First time in 4 months, Hurriyat revises protest schedule, lifts hartal for 2 days
For the first time in four months, Kashmir will have two complete working days on Saturday and Sunday according to the latest weekly protest calendar issued by Hurriyat. The protest roster will continue unchanged for the rest of five days.
The modification in the calendar has followed a week after the Hurriyat’s consultations with the civil society groups, a large percentage of whom had reportedly batted for the continuation of the agitation.
The situation at the venue of the meeting was very tense. As Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik were holding the marathon meeting with the civil society groups at Geelani’s residence at Hyderpora, a large gathering of people outside shouted pro-Azadi slogans and called for persisting with the strategy so far.
The slogans also held an implicit warning against any separatist leader who might seek to rethink the protest programme in force since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
It was in response to this shrill sloganeering that Malik felt the need to come out midway through the meeting and reassure the gathering outside that they hadn’t embarked on any radical departure from the ongoing protest strategy. And a day after, the Hurriyat leaders extended the protest program till November 17 with shutdowns continuing uninterrupted.
But this time, people partially observed the shutdown, suggesting a deep undercurrent of resentment against the continuation of the same old programme. This has been apparent from an increased movement of traffic on the roads, now supplemented for the first time by the public transport. Shops too started opening even during the period of shutdown which in turn increased the movement of pedestrians.
In fact, on Wednesday, the 131st consecutive day of shutdown no protest was reported for the first time at any place across the Valley. “It was a peaceful day as there were no protests or clashes anywhere,” a police officer said.
People have been pleasantly surprised by the change. “ It is difficult to believe that the situation has changed so much. I saw mini-buses ferrying a good number of passenger,” said Aftab Ahmed of Qamerwari. “It is certainly a sign of normalcy”.
Others see the dramatic turn in the situation, a result of Hurriyat’s inability to innovate its approach in response to the changing situation.
“If anything, this has shown that the Hurriyat has failed to keep up with the public sentiment and its silent demand for a shift in strategy, now that the old one has started giving diminishing returns. But Hurriyat, as the new calendar reveals is bent on persisting with the discredited old programme,” said Muhammad Ishfaq, a resident of downtown Srinagar.
“Though Hurriyat has finally given in to the mounting public pressure by lifting shutdown completely for two days, it hasn’t given up on the self-inflicting exercise of hartals which far from bringing Azadi an inch nearer is creating widespread despondency and the disillusionment with the cause itself”.