livelihood of many daily wagers for a fortnight and denying them two time full meals.
The Shopian Tragedy 2013, like other tragedies in the past in the district- wounds of some of which continue to ooze to this day caused widespread resentment and anger amongst people all over Kashmir. There were spontaneous and widespread protests in all all the districts of South Kashmir. Curfew, stone pelting and fought ding-dong battles tormented life in many other towns. However, an effective and collective response to this tragedy that would have helped in mitigating the suffering of the beleaguered people of the district and bringing the culprits to the book has been missing. There can be no denying that the entire spectrum of the leadership, ostensibly subscribing to one ideology and striving almost for a common goal but working under a dozen of canopies raised their voices against killings of the three youth and placing the district under siege. Nevertheless, for their failure to put a collective voice their protests did not have an impact that could bring justice to the bereaved families and impel the authorities to end nightmare in the district.
The Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani gave more than six calls for holding protests all over the Kashmir province after Friday prayers. People obeyed his calls to the dot pulled down shutters of their business establishment for six days. Thousands of passenger vehicles jammed their wheels for almost a week. Hundreds of thousands of students abstained from schools and colleges for about a week and invested their precious days of education in the movement for justice. Materially according to an economist people offered sacrifices to the tune of Rupees six hundred Crores during six days of the recent shutdowns. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, gave a different a set of programs for protesting against the Shopian tragedy, these include demonstrations after Friday prayers, shutdowns, and chalo- long marches to Shopian from different places and towns. The word ‘chalo’ entered into lexicon of Kashmir ‘resistance movement’, when about half a million people marched towards the ceasefire line (LOC) in 2008. The state foiled all the “chalos” with comfortable ease by bundling leaders in jeeps- to be release hours later without invoking much of resistance from the people. Minus a few headlines in some Srinagar newspapers, the programs of protests by the two factions of the Hurriyat have not been much of a consequence. These failed to assume dimension of a collective movement that would have proved catalytic bringing justice to the people of Shopian or building a narrative internationally about happenings in the town that had hogged international headlines in 2009. And is remained worldwide for twin rape and murder.
The overwhelming majority in the state fully well understands that with the state having denied all space to dissenting leadership shutdowns and rallies are the only means left with them to register protests against tragedies like that of Shopian-making them to abide by shutdown programs. Nevertheless, a question writ large on the faces of the people is why the leadership fails to come up with collective response even to the worst human tragedies and instead engage themselves in political showdowns. Don’t these leaders realize it is their dichotomist politics that has weakened the movement? Has been sapping the peoples resolve. Don’t they understand they are subscribing to quomi-fatigue-syndrome?- that could prove fatal to the sixty five year old movement for justice and fair play.
The average person understands that Geelani sahib has is leaving behind strong legacy of political steadfastness, something that has been rarity in the past. He also understands that by upsetting 4-pt formula apple cart of Musharraf he saved the movement of self-determination. Asking the question why leaders in the vanguard cannot even agree on a common minimum program for improving human rights situation in the state they expect from him to leave behind yet another legacy bringing all groups with common goal under one umbrella.
Those of us who understand the political dynamics of the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference and those outside their umbrellas know it with all permutation and combinations expecting them to emerge as monolithic one party would be a pipedream. In fact there are no cohesive forces within these combines and the divisive forces within them drawing strengthen from various external forces are strong enough to subvert all moves of bringing them together. It would need an iron will to fight them- if leaders lack that but let them not at least confuse people by giving conflicting programs.