As the Kashmir valley witnessed a shutdown on the call of hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Saturday, many voices have finally surfaced against the separatists' hartal politics. Chief minister Omar Abdullah also criticized the traders for closing their businesses for the day.
Most shops, business establishments, shopping malls, private schools, colleges and banks remained closed. There was a very thin presence of public transport on the roads. Most towns in north and south Kashmir also observed a shutdown. Geelani had called for a protest against "fresh wave of arrests."
"They (traders) are free to choose to shutdown but then they shouldn't expect to be compensated by the government for doing so is my only point," tweeted Abdullah on micro-blogging site twitter.
The chief minister's response was to Junaid Azim Mattu tweet: Kashmiri: "Traders and shopkeepers have to take a bold decision and defy these unnecessary shutdowns. They can't both oblige and complain."
Mattu, a follower of Abdullah on Twitter, also writes columns for the local dailies. Mattu, who hails from Barzalla, had a rally against the militants for killing two sisters in Sopore in February this year.
Asking people to defy the shutdown calls, Mattu tweeted: "Most people have no idea why there is a hartal today. Just that Geelani sahab felt like having one. The old man needs a hobby. Seriously".
Geelani has threatened agitation if the government fails to release political prisoners. The Hurriyat claims there are dozens of boys and separatists leaders behind the bars since the 2010 unrest, sparked off by the killing of a teenager on June 11 in Srinagar in a police action. The unrest that stretched for five months left 112 people dead.
"Till all political prisoners are not released and fresh wave of arrests stopped, there can be no progress on India-Pakistan dialogue process. For any progress to be made on the dialogue front, the prisoners have to be released," said Geelani in a statement today.
The 82-year-separatist said New Delhi-appointed interlocutors and Union home minister P. Chidambaram “have raised the issue of political prisoners on several occasions through statements but no headway has been made to release them”.
Reiterating that the his "struggle" has to be peaceful, Geelani said he has been exhorting upon the youth not to pelt stones when he had a public meeting in Bandipora and Baramulla recently.
"Police force youth to resort to stone pelting. Otherwise, I believe in complete peaceful protests," alleged Geelani adding, “India stands exposed before the international community for not allowing peaceful protests, which is a democratic right of the people of Kashmir."