Who rules Kashmir?

Who rules Kashmir?
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‘We do not want to have our streets stained with blood of our teenagers as has become a  usual routine. We do not want to live in a climate of insecurity and instability. We no longer want to live suffocated and besieged. We want to have it settled permanently’, an educated shopkeeper selling electronic goods in Sopur told me when I asked him about the current phase of resistance movement.  I was expecting he would fume with indignation and spew his venom against those spearheading present agitation. Weeks after he opened his shop on 17July when Hurriyat led by Geelani has given a ‘relaxation’ through his weekly resistance calendar. But since there were no signs of embarrassment or dismay as to convey the losses he suffered due to relentless hartals, shutdowns and public protests. Putting an element of optimism in his assertion he went on, ‘This time people of Kashmir, both from urban and rural areas are all determined to carry the movement to its logical conclusion. They will not allow any hiccups in the movement. With our youth at the forefront it is destined to reach to its goal’.

 On 24 June, Hurriyat G, undeterred by government crackdown launched ‘Quit JK campaign’ and called for ‘total vacation of Indian troops from JK’. Giving reasons that compelled the Hurriyat to take this extreme step, Masrat Aalm told media men at an undisclosed place in Srinagar: ‘Indian troops are responsible for Machchil fake encounter, killing of innocent youth, and outraging chastity of women, destroying property and exploiting of our natural resources. The oppression has reached  the extreme, compelling us to launch “Quit JK campaign “…..And it ‘launched’ the campaign in announcing its 9-day resistance calendar whereby it asked people to observe shut-downs and hartals on specific days it mentioned. It called for use of social networking websites like Facebooks, Twitters and Gmail buzz. It asked for women to march to Pathar Masjid and students to stage demonstrations. People were asked to chant ‘Go India, Go Back’ and write graffitis on public places. Although Hurriyat called for shutdown only  on June 26, July 2 and 3, overwhelming mass support to the agitational programme panicked government and it resorted to closure of  educational institutions, postponement of exams, clamping of curfew, (declared or undeclared), arrest of youth, mostly teenagers. As the public fury refused to die down and more public demonstrations continue Delhi, responding to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s request for help, rushed to send in more troops. Army was called in Srinagar which in full battle-ready regalia staged a flag march in Srinagar.  The message given was loud and clear. Kashmiris have to be coerced into submission even if they stage peaceful demonstrations. In 1990’s Army was called in to deal with gun wielding militants now they are pitted against unarmed civilians. This deepened the impression that it is territory not people Delhi is focussed on.

 It  is nearly one month since Hurriyat launched ‘Quit JK campaign’ and anything that comes from it,___ and which regularly comes after every week for which people are anxiously waiting for-people are abiding by it whole-heartedly.

 Hurriyat kickstarting ‘Quit JK campaign’, a bold decision though, has in it  elements of risk. Unlike 2008 mass uprising that was spearheaded by co-ordination committee, comprising of various pro-freedom groups, this time Hurriyat (G) did it all alone. Without sharing the idea with other groups it mulled the strategy of its own and then led from the front. It was perhaps apprehensive that the campaign might not take off, given the background of the party differences, trust deficit and personality and idealogical clashes in the leadership of pro-movement camp. The mega phase of the movement was announced not by Geelani but by Masart Alam who has no iconic stature as that of Geelani, his (Masrat’s) sacrifices for the cause notwithstanding. That Hurriyat (G) took the decision in which much of it was and is at stake, and struck to it firmly, shows the faith it has on the people despite their capricious nature and falling victim  to deceit and treachery at crucial times. Till now the complete adherence to the “dos and don’ts” of the resistance calendar reveals the high credibility ratings of the imprisoned octogenarian leader and the mass support he commands.

 With schools, colleges and universities closed, banks locked, shops shutter down, transport off the roads, development works stopped, business activities all curtailed, courts dysfunctional, government offices deserted, the state government is all but crippled. There are no signs to substantiate its existence. The farce of an ‘elected’ government stands exposed. Once upon a time there existed the one. Once upon a time there used to be a Chief Minister, his council of ministers flaunting ‘peoples’ mandate’. Once upon a time we heard of ‘good governance’  talking from rooftops and taking pledge of ‘protecting life, honor, and dignity’ of the people it claimed have given them power to rule.

 By all means the political coalition regime has lost political face and shape in politically volatile Kashmir. which has been grabbed by Geelani. It is his writ that prevails. Kashmir opens up for him, seals for him. It seems not Omar but Geelani rules Kashmir. An Indian journalist in a sarcastic tune remarked : ‘Kashmir’s Chief Minister is not Omar Abdullah, but the one imprisoned in Chasma Shahee’. Undoubtedly youth are gravitated more and more towards him. For them he is resistance personified.

 Nothing can be more humiliating for a regime that prides on its being ‘elected’ than its ‘own’ people passing a veto on it through civil curfews shut downs and public demonstrations. And its employees reporting duties as and when ‘directed’ by Hurriyat that Geelani  heads.

 Recently Chairman of JK Bank Dr. Haseeb Drabu, speaking at a book release function, termed Chief Minster Omar Abdullah a ‘heart throb’ of youngsters’. I wish he be. But on the ground he has been reduced to a nobody. Hearts are not ruled by force. But repose trust on people and stamp their authority and popularity in capturing minds and thoughts of people. And flex muscle of peoples’ power. who fits in that definition. Streets pronounce. Entire landscape of kashmir stands witness to. Even social networking sites pass the judgement. In a situation where employees, from the lowest to the highest in hierarchy, wait for the “relaxation” from Hurriyat (G) it is emphatically clear for whom hearts beat and throb, life moves and jams. What else is people’s verdict. What else constitutes the ‘representative character’?

 As the movement has entered a decisive phase, any separate rather counter chalo like exercises given from any quarter other than the one that presently directs the movement will be stinkingly unwise and, I must hasten, it will be counter-productive. Rather than feeling belittled by circumstances, they must rise up to the occasion and sail with the peoples’ sentiments, genuine and legitimate.

Tail Piece:

 Cocooned in official residence enjoying Z-security, Chief mister Omar Abdullah has cast  himself into the role of a Resident Commissioner of Maharaja Pratap Sigh’s times. It is better New Delhi  officially declares Omar as governor relieving the present governor N N Vohra. Afterall it is unconstitutional to have one post stuffed with two functional heads!

(The author can be reached at zainagiree@yahoo.co.in)