By Niloofar Qureshi

Published: Wed, 13 March 2013 08:14 PM

 

 

The latest spurt of protests in the Valley, which commenced with the execution of Afzal Guru, got extended due to the mysterious death of a Kashmiri student in Hyderabad and has thereafter continued in the aftermath of a youth shot by the security forces in Baramulla. A ‘protest calendar’ was promptly issued and with people taking to the streets in large numbers, normal life came to a standstill, proving once again that the situation in Kashmir continues to be extremely volatile. Though the separatists must be congratulating themselves for having pulled off a major ‘victory’ through such widespread and prolonged protests, they must not forget that they had played no role in initiating the protests- they were just lucky to get repeated opportunities!
There is no doubt that unfolding events should be used for furthering the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’. However, events should not become the sole agency for the same. Though the widespread protests in the aftermath of the Afzal Guru execution, the mysterious death of the Kashmiri student studying in Hyderabad and the killing of a protester in Baramulla are certainly valid reasons for protesting, such incidents by themselves alone cannot be expected to usher in the change we desire. For, though these incidents do illustrate the sorry plight of Kashmiris, unfortunately, the international community perceives these as mere law and order problems.
While many nations and human rights bodies criticised New Delhi after the Afzal Guru hanging, the criticism was for India’s continuation of the death penalty and not even a single country questioned the legality of this execution or the way it was done. The Hyderabad suicide case too has not evoked any international response and is probably being viewed by the international community as the personal decision of an individual. The Baramulla killing also seems to have unfortunately fallen in the ‘common category’ of  the death of a protester who was shot by the security forces while discharging their ‘legitimate duty’ of maintaining law and order!
What our leaders fail to comprehend is that, in practice, the international community follows moral standards that are far removed from the high ethical values it publically proclaims to uphold. And in order to justify its own perverted sense of reasoning and depraved conscience, it has craftily coined euphemisms like “global war on terror,” “legitimate targets” and “unavoidable co-lateral damage’. Take the case of the American drone campaign in Pakistan– it is no secret that for every terrorist killed in drone attacks, scores of innocent men women and children are also being killed or maimed. Yet, no one seems to mind and though everyone admits that this is ‘unfortunate’, the ‘collective conscience’ of the international community is satisfied by the warped logic that it is simply a case of ‘unavoidable co-lateral damage’, which occurs when attacking a ‘legitimate target’ in the ‘global war against terror’!
That the ‘terrorism factor’ has also helped New Delhi in enforcing brute force in Kashmir too is no secret. While human right activists and even the UN have made repeated appeals for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), New Delhi has played the ‘terrorism’ card well to counter the same. And, since all those who matter are in some way connected in the ‘global war’ on terror, none are willing to seriously intervene. Their reluctance is understandable, since they are all ‘partners in crime’ and guilty of excesses against innocent civilians. While America cannot do so much since it has the blood of innocents on its hands from drone attacks, Pakistan, which openly espouses the ‘Kashmir cause’ cannot afford opening the ‘can of worms’ of its own murky dealings in the Tribal areas and Balochistan.
The separatists therefore need to introspect. As they have experienced the futility of violence and rightly committed themselves to peace, they should advise the people, especially the youth to refrain from violence. There is an urgent need to educate the youth about the immense power of peaceful protests. Stone pelting and occasional wrecking of public property may seem to be very mild forms of violence, but it nevertheless is. And once protesters resort to violence of any type, then the security forces get an excuse to retaliate and this often results in avoidable loss of life. It should be remembered that the ‘right to self determination’ will certainly not fall into our laps just by needlessly sacrificing our youth and the summer unrest of 2010 in which 122 precious lives were lost, is a grim reminder of this!
The next issue, which the separatist leadership needs to guard against, is to suggest that ‘armed resistance’ could be a viable alternative to the peaceful struggle. Unfortunately, in the recent past, at least two separatist leaders (who have themselves publically denounced the use violent means for achieving the ‘right to self determination’) have made such comments. We have had more than our share of violence and suffered untold miseries due to the same. Being mature and experienced, our leaders know very well that the era of effecting change through the force of arms is long over. Instigating the youth to take up arms would only make them ‘cannon fodder’ and bring more miseries upon our people without achieving anything. In fact, no one would be happier than New Delhi if this happens, as it will provide the AFSPA a new lease of life in Kashmir!
The next point relates to the lack of direction, which the current philosophy of the ‘right to self determination’ movement in Kashmir suffers from.  This is because rather than concentrating on evolving a comprehensive strategy to make it more meaningful and self-sustaining, the separatist leadership seems to be content with solely relying on reacting to incidents and events to carry it forward. In the process, the ideological movement for the ‘right to self determination’ has been reduced to merely a petty ‘agitation’ that erupts whenever acts of excesses against the public occurs and then, its business as usual, till the next such an incident takes place!
Lastly, a one must never forget that for the ‘right to self determination’ movement to succeed, patience and perseverance is essential. However, this will be a daunting task as the youth has become restive, as it has been ‘programmed’ to believe that ‘azadi’ is just round the corner! And this is where their leadership qualities of the separatists will play a very important part, as they have to convince the impatient public that such changes do not come overnight.  But once this is achieved, the ongoing movement will automatically acquire an enduring character and being ‘issue based’ rather than ‘event driven’, will surely gain the respect and support it rightfully deserves from the international community.
(The writer is a New Delhi based journalist and can be reached at: niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com)

 

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