Kashmir: Is this Hurriyat’s final litmus test

If the random claims of Mehbooba Mufti are to be believed, there are no less than three lakh fifty thousand people active on ground- pelting stones, holding protests and clashing with the armed forces.  If 95 per cent people isn’t participating in the anti-India stir, unarguably five per cent of Valley’s 70 lakh people is on the roads. Therefore, since Hizbul Mujahideen commander died fighting government forces on  July 8, three lakh and fifty thousand Kashmir people are in direct confrontation with the armed forces.

Mehbooba since August 15 has been maintaining the rhetoric of acting tough against this five per cent of Kashmir’s population that has razed her efforts of establishing silence in this restive Himalayan region. One also wonders how the chief minister came up with the figures; no one in New Delhi media questioned, neither did she care to elaborate. Her words are being echoed by the Government of India, followed by a detailed list that the police have prepared to crack whip against these five per cent of people.

The resistance leadership that was formed after the onset of armed rebellion in Kashmir has witnessed, during its evaluation, the periods that have played a key role in shaping the present 2016 movement.  Now, has final test has come?

There is no denial of the fact that All Parties Hurriyat Conference restrained its role vis-à-vis Kashmir’s resistance movement to mere issuance of statements.  We have seen how the leaders race against each other in issuing strike calls for August 15 and January 26.  We see how the news editors are telephoned for the accommodation of these statements. But, what makes APHC relevant to Kashmir’s political landscape, despite its rhetorical approach, is the street crowd that obeys its calls, protest calendars and marches. It is this street crowd that government has hinted to crush.

After the inception of the armed rebellion in 1990, 2008 was the first phase of Kashmir’s nation building.  It revealed to the world that how the people here aren’t even ready to allow India to settle on an isolated piece of their land.  It revealed to the world the people who were often condemned for their cowardice nature are in hordes on streets against the allotment of mere 300 kanals of land to the ‘outsiders’. It revealed to the world that rebels have become a nation.  Then came the economic blockade with the purpose to make Kashmir people understand how dependent they are to the Jawarhar Tunnel– located on the lone functional surface link that connects the landlocked valley to the rest of the world. It proved counterproductive. The march to Muzzafarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir was the greatest one in Kashmir’s history.

Kashmir people not only boycotted goods including the essential commodities coming from Jammu but also ensured no house in Kashmir faces dearth of essentials.  It was after such a resistance that Jammu traders haven’t ever since dared to threaten blockade to Kashmir again. 2008 also ended the wedge that was earlier created between cities and villages. Being Kashmiri emerged as the only identity. It was 2008 that on one side, people in Srinagar would take care of injured rushed to Srinagar hospitals from different villages while villages coming up with vehicles full of vegetables and milk.

2010, according to many, was instigation from the government itself. It wanted to crush the remainants of 2008 movement. It wanted to ensure that no 2008-like peoples’ movement emerges from Kashmir for at least a decade. Killings, tortures, arrest spree was done in the name of peace.  I remember a journalist friend telling me how in 2010 Srinagar’s central jail resembled like a high school. “There were kids no older than 14 to 16 years playing cricket in Jail’s mail lawn. Some even younger screaming at their parents for leaving them alone.  It was for the first time that anything one could find, inside the central jail, was a ‘stone thrower’, he would recall.

Besides over 120 killings, the careers of thousands of youth were destroyed. Hundreds of FIRs and slapping of Public Safety Acts– which allows detention without bail for up to 2 years– only had one message encrypted- not to rebel against the mighty empire.

2016- Now or Never?

Mehbooba was right when she said in the recent press conference that 2010 and 2016 have no comparison. The reason that she publicly lost her cool for the first time in her political career was she is aware that how the previous uprisings have prepared Kashmir people to say this time in unison that it is ‘now or never’. She knows how from making the human chains around the forces’ bunkers in 2008 to attacking police posts in 2016 equations have changed.

She knows the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is united and so are the people. The wedge between the North, South and Central Kashmir has ended. The killing in Srinagar is equally protested in South Kashmir and vice versa.  She knows how dialogue was an option before the people till 2010 and now amounts to bartering the ‘martyrs’ blood’.  The only way the Indian state finds to get out of the crises is to crack whip against the 5 per cent. It is this five percent that has been on the fore front- taking the protest calendar of the resistance leadership to the ground.  If this five per cent is crushed, Kashmir will limp back to normal.

The final test for the resistance leadership is that when this 5 per cent of population will be crushed, what next has it in store. One would assume that it will continue to issue the calendars but on ground there wouldn’t be anyone to say ‘Labaik’.  Normalcy will resume and shopkeepers will open their shutters.  It would look like as if people have forgotten 2016 as they forgot 2008 and 2010. However, if anything would remain cemented in peoples’ mind it would be Hurriyat’s one more failure to steer the ship to shores.  This time it would have no excuse of saying it was divided. This time it cannot say that people betrayed the movement. What remains to be seen is whether Hurriyat would remain relevant within the resistance landscape. For now, it seems, it has meager chances, if it fails this time again.

The traces of Kashmir’s greatest revolutionary movement Mahaz-e-Rai Shumari could only be found in history books.


(Umar Shah is a journalist based in Kashmir.)