Rekha Chowdhary from Jammu

From Kashmir Dispatch: “Separatist politics–the new phase

“Throughout the year 2007, there were numerous small and big demonstrations. The year had started with a massive response following the exhumation of body of Abdur Rahim Padder and four other innocent villagers killed in fake encounters and it ended with the protest demonstrations in two separate incidents of killings – one in Magam in Budgam district and the other in Kukroosa in Kupwara district. The politics of protest took a massive shape in 2008 when the popular upsurge around the Amarnath land row took place in two phases. The whole summer of that year was consumed by this agitation. Likewise, the year 2009 was consumed by the agitation around the Shopian episode. The protest politics continued in 2010, this time around the issue of fake encounter of three civilians – and now the present stage of protest around the killing of teenagers.”

“This new phase of politics reflects a reversal of roles – between the leaders and the people. Rather than leading the politics, the leaders are following their ‘followers’. Once an issue is taken up by the people, the leaders and organisations become activated. The initiative however, does not lie as much with the leaders, as with people on the street. In the end, it is the ‘street’ which is defining the separatist politics.”

“Certainly, this reflects a crisis of separatist organisations and leaders. Since the multi-directional split of the Hurriyat Conference, there is fragmentation in the separatist politics. The problem of Kashmir’s separatist politics is not that it does not have leaders – the problem is that it has too many leaders. The unity of purpose and single-minded direction of politics therefore remains a consistent problem. All efforts at the unity have failed. Added to this is the credibility crisis of the separatist leadership.”

“There is a strong separatist sentiment on the ground but this sentiment is not matched with a credible organisation and leadership. The vacuum is therefore filled in by the street politics. The street politics, in its turn, is now controlled by the youth, many of whom are teenagers. In the absence of a vision and direction from above, it is the stone pelting by the teenagers which has become the most potent symbol of resistance.”

“It raises a number of questions? To what extent this politics which is living from one issue to another can be sustained? and what direction will it take? But the most important question is about the role of the teenagers at present. Is it fair to put all the burden of separatist politics on the shoulders of the teenagers? And at what cost?”

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