Oh, The Tangled Webs They Weave

  • Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain
  • Publish Date: Jan 11 2017 1:35PM
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  • Updated Date: Jan 11 2017 1:35PM
Oh, The Tangled Webs They WeaveFile Photo: Aman Farooq/KI

Whenwe analyse the Kashmiri society's attitudes towards the resistance movement, we find that our elite generallyhave dreams that are bereft of resilience, which is indispensible for realisation of any goal. 

They are easily overtaken by scepticism; this happened with the militancy and it is the same with non-violent mass uprisings. Yet, they abhor any idea of reconciling with the subjugation. Their paradox becomes a handy tool for the pleaders of status quo to malign the resistance and its leadership. 

The young, on the other hand, have the determination and the spirit to pursue the goal of Azadi. They understand they are pitted against a disproportionately powerful adversary that can only be cowed down through sheer power of will, resilience and determination. It's these attributes that enable them to invoke mass support irrespective of their standing, modes and means of resistance.

The third group comprises a vocal minority of the beneficiaries of status quo and fence sitters. They rescue the oppressive system by sermonising about the need for articulating the resistance. Since the leadership has been unresponsive to their covert mechanisations, they are on a maligning spree. On their own, they are not ready to suggest alternatives, knowing well that such an exercise is not easy given the space for dissent is completely choked in Kashmir. Instead of taking on this oppressive system and suggesting alternative modes of resistance, our pen-wielding sermonisers have made a hobby of maligning every form of dissent.

For years, they have been demeaning the insurgency for causing loss of life. When Kashmir was completely taken over by the insurgency, the non-violent philosophy of Gandhi was cited as an alternative. Indeed, the renunciation of the armed resistance by the JKLF and the creation of the Hurriyat Conference was a response to this criticism. The Kashmiri leadership was promised space for non-violent resistance in lieu of distancing themselves from the militancy. The leadership did, only for the state to respond with ridicule, custodial torture and killings. Thousands of Jamat-e-Islami members were annihilated on the pretext of counter-insurgency. Yasin Malik lost hundreds of cadres even after declaring ceasefire and switching to the “Gandhian” mode of resistance. 

Still, personal liberty of Kashmiris remains a target of preventive detention laws. Masarat Alam Bhat has been detained under the Public Safety Act 34 times, and this even after his detention was declared illegal by the J&K High Court. The right to privacy is vulnerable to search operations. Freedom of movement is often restricted by curfews and house arrests. The right to assembly is taken away through the imposition of Section 144. Freedom of expression and press is directly targeted through blatant bans on newspapers and internet; the ban on Kashmir Reader is the latest instance of the choking of freedom of expression. A Facebook post was criminalised as sedition and a Kashmiri student detained for it in Jharkhand, leading to a scare among other students and compelling them to abandon their studies; another Kashmiri was expelled from Aligarh Muslim University for a similar reason. Research scholar Gulzar Wani, also of Aligarh University, has been in jailfor nearly 16 years after being implicated on fake charges. Holding a seminar at JNU led to state repression against the organisers as well as Kashmiri students. Those who dare even try to organise and protest are constantly hoodwinked by various security agencies. 

We saw an instance of the state's dual approach during the current phase of the resistance as well. At the peak of the hartal, the education minister begged Syed Ali Geelani fora lease of life to Mehbooba Mufti. But once the hartal calendar was relaxed, Muzzafar Beg sarcastically remarked that “the resistance calendar has become a joke”. 

Since the turn of this century, hartal and stone-throwing have emerged as the dominant modes of resistance in Kashmir. But despite being non-violent, they have became targets of criticism, purportedly for involving heavy human and economic costs. Now, even Muhammad Ali Jinnah is referenced to denounce these peaceful modes of struggle; it's conveniently ignored, of course, that his Muslim League, too, had resorted to “direct action” when the available constitutional methods failed to invoke any response. 

Geelani once remarked, in response to Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat invoking the founder of Pakistan in a similar context, that “Bhat Sahib is not Jinnah, and neitherhas the Indian administration an iota of resemblance with the British colonial rule. They had only fifty four thousand civil servants and not more than twelve thousand soldiers of British origin to control thirty crore Indians. We remain besieged by an army equal to one-fifth of the valley's population”. It's a compelling argument that the sermonisers would find hard to counter. 

When the resistance leadership calls for an election boycott, the rescuers of status quo find fault with this approach as well. Indeed, it was the 'BJP phobia' concocted by them that made people vote in the last assembly election. The BJP still took power. While criticising the leadership for non-participation in the electoral process, they forget that whenever they did participate, the polls were rigged. When the resistance led by Sheikh Abdullah sought to fight elections, the Plebiscite Front was banned from contesting. As the former Indian spy chief AS Dulat has revealed, elections in Kashmir are held only to confer a degree of legitimacy upon chief ministers pre-selectedby New Delhi. 

The common people understand, from their experience, the implications of the various modes of resistance. They continue to sacrifice and remain determined to sustain it. Leaders simply channelise this determination to the best of their ability and the space at their disposal. Mass movements have their own dynamics and ways of articulation; these dynamics are more complex in conflicts with multiple psychological, social, political, military and global dimensions. The resistance in such cases can't work through a bureaucratic style of formal planning, for obvious reasons. 

Social acceptability of a resistance movement flows from its ability to become a credible representative of volks giest (public conscience). Having kept one of the world's largest military and economic powers on tenterhooks and blunted its manipulations for years, our resistance movement remains confident of its ways of articulation. Relatedly, confident leaders are supposed to lead, not yield. It is, thus, to the great credit of every component of our resistance that they have sustained its sentiment and mobilisation against the heaviest of odds.

Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain is Dean, School of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir