Do Shutdowns Serve Any Purpose?

Afzal Guru’s hanging hurt every Kashmiri but they raise a question on the efficacy of hartals as a means of protest. Means of expressing dissent and protesting need to be reinvented. Ordinary people talk to Saima Bhat on the issue.

We always engage with people from various political ideologies but have we ever tried to know what the people all these camps claim to represent want? We talked to people on the street to know the mood about the politics of protests after the hanging of Afzal Guru. There were four question and we randomly selected the sample for the survey by talking to ordinary people on the street. Here is what they have to say

Was it possible to stop Afzal Guru from being sent to gallows?

Arshad Ahmad, a pedestrian in Lal Chowk: Yes, he could have been saved. When MLA Langate Engineer Rashid discussed this issue in assembly, nobody supported him. Even Indian intellectuals like Arundhati Roy and Gautam Navlakaha are questioning the trial.

Shugufta Gull, a homemaker and a resident of Srinagar: Yes, of course. We could have protested when his death sentence was made public. Had our resistance been consistent and strong, we would have possibly saved him.

Fateen Athar, a Class 9 student: Why not! Had we been serious on this issue from the beginning when he was arrested and accused of attack on Indian parliament, he could have been saved. We should have protested continuously for his release.

Inshah Malik, a PhD student at JNU, Delhi: Your question has an optimistic undertone. The question should be, what have Kashmiris been able to save till now? The 100,000 killed? 10,000 disappeared or 9000 raped? There is no place for a Kashmiri in an Indian/Hindu democracy. We have been flourishing under Indian far left and intelligentsia; even their efforts have not served to save Afzal. It seems that India is a homogenized singularity represented by the essence of Hindutva realization. So to expect that we could have saved him from what was crafted and designed particularly for his death is misinformed optimism.

Irfan Kanth, a government employee: Certainly. Had the state government showed any concern, he could have been saved. At least a lawyer could have been made available.

Fahmeeda Rashid, a government employee: Surely Afzal Guru could have been saved had he been given a fair trial. His hanging is mere politics for which he was made a scapegoat.

Bashir Nadwi, a shopkeeper in Lal Chowk: Afzal was ignored by each and every sect/group of our valley. If given the same importance as people gave him after his execution, he would have been saved. Everyone is responsible, even his family as they also failed to make his case clearly heard.

Ahtisham Geelani, a shopkeeper: Of course he could have been saved but India didn’t want him to be saved. India did this blunder to satisfy the sentiments of its own people, neglecting the sentiments of Kashmiris.

Mir Muhammad Zaid, a pedestrian: Yes, he could have been saved because there are many criminals who are roaming free.

Owais Qureshi, who works with a private company: Yes, he could have been saved by doing all these things when he was alive which we are doing now.

Tariq Ahmad, a fruit vendor: Of course. It was our chief minister who signed the papers. If he would not have signed, then Afzal might have been alive.

Imran-ul-Amin, a businessman: What we see in Afzal’s hanging is just a tip of iceberg. He was made a scapegoat of larger conspiracy hatched in Srinagar and executed in New Delhi. Yes, surely Afzal would have been saved, but the point is that who would have tried to set him free. The people who mourn his death never came forward to help him or see how his family is doing. By shedding tears, we are not relieved of our responsibilities.

Do you think leaders, both pro-freedom and from mainstream, made any effort to save Afzal Guru?

ARSHAD: What mainstream? It’s wrong terminology given to them by media. I am mainstream, you are mainstream. If you say mainstream are those who have accepted democracy then I am saying I have accepted democracy and I am asking for it but they are not giving it to me. If Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had been at the position of his grandson, he would have never let it happen.

If the people who attacked parliament that day were killed on the same day, then who are they searching now? Conspirators? But I think they might be the same people who distributed sweets when Afzal was hanged.

SHAGUFTA: I think Omar Abdullah being a Chief Minister of the state had a say in Delhi. No one else matters Delhi.

FATEEN: No. Our mainstream leaders didn’t want to save him but our pro-freedom leaders could have done a lot. They could have appointed a good lawyer from Kashmir to represent Afzal but it seems that they were also not interested.

INSHAH: Both operate in a predetermined and predestined political scenario. There is a limitation in what we expect from both. However, pro-freedom politics has been reduced to redundant reactionary anger rather than informed politics. So the issue of Kashmiri prisoners has never been highlighted. They are underrepresented and not even globally recognized as political prisoners which is their moral and legal right.

IRFAN: Mainstream leadership is busy with the scandals and our pro-freedom leadership is still confused about their demands. Both made no efforts.

FAHMEEDA: All of it is dirty- politics and politicians.

AHTISHAM: Efforts made were not satisfactory. SAR Geelani was saved only after strong efforts. Same could have been done to save Afzal.

ZAID: No, they didn’t make any effort to save him and whatever they are doing now is for their own vested interests.

OWAIS: The leaders didn’t try at all.

TARIQ: Nobody from mainstream did anything to save Afzal but in the longer run it was up to CM who could have saved him but he didn’t. Afzal was imprisoned for 12 years and there were only 2 years left to complete life imprisonment. But they didn’t want to set him free and that is why they executed him. The pro freedom camp did nothing initially but its good they are building pressure on government of India to return mortal remains of Guru.

IMRAN: Come on, why should they make any effort? They are always in search of fuel to ignite the flames. In Afzal, they found good and lasting one. Pro-India side will play blame game while pro-freedom will demand mortal remains for next 29 years, till another Afzal is executed. It is mockery from both sides. Rest are chips of same block. Kudos to Engineer Rashid who did something significant, though unsuccessfully, to help Guru.

Do Hartals and Civil Curfew serve any purpose?

ARSHAD: Strikes are not justified, no way. They have done us no good till date.

SHAGUFTA: No, they do not serve any purpose. It causes destruction especially to people with small business units. It affects school going children. These continuous civil curfews will make our children’s education to suffer and harm the whole society.

FATEEN: Maybe but it has repercussions on a section of society like shopkeepers and daily wagers. These people are crippled economically. And these hartals hold no importance in which all do not participate.

INSHAH: Hartals are a means of protest when you have a conflict free thriving society and you do hartal to pose a challenge to those who are benefiting from your economic activity. First and foremost, the back of our economy has been broken and by doing hartals, we are thwarting our own cause.

Hartal, to me is akin to “roshun”(sulking) if you keep doing it, your own people assume you are enacting and are not serious. Also in that case, when you are fighting a bitter armed enemy this tactic has no use at all.

IRFAN: Hartals and curfews are the result of our emotional outburst as an oppressed nation.

FAHMEEDA: These bandhs are going to serve in no way.

BASHIR: Together as a nation we can change a lot but unfortunately we are all scattered. Soon we will all come out from our homes for voting and soon we will forget all this. Unified and disciplined action and intellectual roadmap can bring change.

AHTISHAM: Hartal is no doubt harmful in the longer terms but we have no other option other than hartals and civil curfew. I feel hartals benefit a little but harm a lot.

ZAID: No, it doesn’t.

OWAIS: Imposing curfews and hartals are political tactics that help each group in their political expansion but on ground it creates only problems.

TARIQ: It is a mark of our protest but strikes are not good for average Kashmiris.

IMRAN: Yes, they serve purpose of weakening our stand of seeking freedom. It is just a tool to fed up people. How come you expect someone to fight for freedom with empty stomach? With due respect to self-styled leaders who claim to fight for the cause, their actions are detrimental to movement. No one wants to adhere to these calls now.

Is there any alternative for hartals?

ARSHAD: Alternatives is to protest but are we allowed to protest? When I’ll be allowed to protest, then I’ll. No protest is acceptable to occupation. They won’t let any protest remain peaceful.

SHAGUFTA: To show our resistance we should not wait for a reason to protest. Instead we should protest in schools, colleges, offices for a few hours consistently, every day.

FATEEN: Boycott India! Slowly boycott their items but simultaneously make an effort to generate our own goods and create an independent Kashmir.

INSHAH: I think if I can suggest any alternatives, they should be rooted in our indigenous history of struggle and resistance. People’s power is the only power that has been able to change anything. It is time Kashmiri people prioritize, strategize and assess what is more important to them. The resistance is not because of leadership; leadership is because of the people. If people come together, a strong pro-Kashmir leadership is not far away. In the end, I must emphasize these are not easy alternatives. There is a collective responsibility and need for political education and not mere ‘anger’ for promoting resistance for justice

IRFAN: I hardly find any other way to give vent to the pain that these ugly episodes, like Afzal Guru’s execution, fetch us.

FAHMEEDA: As such, no way out but dialogue would have been better.

AHTISHAM: Hartals bring Kashmir under the lime light of international media which let the people around globe know about the situation here. Otherwise nobody would come to know what we suffer here.

ZAID: I don’t know anyone who is happy with these hartals. We have to follow the calendar because we are scared and can’t go out as stone pelters will attack us This is not what people want. This is what the so called pro freedom leaders want; fear, hunger and misery!

OWAIS: We should wear protest bands with slogans depicting the reason of protest. This way we will continue with our daily work along with our cause

TARIQ: For the time being, no.

IMRAN: Alternatives are many provided we execute them. Why don’t we make ourselves self-sufficient and have people who can represent us at international levels? We have advocates of dialogue but they don’t know what they want. See, we need to be realistic and work as a nation. Individuals are not.



  1. It was possible but not for a common Kashmiri but for people in the

    (1) Govt, who sold their souls to Indian rupees.
    A common is targeted with tear gas shells if he or she will raise his/her voice against this oppression and the killers are not from india they are our home grown terrorists (men in uniform).

    (2) No not at all, everybody thinks about his own geese swarn. Congress made it to gain votes while pro-freedom party is making issue of it for their own interests. If Geelani was having so much sympathy with Afzal Guru why didn’t he launched a massive agitation against this brutality after the execution of Ajmal Kasab so that at least one innocent Kashmiri can be saved. No, But till the execution of Guru, he was busy in playing the politics over the Amarnath Road.

    (3) Hartals and Civil curfews are the only weapons that we are possessing now. They mean less to India but they are our last options to fight with India.

    (4) Nothing else except to observe a simple shutdown coz Kashmiris are not fully prepared for Independence, a minority of people mostly youths, children and a few pro-freedom leaders are protesting against Indian occupation while as rest of Kashmiris are taking it as a dangerous game.


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