The tide in Kashmir is turning against the strike as a weapon of protest.
In a state paralysed by strikes, leading newspapers are for the first time calling for a critical examination of whether hartals and bandhs achieve anything.
“There is no evidence of significant correlation between strikes and liberation movements,” Zulfikar Majid wrote last week in Greater Kashmir, a leading newspaper. “I don’t agree with (separatist leader) Syed Ali Geelani’s theory that a nation that aspires for independence has to make sacrifices like strikes… which have crippled Kashmir’s economy.”
The Valley has been crippled for the past week by a strike called by Geelani’s Hurriyat faction in response to the perceived callousness of police in handling the suspected rape and murder of two sisters in Shopian.
“Last summer, Kashmir witnessed an extended call for shutdown and protest,” said an editorial in Rising Kashmir, an emerging English daily published in Srinagar. “When the point of exhaustion was reached because of breakdown in routine activities… and the disastrous consequences on the economy and education, the Hurriyat Conference called off strike, which did not materialise into any concrete gains.”
It’s not merely the English papers that are questioning the efficacy of strikes. Urdu newspapers, too, have been uncharacteristically critical of the separatists’ frequent call for strikes.
This disillusionment with strikes has been building up for a while and many senior leaders within Geelani’s party are now questioning his strike politics, said insiders, who wished to remain anonymous.
Under this unprecedented media pressure, Geelani last week announced that the strike would end on June 9. He said businesses and schools should remain open although peaceful protests could continue.