Resistance Beyond Convention

Reyaz Ahmed's tearful funeral procession

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”-Sun Tzu (The Art Of War)

While writing about the role of resistance leadership in handling the 2016 agitation, I could think of no better way than engaging in deliberations with the people I know so as to take diverse ideas and form a common ground. However, most of the discussions, that I became a part of, reduced to stereotyping at best or caricatures at worst. I must say, our “leaders” have very much earned this.

Before I begin, I would like to clearly state that the purpose of this piece is not a rethink of the fundamentals of Kashmir issue but of the methods adopted to approach its resolution. Also, my only stand, ever since I was mature enough to have one, has been that we dabble in the act of introspection and reflect over what goes wrong and where.

2016 was, without any qualms, an important year for us in many respects. Although it is a given that the manner of living for people in a conflict zone is always immensely different than normal and is largely dependent on the grueling acceptance of some realities peculiar to the dispute, this year made everyone realize how resistance gradually sublimes into the only way of survival for a generation born and bred in a military occupation.

Imperialism took its ugliest shape in this beautiful valley. The State repression was stark, unmasked and brutal than ever. The savage diktats of India were enforced upon an uncompromising population all across the length and breadth of Kashmir through bullets and pellet guns, jack-boots of the police, venal collaborators and a non-existent judiciary. However, the unflinching steadfastness of Kashmiris towards giving a fight-back remained just as strong. It would be impossible to trace the vitality, strength, intensity, beauty and most importantly, the range that the resistance movement of Kashmir has acquired over the years in these numbered sentences but this year’s uprising pretty much manifested the same to the world. This summer saw the streets simmering with a defiant crowd every single day.

The reverberating freedom songs in Masjids every Friday would fill my heart with a strange peace. Though it evaporated the very next morning when I saw the “Friday death-toll” in the newspaper. After one point, I would ask my father to not show me the newspaper, and just in case I happened to read one, I could not sleep for nights together.

This vehement use of the State might ensued in many lives lost, scores of injuries, mass-detentions, mass-blinding and almost a Pan-Kashmir economic slump. However, it’s both ironic and sad that somehow it does not feel right to solely lay the onus on the state-run agencies. It seems like the occupational set-up is pivoted around a binary of mainstream and “resistance” groups that live, function, grow, thrive and gain temporary political leverage over one another by keeping this set-up alive.

The incompetence of Hurriyat leaders to transpire this unprecedented high in almost a quarter-century of active resistance movement into something politically fruitful is self-admittedly out in the open now. One fails to understand, why is it so hard for them to realize that freedom movements can never be run through cosmetic measures or by annulling the possibility of innovation and collective dynamic action.

Leadership is a daunting cross to bear. Quoting from one of the scathing editorials in a local daily published only a few days back, Hurriyat Conference never leads, it only follows. Well, a sensible leader can easily judge when to lead and when to follow. It is imperative for him to lead or direct his people to a proper course and then back them in every which way afterwards.

Hurriyat leaders seem to work just the opposite. They first back you in taking to streets and then lag behind having completely lost all perspective. Even the temporary marriage of different groups in ‘resistance camp’ this year irrespective of their individual political predilections could not break this trend and only served to disappoint us on a magnified scale. The persistent ambiguity pervading the Joint Hurriyat Conference in identifying the existing challenges, devising a united stand and formulating a way forward has already cost
us way too dear. All the political drama over deciding to not sit in a discussion with the Indian parliamentary delegation at first, when they enjoyed massive leverage, and then sharing the table with the same people within a month citing some absurd technicalities was outright nonsensical and showed absolute lack of political acumen.

Apparently, their strategy to achieve freedom is to focus squarely on issuing weekly calendars or if I go lingual: the yahan-chalo-wahaan-chalo-resistance. I guess the only innovation from July 8 happened two days back when they decided to go fortnightly. Why drain more energy after all?

Prolonged spells of strikes are never a sustainable, long-term mode of resistance. As they reach their inevitable end and die down, the same is projected as a dilution of the dominant realities by the vultures of Indian media. It is almost as if the Hurriyat leaders pave the way into making us easy preys in this pyramid. What is even more frustrating is the sheer arrogance about not accepting the absolute inefficacy of their approach.

Before adopting a particular strategy, one must first account for the repercussions that it entails and, if needed, come up with ways to counter them. Otherwise the plan is bound to backfire. Our leaders, despite spending years in the political arena, can still not seem to stomach this. One among their biggest loopholes this year was an unclear stance pertaining education. The state took full advantage of this fracture and used the same to gain political points by conducting board examinations.

The perpendicular folly of calendar-resistance can never be overstated. More than anything, it weakens our economy thus serving to strengthen and further Indian occupation, in addition to alienating the common man. Speaking of which, at one point our leaders also took the responsibility of being tourism ambassadors for Indian tourists’ inflow into their own hands. In any case, the point being made is that the struggle for freedom can never be insulated from the common man.

Social media has eased the ways to multiply our outreach but our leaders have been unable to put it to proper use. Online campaigns and petitions could have been launched to harness more support and mobilize the movement. This would, in turn, have helped in building public opinion against issues like burning of schools, unwarranted arrests of social activists, etc.

In one of the late night debates over “Kashmir situation” on a prominent Indian news channel a couple of months back, the anchor and his panelists spent a whole of 90 minutes in proving how hundreds of crores of rupees are spent as a recurring expenditure from state exchequer every year in providing home and travel security to Hurriyat leaders and their families.Regardless of the fact that the leaders refuted these allegations but this baseless slander must have left suspicions in some young, impressionable minds.

A good leadership must set both long term and short term goals and at the same time be able to tell an agitation from a movement. For example, the Amarnath land row stir, WPR crisis, etc are all short term goals and such agitations end as soon as these short term goals are met. On the other hand, a movement continues, sometimes in a vegetative phase and sometimes in active spells, off and on, until it reaches a logical conclusion. A movement requires sustainable, reasonable, well-calculated and tangible approaches; clearly hartal is not one among them. If something is ineffectual and still continues to be employed as a strategy just for the sake of it, it reduces immediately to mere tokenism.

One of the most soul-wrenching experiences of my lifetime was when I happened to visit a hospital in August 2016. I met many people, most of them between the age group of 5 to 25, who had been maimed for life. The sullen faces of their family members are etched permanently in my memory. I remember talking to a lady who said to me, “Aes haez traavo ne yemmi latti tehreek. Myean nechiv dicz akh aechh, be dyim doshvayy magar Aazaadi rattov.”(We won’t give up this time. My son lost one of his eyes, I will give both of mine, but we will attain freedom). All of us present there couldn’t control ourselves and broke down the same moment. As 2016 limps away through these frosty nights and grey afternoons I’m reminded of that lady and I can’t help being filled with a sense of shame owing to how we all succumbed to routine.

On a parting note, let’s hope that 2016 serves as a datum for us to accept it’s about time that we begin to challenge the transmitted wisdom, see it through, adopt incisive new ideas and, if needed, redirect the course of our movement in keeping with the contours of our present realities.

The views presented by the author are her own.