Friday, 17 April 2015

Let’s observe Hartal against Hartals! JUNAID QURESHI

Let’s observe Hartal against Hartals! JUNAID QURESHI 
It was upsetting for me to hear that some were flirting with the idea of creating separate townships for the Kashmiri Pandits. Fortunately, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed denied the news almost instantly and also expressed his wish of the Kashmiri Pandits returning to their native places and living honourably among their Muslim brethren. Whatever Mufti Sayeed’s political ideology is, at the end of the day he is a Kashmiri and his Kashmiriyat won it from politics. 
Indeed, his wish is a noble and just wish. A wish which I also harbour. But I think that mere wishing is not enough. This wish can only be fulfilled if it is preceded by introspection, reconciliation, truth and the dispensation of Justice. It definitely will not be fulfilled by calls from Legislators asking the Kashmiri Pandits to apologize for their own migration. Despite conspiracy theories, I consider the migration of the Kashmiri Pandit minority a failure of the Kashmiri Muslim majority. Although we Kashmiri Muslims as a majority might not all be culpable for these dark pages in our history, we collectively failed as a majority. If anyone ought to apologize, it is we who should. 
Unsurprisingly, the circus of event-based separatism woke up from its hibernation sleep which many of its performers were having during the winter at places like Jammu and Delhi and directly called for protests and Hartals as soon as the news about separate townships broke out. The repeated clearances by the Chief Minister in the news and Assembly were conveniently ignored.
Ironically the first news was believed and the denial of it by the same news-channels was called a hoax. Of course it did not matter to the separatists whether the news was true, untrue, rejected, explained or denied. It even didn’t matter to them whether the Kashmiri Pandits would return or not, as they have never done anything to bring them back since they left. The event-based separatists just needed an event and some not so intelligent people gave it to them. And what did Kashmir get in return? Hartal. Like always.
The infamous ‘Hartal’ has unfortunately become a part of our lives in Kashmir. So much so, that some of our youth wish for it as it enables them to play their favourite game of cricket on roads which have less traffic during these so-called strikes. We also consider potential so-called strikes while we plan for marriages, travel, business, exams or holidays. The majority of the well-off class in Srinagar for example, can be found at places like Gulmarg and Pahalgam during the week of India’s Independence day. And would you blame them? I would do the same. After all, it’s an extra day off and with the anticipated disturbances in the aftermath of this day, it usually means an extra week off. 
I call these Hartals so-called strikes, as they are a mockery to the institution of strikes. A strike is where a substantial proportion of the population participates and which involves entire communities. As that is the only way to achieve success. The General Strike during the Russian revolution, mass strikes during the industrial revolution and the strike in Poland in the eighties which contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe. Now, those are called strikes! Not just some closure of shops and stone-pelting in the by-lanes of certain mohalla’s which keep the whole city hostage by sheer hooliganism.
Totally contrary to the actual aim of constituting strikes, in Kashmir the motto is; ‘United we fall, divided we stand’. Just like smaller shopkeepers start lowering the prices of their stock and advertise with boards of ‘Sale’ and ‘30% off’ as soon as the largest shopkeeper in the street does the same, in Kashmir smaller separatist groups follow with subsequent strikes on subsequent days while extending their support to the strike called by the somewhat larger separatist groups. Hartals in Kashmir are nothing more than PR-stunts for separatist shops. It blows new air into their balloons while its sucks away oxygen from the common man. 
Jammu & Kashmir is a total consumer state. We have no formidable industry, except the industry of vested political interests, which is worth mentioning. Almost every ounce of meat and every gram of chicken is imported from India. We call for Hartal when a foreign militant from Lahore or Kabul is killed in an encounter on our soil while we ignore the Kashmiri policeman of J&K police who lost his life in the same encounter. We call for Hartal when the Prime Minister of India visits Kashmir, yet we accept his economic packages. We have tea and biscuits on Pakistan day at the High Commission and call for Hartal on India’s Republic Day. We call for Hartal against the presence of the Indian Army in Kashmir, while their recruitment rally for 55 posts invites 20.000 youth. Who the hell are we trying to fool?
More importantly, what do we gain from Hartals? Where exactly do we pain India with it? Yes, we display our selective resentment, but is that display worth our own annihilation? And what have almost 7 years of Hartal in the last 25 years brought us? 7 years, for God’s sake! It took the Romans just 8 years to build the Colosseum almost 2000 years ago. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was built in just 2 years more than a century ago. It took Sultan Ahmed exactly 7 years to build the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in the 17th century. And what did we build? We built a ‘movement’ based on Hartals which calls one occupier a tyrant and the other occupier an elder brother and a benefactor. 
Hartals have been the driving force behind the migration of the talented youth from Kashmir. Every other family with reasonable financial means sends their children to Chandigarh, Pune, Delhi or Mumbai for higher studies. These youth crave for jobs in Europe, US and the Middle-East. They rightfully do not see any educational or professional opportunities in Kashmir. More than often, they blame Kashmir’s Hartal-culture for their disillusion. Usually parents also prefer a groom who is settled outside of Kashmir, for their daughters. When one asks these youngsters about their return, they nonchalantly answer, “What is there in Kashmir?” It puts me up with a different question; “If this outflow of talent continues, what will there remain in Kashmir?”      
These Hartals are only aimed at keeping some of our dear ‘leaders’ in the news and do not bring us any inch closer to what they would like us to believe. Neither ‘Azaadi’ nor accession to Pakistan will be achieved by this mockery. Hartals will only tighten the shackles of slavery while they bankroll the political shops of those who lack vision and only sell dreams of deceit. 
Although, I am a staunch opponent of these so-called Hartals, yet I would like to call for one Hartal. Let the shopkeeper, the bus-driver, the auto-rickshaw driver, the Sumo-driver, the vegetable-vendor, the milk-man, the bakery owner, the fruit-vendor, the tea-stall owner, the patient in need of medicines, the LIC representative in need of meeting his target, the street sweeper, the butcher, the uncorrupted government employee, the mechanic, the waiter, the student in need of education, the labourer who earns his and his family’s food by lifting bricks, the teacher passionate about passing knowledge to the next generation and every other common Kashmiri who loves Kashmir and is fed-up of being blackmailed constitute one single Hartal against Hartal itself. Let us create history, as the nation which defended the sanctity of Hartal by Hartal while it stood up against its own mortification.     
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