Defiant people, clueless leadership: Kashmir post-2008

After the defiant decade of the 90s, Kashmir dispute was reduced to mere political and diplomatic discussions away from public participation. But the Amarnath land transfer by PDP-Congress coalition government in 2008 changed it by giving a rebirth of sorts to the Kashmir cause. That watershed moment will go down as one of the defining moments in the history of Kashmir struggle.

The land transfer deal united people across lengths and breadths of the Vale. Majority of the Kashmiris had joined the bandwagon of development, prosperity and peace, barring a town or two before that. Or that’s what we all thought—until Amarnath happened and resulted in a major shift in this perceived narrative.

People, who only a weeks ago would have written eloquent poetry on how our future was safe with India, were at the forefront – pelting stone after stone at the Indian forces.

It was like waking up in a different country.

Hurriyat was forced to lead the people and became the name of every household. People followed them in letter and spirit and the unity gave a rebirth to the struggle. Just a few months before that, some constituents of the Hurriyat were mulling joining the ‘mainstream’ and fighting elections. Some of them eventually did, while others held back, to cash in on the new wave.

Then things were back to where we started.

People were fighting the Indian State head-on. Far off towns, normally cut off from the political landscape of Kashmir, were fighting the establishment. Everyone in Kashmir was fighting, except the local unionist camp and Hurriyat.

Hurriyat leaders were tussling with each other to be projected as the leader of this revolt, which then was still in progress. Masrat Alam emerged, gained a cult status, used social media effectively to take on the Indian State in Kashmir. But soon, he was arrested. Some believe it was an inside tip-off to agencies because Alam had become the de-facto leader of the masses—even when Syed Ali Geelani was leading the movement amid silence adopted by the rest of the Hurriyat factions, following his directives.

Meanwhile the peoples’ movement was heading towards the conclusion. The cry against the land transfer became a new wave for the freedom, forcing the government to revoke the order. In the face of peoples’ revolt, even the Azad government fell apart. What followed was quite significant, yet tragic.

Year after year, summer after summer, day after day and night after night, Kashmiris protested.

Everywhere: in their courtyards, on their roads, the roads where they had seen their loved ones being butchered, in their mosques, in schools and in colleges – Kashmiris displayed the resilience and courage to take Delhi head-on.

Even the South Block saw it. They realised that they are losing Kashmir. Agencies started working behind the scenes to find collaborators. The entire stretch of Kashmir was curfewed. Despite months of curfew, the collective will stayed defiant. But a clueless leadership which never had any ideas to begin with was now fully exposed.

The bickering started inside the Hurriyat camp and instead of becoming thought leaders and paving a way for achieving something out of these extraordinary protests, they caved in and gave away the hard work.

The joint Resistance Leadership.

Somebody’s son returned from Pakistan. Some others, and their kin, got the long pending passports. Their kin flew abroad to study in the expensive Universities away from this fragile land, while the fathers of Tufail Mattoo, Sameer Rah and scores of other slain schoolboys, along with the families of Neelafors, were running from one post to another, protesting against the Indian State.

They were seeking justice without any support from the people who receive significant amount of funding from abroad for the cause.

When all this was happening, Syed Ali Geelani accused people of betraying him and his tribe. Ironically, the label was reserved for the people who were at the forefront of resistance and paid the price with their lives and property every time.

In reality, it was the leadership that betrayed the people they claim to lead. They have never united, deliberated and set a definite agenda to carry forward the case of Kashmir.

The Hurriyat leaders have failed miserably year after year and uprising after uprising.

Hurriyat has even forgotten last year’s promise: “We will come up with a sustainable and long lasting strategy.”

People are suffering at every cost and count, but are refusing to be oppressed. Survival and struggle cannot be separated from each other. It needs immense courage to outlive an occupation and then die as a martyr.

The thing is, everybody is aware of the fact that millions of rupees have been donated by the people for the Kashmir cause. But for the last twenty seven years, none of the victim has received a single penny and the giants have even failed to create a library to tell our tales, not to mention any school or other avenues of employment for the poor victims.

The majority has survived over the mercy of Indian establishment. Hurriyat leaders have only accumulated wealth and became millionaires, if not billionaires. The pellet and bullet victims are battling for the treatment and nobody is moved about their fate. Many rape victims, and falsely implicated people, have left their cases due to lack of funds and decided to get justice only in the afterlife.

But we are thankful to local Baitul Maals who have rescued us in every calamity. Failed by Hurriyat, people are forced to choose the better among the worse. They compromise temporarily, but not with their hearts and minds. They adopt the ways of establishment for survival. They try to improve their lives, not approving the idea of India.

Some in the Hurriyat have also embraced the mainstream camp. Many do photo-ops and write books on the K-sufferings and fly away to the west on scholarships, the pretext being ‘to engage with the outer world, build support and sympathy’.

But 27 years down the line, nothing has happened. Hurriyat is still clueless. The worst for the Hurriyat is: post-NIA raids, the doubts of the people have only grown, half of the leadership is behind the bars and nobody among the masses is moved by it.

In all of this, the common Kashmiri has lost hope, but not the desire to see freedom. They still struggle, resist and fight the Indian State; while the Hurriyat, New Delhi and the local ‘mainstream’ parties have found keyboard defenders, some of whom have established multiple online news websites.

The PR machinery has somehow managed to wash their crimes and made the innocent, unemployed, starving and poor Kashmiris responsible for everything, while the people still struggle to find alternatives, like the Indian agencies to pass the blame on to.


Dar Wasim is a blogger. He tweets @payami_

Views expressed in this article are author’s own and does not necessarily reflect FreePress Kashmir’s stand.

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