Beyond shutdowns

Who has made hartal the only available option?

Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 13 2018 11:11PM | Updated Date: Jan 13 2018 11:11PM
Beyond shutdownsFile Photo

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq puts shutdown as the “only option left with the resistance leadership to attract the attention of the world community towards the sufferings of Kashmiris.” The statement merits a comment. 

Hartal has entered our social lingo. It has become an inseparable part of our resistance discourse. There is no dispute that it is a way through which we register our resistance. There can't be any cast-iron answer to the question as to whether we should do it or not? This sure is the most peaceful and the least violent method of protest. In some desperate cases it remains to be the only necessary evil to be invoked against oppression. But making this as the `only option' makes it not just ineffective, but dead, not just dead but self-immolating. Any sudden oppressive action causes a natural, automatic and spontaneous reaction in the form of a shutdown. Protest is the weapon of the weak, but its overuse renders it hollow and that is what our resistance leadership has made it.  If they prick us, shall we not bleed. Thus goes the logic. This no doubt is our way of telling the world that we are bleeding. Meanwhile does the world care or (if we rephrase the question even more indifferently) does the world know that we suffer or we exist? When mighty rule, who bothers about the weak. Though that must not deaden our spirit of resistance, but that should also open our eyes towards some facts we refuse to accept.

Some years back Mirwaiz himself invited civil society to debate the effectiveness of hartal and explore alternatives. Even if we accept hartal as an inevitability, shouldn't we edit the whole hartal calendar. If we mark a militant's funeral as hartal, chaharum as hartal, anniversary as hartal, some rumoured shrine-desecration or scripture-defilement as hartal, Trump's tantrums as hartals, middle-east crisis as hartal, braid-chopping as hartal, leaders' imprisonment as hartal – even the whole year will fall short to complete the hartal course. Like there are ways and ways to skin a cat, there are more ways to commemorate our past, to show resistance, to remember those we lost and those we are losing.  Resistance, as a law of physics, will invite oppression and oppression as a law of reason evokes anger. What matters is the language through which we route our anger. If I starve, who will die. Prolonged shutdowns have prolonged our agony in the past too. We tested (and tasted) it in 2010 and six years after when we pushed ourselves into a deep and irrevocable mess. Meanwhile if you call for shutdown who pays the price? The moral question we need to think over. 

Moreover if hartal is an option against injustice, let it not be a single brand of injustice which we are against. If we protest against innocent killings, the canvass of this `innocence' must not be confined to one set only. That may go against the gammer of the resistance politics, but that will make hartal a politics-neutral, ideology neutral method of protest. Killing is killing and innocents die on either side. Why be violent on one and silent on the other.