Hurriyat: Leadership or Liability?

  • Ajaz Ahmad
  • Publish Date: Jan 16 2017 2:39PM
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  • Updated Date: Jan 16 2017 2:39PM
Hurriyat: Leadership or Liability?Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi

Our home grown ‘freedom’ franchisee did it once again! Hijacking the anger on the streets, and the spontaneous outrage of the people it affixed its brand label on a people’s uprising and then wore it down to a farce. Not that there isanything new about that. The Hurriyat (and the word is used here in a generic sense regardless of the myriad suffixes that it has spawned over the years) has become synonymous with a parasitic brand of ‘leadership’ that feeds upon public sentiment till it sucks it dry and then unceremoniously dumps it. In fact the very word leadership is inappropriate in the context of Hurriyat for it is long since it has been able toplay this role. For that matter one can legitimately question whether it has ever done so. At its very inception this conglomerate latched on to the militant movement, deriving nourishment from it but giving nothing back in return. It continued to do the same with mass uprisings. Trapped into this parasitic mode of existence the Hurriyat was never able to develop a coherent ideology or a roadmap. Forget about sustaining the movement, it was not even able to sustain its own structure. 

In recent past these leaders tried to foist their failures upon the people by labelling them inconsistent but five months of protracted protest at their bidding by the same people has proved this blame wrong. It is evident now where the fault lies. The Hurriyat leaders have consistently demonstrated a lack of vision as well as of imagination which has effectively reduced a peoples’ movement to a clichéd mode of protest.Hartals (and perhaps stone pelting as well!) are our only means of protest against our oppressors - this is an oft repeated attempt at justification. The fact remains that these measures are not something against the oppressors but most of the times against the very people sought to be represented. There are very obvious pointers towards that, say in the form of private and public vehicles (and this includes ambulances!) smashed on any hartal day or stoned during a bout of stone pelting. Nothing can stop the armoured and protected vehicles which are built to withstand bullets leave alone stones and brickbats. It is invariably the pleading common man who – his pleading notwithstanding – ends up with his car being smashed by a gleeful bunch of ‘protestors’. Ignoring these recurrent highlights of our much vaunted protests is part of the denial and self deception that we have been practicing for long now, so much so that it has long surpassed the stage of ‘habit’ and got entrenched as ‘character’ .

These stark episodes of ‘self-mutilation’ may be very much evident but there is yet more grievous fallout of the endless hartals. They mean tremendous loss to business at all levels. Even big businesses rarely recover from the losses they suffer, the cart-pusher on the street and the daily wager, who live on the edge even as such are completely doomed. Against this background perhaps it becomes easier to understand why a man sells out his own brother at times, why bodies and even souls are being sold for a pittance. It is said that even armies cannot march on empty stomachs, here you expect the ragged and hungry children of the miserable poor to hold aloft the flag of protest!Did I hear someone utter that cliché about sacrifices being important for achieving goals and objectives? But then aren’t we perhaps confusing ‘sacrifice’ with ‘suicide’? 

Those who have voiced their reservations about these modes of protest in the past have had to face severe criticism. This extreme reaction probably arises because the criticism of the strategy (hartals in this case) is seen as criticism of the very objective that it seeks to highlight or protest against. It follows that the one who ‘dares’ to criticize stands every risk of being labelled a traitor or worse still an ‘agent’. Harsh label for someone who doesn’t say that your stand is not justified but just seeks to point out that banging your own head against a stone wall isn’t the way to go about it.

There is very little difference between a curfew imposed by the authorities and the ‘civil’ curfew imposed by whosoever gives the ‘call’. In both cases the fact of its being an ‘imposition’ remains and it is the common people who are the hapless victims. Oppression does not cease to be oppression if it does not wear a uniform or bear an official stamp!

There is a lot that we need to protest against; indeed it is an ongoing process. However if theHurriyat is serious about its leadership role there is a desperate need for it to review its strategy. It needs a serious rethink to distinguish between bravery and foolhardiness, between sacrifice and suicide, agitation and anarchy and between protest and frustration. As such our present modes of protest are just an additional interest paid on the original ‘capital’ of our miseries. If the Hurriyat continues with its hackneyed strategies it stands the risk of becoming an unwitting collaborator of oppression. As things stand the directionless leadership rather than working towards some solution has become a part of the problem itself.