Curfews And Shutdowns: Whoever does it, the result is same. Kashmir is economically devastated

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    By: Hassan Zainagiri

The valley has suffered loss worth crores of rupees in the past one month because of relentless curfew and shutdown. ‘We lose around rupees 100 crore on every single shutdown. Since February 9 to march 09, we have hardly had 7-8 working days. That means we have suffered a loss of 2200 crore since Afzal’s hanging’, Shakeel Qalandar, former president of Federation Chamber of Commerce and industry Kashmir told a local news daily last week.
Nearly for 15 days government imposed curfew, shutdowns and protests consumed a week and the rest little was left for 8 working days.
Naturally, for maximum part state government and administration has to be blamed for causing the economic loss to the business community, traders, transporters, tourist industry and scores of other sectors, both public and private. Add to it the number of times it has to postpone examinations and extend winter vacations. As curfew has become the first-priority of law-enforcing apparatus to lock people inside their homes, even the government employees are unable to attend their duties.
With resort to declared and undeclared curfews and use of pepper gas and pellets guns (banned in Europe and not used in other states of India) to curb protests, the government is of its own signaling a bad image of the state and creating a fear-psychosis. ’50 to 60% of bookings have already been cancelled for the spring season’,Rouf Tramboo, President Travel Agents Association said while complaining of the adverse impact of the curfew and shutdowns on the tourism industry. Shakeel Qalandar holds government of India responsible for the new emerging scenario. ‘The government of India has ignored Kashmir. During the last two years tourism gained in Kashmir but politicians of India mistook the situation as return of normalcy. Now the situation is such that it can boil anytime’. The problem with New Delhi is that it takes Kashmir as law and order situation and once the ‘normalcy’ is restored it forgets all its commitments and puts the issue at the back burner, unaddressed. It lives under the delusion that Kashmiris have caved in and resigned to fate. But political tremors that follow are enough to nail this lie.
When you have been put in use entire police force for conducting nocturnal raids, nabbing youth from their homes and inflicting PSAs on school going kids and imprisoning separatist leadership and activists, you are triggering provocation yourself. Inadvertently, it is invitation to violence. For the past couple of years the government has saw to it that there should be no outlet of expression left open. Simmering content got accumulated and waited for a vent to burst up. Post Afzal hanging opened this vent and set a chain of reaction.
We have to remember that the times we are living in do not allow us liberty to ape the same modus operandi Congress used in its Quit India Movement in 1940s. Today’s world is faster and has leapt far ahead of not only last century, last decade too. The losses suffered in academics, economy, labor force, industry etc a decade or two before due to strikes are too insignificant to loses a day’s strike can inflict now. Time has already been an invaluable asset, but today its value is tagged with nation’s redemption and disaster. Those who grab forelocks of the time are destined to succeed and those who let it slip away are doomed.
It is third time we are in non-violent agitational mode. Earlier in 2008 and 2010, Syed Ali Shah Geelani spearheaded the movement and, therefore, shared the good and bad attributives. In 2008 he was lambasted for ‘breaking the continuity’ of the movement as fasting month of Ramzan dawned and in 2010 he was criticized for ‘prolonging’ it and not giving a ‘breathing space’.
Today we have an umbrella group of ‘off-stream’ political groups, MMM which is running the on-going movement now. Even though all its leadership and political workers are behind the bars – and the hunt is on – it goes to its credit that people have followed its protest calendar. That in itself betrays the dominant political constituency the pro-resistance forces hold in Kashmir.
Whatever be the fate of the present movement under the banner of MMM, Geelani, at least would not be a punching bag. He would not be mocked for ‘bailing out’ India. All sling shots would not be directed against him. It is now collective responsibility. The benefits and damages will be ‘collateral’.
MMM is pursuing the protest calendar much the same way we witnessed in 2008 and 2010. It doesn’t have any new mode of resistance, in synch with demands of time. Nonetheless, it has minimized strike days, releasing their adverse effect and miseries they unfold. Squeezing people to point of exhaustion as – 2010 did show – is counter-productive.
Tail Piece:- when I concluded the piece, Geelani has called for strike today, surpassing MMM. One wonders when you have created a mutually deliberating council (MMM) what right you have to bypass the MMM? This is divisive politics and must be condemned. The move aims at belittling MMM and exercising ones monopoly. As if he too is there (pseudo-satisfaction), Mirwaiz chipped in and copied Geelani. Ridiculous.

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