By: Khursheed Wani
It may not be sheer coincidence that on the conclusion of Yashwant Sinha-led civil society group’s second Kashmir visit, the separatist triumvirate comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik overhauled the pattern of ‘resistance’. Now on, the protest calendars would be issued fortnightly and the people have been asked to resume normal life for the entire week except for the protest-specific Fridays and Saturdays. Amid the monotony of past five months, when normal life remained out of gear straight for 133 days due to curfew and shutdown followed by weekend or evening relaxations granted by the ‘resistance leadership’, the new announcement is bound to impact the ground situation in Kashmir.
Much before the new calendar was issued, the debate was already raging on the efficacy of the shutdown schedules. Privately, most of the people would appear fatigued with a perpetual abnormal life and yearned for the return of ‘normalcy’ but collectively they were either non-committal or asked leaders to pursue the promise of freedom that they declared was never so close not to be achieved.
The entire saga brings the ‘resistance leadership’ back into discussion. Much before the massive public uprising began in Kashmir supported by several pockets in Jammu and Ladakh regions, separatists had begun to set up a loose alliance they referred to as ‘joint resistance forum’ (JRF). They had forewarned the state government of consequences if it pursued the ‘repressive methods’ to quell the voices of dissent. Burhan Wani’s killing and subsequent spontaneous public outburst, coupled with the brutal force used by the state authorities to quash the rebellion, came handy to the JRF to hold the sway. They had no time to streamline the process or develop an institutional mechanism. The unprecedented curbs imposed on them by the authorities including their detention in and outside of their homes, communication blockade, arrest of almost all assistants and sidekicks or the workers on ground, hampered the thought process they would had cherished to pursue. The situation, perhaps, compelled the trio to follow the sentiment on the street, rather than leading and giving it a direction.
Interestingly, the situation turned to be the replica of 2008 and 2010 agitations when the leadership was caught in almost similar situations.
Round-the-corner goal of azaadi has not been achieved till the leadership called off the protest calendar. A debate would rage on the failures and achievements of the post-Burhan protests and the ‘separatist camp’ would be posed many a questions. This throws a tough challenge to the leaders, especially the separatist triumvirate that has promised to devise a long-term strategy based on proactive initiatives, programmes and sustainable modes of protest. It envisaged, as they said, maximum public participation with minimum costs for the people as the way forward.
Going by the track record, any ground-breaking political development in Kashmir has resulted into further fragmentation of the separatist camp. The emergence of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in 1993 was the outcome of the beginning of the decline of militancy. The first diametric division in the APHC in 2003 was ingrained in the 2002 assembly elections. Proxy participation of then Sajjad Lone, son of slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, drew Geelani at loggerheads with Mirwaiz and his ‘moderate’ ilk causing a split in the amalgam. This split turned out to be brutal. Many killings on both sides like those of Peer Hisamuddin and Molvi Mushtaq are attributed to the acrimony that touched many lows at various stages. The permutations and combinations in the camp is a regular feature. Engagement with the government of India by a section of this camp also triggered many swaps.
Undoubtedly, the post-Burhan phase is crucial in the contemporary Kashmir history. While it has highlighted the ground realities for India and the unionist political parties, it is bound to have a lasting impact on the separatist camp as well. Some separatists want the JRF to sustain and merge into a vital force of ‘resistance’. This means purging. Matter-of-factly, feeble resentment is emerging from the circles, which are part of ‘resistance’ but could not find a place in the JRF. One such leader declared the JRF as “a coalition of individuals”. Another referred to them as “blind riders on a lame horse”. The insinuations are going to be tougher and blunt in the coming days because there is apparently no ‘success’ in the JRF’s kitty.
On the flip side, Mehbooba Mufti has begun to pick up threads to offset the impact of the post-Burhan happenings on her image. She has sought to modify her statement justifying the killing of teenagers with the use of brutal force, by conceding that excessive use of force was used in past five months. She obliquely justified the grant of ex-gratia relief to the next of kin of Burhan Wani for the killing of his brother Khalid Muzaffar, 20 months ago in a disputed encounter. In the subsequent months, many of the separatist workers and leaders would be released and the alleged stone-pelters would walk free without their cases being pursued. If one goes by Ms Mufti and her cabinet colleagues’ announcements, the main focus would be on the development and the employment fronts in the coming months.
In this backdrop, if Yashwant Sinha and his team recommend ‘unconditional dialogue’ with the stakeholders when they meet Prime Minister Narenda Modi, will the shaky separatist camp be in a position to respond?