After 1600 days of shutdown, Hurriyat looking for alternative to hartal
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz________
SRINAGAR, Nov 18: Ever since its formation in 1993, Kashmir’s separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference faced criticism for debilitating the Valley’s trade and economy with its typical form of reaction to “excesses” by the government. However, it maintained for over 22 years invariably that Hartal was the Kashmiris’ “only tool of resistance” to everything---from the anniversary of the Indian Army’s first entry to Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Independence or Republic Day to a militants’ killing in encounter to a civilian’s “custodial murder”. Hurriyat’s detractors and satirists sometimes called it ‘Hartal Conference’.
The separatist movement and its armed insurgency being in its 26th year, Hurriyat’s Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has now taken an unprecedented initiative of seeking Hartal’s “alternative” from the Valley’s politicians, academicians, traders and intellectuals. This inspite of the fact that Kashmir has already observed around 1,600 days of shutdown in the last 26 years and suffered losses to the tune of thousands of crores of Rupees on account of such strikes.
One of Kashmir’s seniormost mainstream politician, Prof Saifuddin Soz, who has served as a Minister in the Union Cabinet twice and headed Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee, was the first on Wednesday who welcomed Mirwaz Umar’s initiative and described it as a positive development. Mirwaiz had planned to convene the first session of the comprehensive discussion at the Rajouri Kadal headquarters of his own constituent, Awami Action Committee (AAC). According to the insiders, 250 participants had been invited to share their wisdom of the hartal’s “alternative” with the Hurriyat chief.
Significantly, the representatives of Hurriyat’s hardline faction headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani had also been invited. However, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government allegedly botched up the peaceful programme with around a hundred arrests and detentions. “Mirwaiz Sahab was held under house arrest at his Nageen residence while as almost all other political attendants were detained at Police Stations”, Hurriyat chief's Political Secretary Shahidul Islam told STATE TIMES.
Mirwaiz, nevertheless, addressed the session of around 150 participants by telephone. In his absence, Islamic Study Circle supremo Dr Yousuf Al-Umar presided over the deliberations. “Speakers gave varied alternatives. We jotted down all of these. It’s long process of finding an alternative to Hartal and will continue for some days”, Shahidul Islam said.
On Thursday, Mirwaiz will be available online from 1030 hours to entertain suggestions from respondents of his appeal all over the world. He will be personally responding to questions and reacting to the suggestions. “Since we used to face flak from different quarters, particularly from parents of the students, traders, academicians and intellectuals for sticking to the hackneyed form of the resistance---hartal---Mirwaiz Sahab decided to seek suggestions regarding alternative to shutdown whenever we need to register our protest or observe a historic day”, Shahidul Islam added. He said that the 40-year-old cleric-politician was open to any suggestion and he would take a call in consultation with other separatist leaders.
Earlier, a Hurriyat (M) spokesman said despite all efforts of the state machinery to scuttle the initiative by arresting or detaining many invitees and activists, a mammoth six-hour-long meeting was held at Mirwaiz Manzil Rajouri Kadal ,which was attended by more than hundred fifty participants from across the board organisations, including the Bar Assosiation, Jamiati Ahli Hadees, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association, Chamber of Commerce, Darul-Aloom Qasmiya, Darul Aloom Bilaliya and Kashmir Civil Society.
“Mirwaiz said that the aim of initiative is to get suggestions and ideas from people representing various sections and occupations of society at formulating a joint strategy and looking into alternate means of protest against continuous and growing state aggression, imposition of undeclared curfew especially in seven police stations, and detention and house arrest of resistance leadership. The Mirwaiz said that let each organization deliberate upon these objectives amongst themselves, compile their suggestions and select a representative who will put them before the forum. He said a forum could be formed where in these suggestions will be discussed by the selected representatives and the best ideas and suggestions conveyed to the top leadership who will then deliberate upon them and devise a strategy”, the spokesman said in a statement.
It added: “Mirwaiz said that the objectives outlined for the initiative cannot be achieved in a single meeting but will take time and as such it is a process that has been set into motion. He said that this process has to be all inclusive and anyone and everyone who can contribute to it is most welcome. He said that in these direction suggestions from people especially the Kashmir Diaspora and others will be invited online through social media”.
“While putting forth their suggestions, the participants said that it is amply clear that the government is day by day hardening its policy of suppression and intolerance of dissent and any and every form of freedom of expression is curbed. In such a serious situation it is incumbent upon all sections of society to find ways and means of how to resist this oppression and make the world take note of it and take the freedom struggle formed. The participants also thrust upon the resistance leadership to unite as that was the surest way to success”.
Among those who spoke on the occasion included, Masroor Abbas Ansari, Advocate Bashir Ahmed Siddique, Mohd Yasin Khan, Abdul Rehman Khan, Mufti Nasir ul Islam, Shakeel Qalandar, Aijaz ul Haq, Jan Mohammad Koul, Aga Syed Taqi, Mussadiq Adil, Dr. Sameer Siddiqui, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Mushtaq ul Islam, Abdul Qayoom Wani ,Advocate Nazir Ahmed Ronga and others.