Sheikh Qayoom / IANS
On expected lines, Kashmiri separatist leaders issued another protest calendar on Thursday, extending the ongoing shutdown till November 17.
The unrest, which started here on July 9, has entered its 5th month, leaving in its wake 95 people dead and over 12,000 injured. Over 100 of these injured civilians face the grim prospect of losing their vision for life. These unfortunate people were hit by pellets fired from pump-action guns by the security forces to bring unruly mobs under control.
The separatists have successfully been able to enforce a clampdown on the entire Kashmir Valley despite the authorities placing them under detention.
During a meeting with representatives of traders, transporters, lawyers, educationists and members of the civil society on Monday, senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik listened to views of various stakeholders.
Moderate voices seeking “rationalisation” in the protest calendar were lost in the din created by the hardliners, who wanted the shutdown to continue till it yielded the desired results.
A group of youth that had gathered outside Geelani’s uptown Hyderpora residence where the meeting was being held, shouted slogans like “Sauda Baaji Naheen Chalegi” (No sellout will be tolerated). Alarmed by the slogans, Malik had come out to assure the angry youth that there would be no sellout.
That the conclave decided to continue the shutdown has not come as a surprise.
All the three senior separatist leaders spearheading the shutdown are believed to be wise politicians. Yet, the fact remains that they seem to be caught in a web of their own making.
How do they call off the protest without a sense of victory? The state government has been merely responding to the separatist programme during the current unrest. There are obviously no winners in the present situation.
The separatists have continued an agitation that has yielded no dividends. The government has been crawling during this period to establish its writ.
Where does Kashmir go from here? Will the shutdown continue endlessly? Will the government be able to establish its writ, so that the appeals by the separatists are made irrelevant? Only time will tell as the separatists and the administration are headed straight for a showdown.
Meanwhile, all established institutions and spheres of human activity have been paralysed because of the unrest. The worst beating, of course, was taken by children’s education. All schools, colleges and universities have remained closed for the last over four months.
Children of well-to-do families have been shifted by their parents to Jammu and other places outside the valley where they have joined coaching centres to make up for lost time.
The authorities have announced exams of 10th and 12th classes from November 14, with a choice for the students — appear now with a 50 per cent reduced syllabus, or in March next year with 100 per cent syllabus.
Tourism, trade, transport and other businesses have come to a standstill during the unrest.
(The author – Sheikh Qayoom – can be contacted at email@example.com)