Frequent strikes a crippling blow to Kashmir’s economy

July 2, 2009

During two decades of anti-India revolt, Kashmir has lost tens of thousands of people, property worth billions of dollars and much more.

But the disputed Himalayan Valley has also lost over 1,500 working days (more than four years) to separatists’ shutdown calls in the past 20 years, dealing a crippling blow to its ailing economy.

The tourism industry of the scenic Valley, ringed by Himalayan peaks and dotted with mirror-calm lakes, shimmering streams and dense pine and conifer forests, is frequently disrupted by strikes and violent protests over the separatist cause.

But do war-weary Kashmiris have other means to raise their voice against human rights violations and resist New Delhi’s rule?

According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the region loses 100 million rupees for every day of shutdown.

Shutdowns have been a general expression of anti-India protests by separatists and militants since simmering discontent against Indian rule turned into a full-blown rebellion in 1989.

But many people now question the rationale behind endless strikes.

Local newspapers quoting residents of Kashmir say separatists are setting the wrong precedent by enforcing strikes after every “unfortunate incident”.

“It appears the separatists are extracting revenge from innocent ordinary people rather than taking revenge from the perpetrators of these crimes,” Mohammad Ramzan, a shopkeeper was quoted as saying by The Himalayan Mail.

But hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani says strikes are the only means to raise a voice against the unprecedented “Indian oppression on people of Kashmir” for the last 62 years.

Protests in Kashmir have intensified since bodies of two women, aged 17 and 22, who locals say were abducted, raped and killed by security forces, were found on May 29.

Shopian town in south Kashmir, where the bodies were found, has remained shut for a month.

Kashmiri columnists say despite a sustained campaign against strikes, little has changed and people continue to follow the protest calls.

“It is because hartals (shutdowns) are an unavoidable tool of resistance,” Javaid Malik wrote.

The strife-torn region has suffered a lot due to frequent shutdowns that have severely dented Kashmir’s tourism industry and education.

Do separatist leaders need to rethink this issue?

39 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

There has to be some rational behind any strike, especially in Kashmir scenario. It is really heartening to see that Kashmir’s have observed four years of strikes in past two decades. But then what is the way to express resentment. I feel the only way is strike, but it has to be only on rare occasions.

Posted by majid | Report as abusive

This is an incisive piece on despair of Kashmiris. If they don’t protest they are a weak nation and if they do it hits their daily lives. Between the two they seem to choose to be a strong nation than a strong economy.

Posted by Peerzada Ashiq | Report as abusive

India is big country and to express resent about its illegal occupation of Kashmir, strike is the only way though it hurts us a lot. But we have give up violence and believe in non-violence… i am sure world will respect our peaceful struggle. I appeal to every kashmiri to heed to strike calls to show that Kashmir is not part of India…this is the only way to protest.

Posted by dr shugufta | Report as abusive

Strikes are the only option to register a peaceful protest against a ruthless oppressor.

Posted by Kadri | Report as abusive

A nice story which infact brings to the fore an important aspect of life in Kashmir.Kashmiris are caught in a peculiar situation where they need to protest and in that context strike are the only means. But at the same time it needs a thought as to how long we can go with this tool. The write up will certainly throw a debate.

Posted by shujaat | Report as abusive

the more important social, political and economic challenges enountered by the people of J&K have been ignored due to excessive focus on the India-Pakistan rivalry over J&K. Only when the governments of India and Pakistan fulfill their obligations towards the people of J&K under their respective controls will any genuine resolution of the J&K conflict be possible.http://thetrajectory.com/blogs/  ?p=630http://thetrajectory.com/blogs/?p =624

You have answered the question: ‘But do war-weary Kashmiris have other means to raise their voice against human rights violations and resist New Delhi’s rule?India is not like british who would take notice of symbolic protests……for them symbolism means delay, peace and consuming time…..Rest tourism and economy are the two biggest myths created by colonisers to strengthen their occupation…..During the bloodiest part of conflict, Kashmir economy remained intact due to horiticulture sector……It remained the back bone of economy during the worst years….but presently no body is paying any heed to that secotor…..In agriculture sector Kashmir used to be self sufficent in rice production….But currently Kashmir has become the biggest importer of rice…..goverenment deliberately made us dependable on India by allowing construction on paddy feilds….It happened despite paddy fields are legally banned for any construction….So Kashmirs economy is primarily agriculture and horticulture based and not tourism based as it is being projected. tell me how many people are associated with tourism?I am 20, but i have never seen tourism season flourishing except in mainstream media…..Despite conundrum by group of people writing for local press, Kashmiris would continue to protests whenever there would be human rights activists. Because goverenment listens them only when they become violent….when they remain silent,, ‘they integrate with India,”.More so, a group of people writing in local press against strike and protests, seems to take the offcial discourse….I question them had they ever pondered how we survived during the last 22 years??? At least not because of tourism….

Posted by wasim | Report as abusive

Waqt Nur Ko benoor kardayta hai Thoday say zakham ko nasoor kardayta hay Kon chahata hay dostoo say dour rehna per GEELANI SAHIB sabko majboor karday ta hay

we are caught in a very grave situation where our thought or ideas are hardly considered or taken care of.Strikes according to me are not the solutions anymore..i feel we have lost the track n dont have a coherent solution to our problem..Strong nation is ofcourse above strong economy but how far have v been able to acheive our final purpose in these 20 years…bloodshed,custodial killings and what not….Strikes will only weaken us…we need to think beyond this..

Posted by Nuzhat | Report as abusive

Frequent strike calls are bad partucularly for students like me but to express our anger and protest aginst human rights voilations,strikes are very important.after shunning guns we have no other means to tell the world that we are fighting against mighty indian occupation.

Posted by kainaat | Report as abusive

i think seperatists need to review their programmes and come up with a better solution to this problem..more than four years of strike n still nothing concrete has happened till date..last year n this year have been worst for everyone in the valley…people r bound to abide by these coz in either case they are at the receiving end…God help Kashmir

Posted by Andileeb | Report as abusive

we need to think far beyond strikes…we are being opressed by indian forces since long but how far has hurriyat succeeded in fighting for our rights..i feel neither hurriyat nor New Delhi will ever come up with any solution..

Posted by Rais Aslam | Report as abusive

When Injustice becomes the Law, Resistance becomes our Duty. there is no doubt that strikes do strike our economy but in turn it boosts our journey of revolution. we cant expect a miracle by sitting at home but we need to raise our voice, which is only possible by strikes and protests because other method was media but unfortunately that has become corrupt now. so there is nothing to expect from it.Kashmiri’s have tried all the ways and methods. like they participated in elections, they registered their atrocities every where but now its crossing the limits.As one of the brothers said earlier, we would like to be a strong nation than a strong economy. our economy is not weak bcoz of protests and strikes but its because of the oppression and the conflict otherwise we have many other means to strengthen our economy.

Posted by Muneeb | Report as abusive

The fact that there are so many and so frequent strikes shows not only the extent of resentment towards India in Kashmir but, more significantly, that the international community appears to have clearly chosen to remain deaf and dumb towards the cry from Kashmir.It appears that the economic relationships between countries have taken precedence over political relations based on political morality.Questioning Indian occupation of Kashmir takes away Indian markets from the western and European nations. So, the only available way of protest available to the people of Kashmir, shutdowns, will continue.The international community has to start looking at Kashmir and India from the viewpoint of rights of citizens to choose their destiny or accept that democracies and occupation are synonymous in the emerging globalizing world where people are only markets…the smaller the more ignorable.Much must change outside Indian and Kashmir for anything to change meaningfully for the people of Kashmir.There are no debates, only choices Indians and the international community have to make.People of Kashmir are making their choice clear every time they protest. shutdowns or anything else.The modern nation state needs a hearing-aid.

Posted by M Yousuf | Report as abusive

Kashmiri are expressing their anger & registering their protest by the only form of expression open to them…unfortunately in the process making us a weaker nation…..its the responsility of the intelligentia mass of our society to rise up to the occasion and find peaceful alternatives.

Posted by dia | Report as abusive

I hope one day the ppl of kashmir would recognise that there are being played and their sentiments are being used and reinstate good work ethic and work culture, as it once was! How I wish one day I would be proud to call myself a kashmiri!!!! Nevertheless amazing work by the Mr.Sheikh Mushtaq…..

Posted by sanjar | Report as abusive

There are other ways to show ones anger and to oppose! This is definitely not the way, the kashmiri economy is suffering & this will only hamper the regions development! good work by the author

Posted by dipti | Report as abusive

Dear AllAs i was checking the story of one of your journo about the strike(HARTAL),economically it does efect our society.As far as strike is concern in Kashmir this is the only form of strong protest.Indian s are 3rd world country they dont understand candle lit protest.Sit in s .It is always INDIAN divide and rule,last year they almost lost Kashmir than played so called saviour students.Newspaper advt.said students are loosing.what hell man.they dont bother to open schools medical college on verge of derecognisation.I am seeing our economy growing in coming years as Kashmir doesnt depend on tourism.It is playing small part.Figures suggest that.I think Strike shld take place with 4 days a month that too with sundays open.

Posted by addy | Report as abusive

when will this end! 2 decades of turmoil! disgusting! someone should be held accountable for this! greetings from france

Posted by stephane rollet | Report as abusive

The problem is not the strikes and shutdowns. the problem lies with the occupation. Once the occupation is over, these strikes and shutdowns will come to end themselves. Strikes are the reaction, occupation is the action.

Posted by Kadri | Report as abusive

When you impose weeklong curfews to thwart peaceful marches, fire bullets and teargas canisters at unarmed people, is there any other way left to register protest.Suppressed and subjugated people like Kashmiris have to choose between economy and freedom. When our honour is at stake, like the thousands of Shopian alike case, there surely has to be some resistance, even ifit means some monetary losses. Like, Subhash Chandra Bose once asked Indians: “Give me Blood and I will give ufreedom.” Kashmir, no doubt, has given enough of blood, and continues to.. . I am sure that for a nation that has laid down thousands of lives, sacrificed the honour of thousands of its women for a cause, sustaining economic losses on strike days, isn’t a big deal

Those Kashmiris who want to live in the 10th failed nation can simply cross the bridge to that nation. Who’s stopping you? Why live here and don’t let others live?Can similar protests happen in China or Pakistan? Look at Tibet and Balochistan. Don’t abuse democracy. Rest of India moves forward, but Kashmir will remain stuck in time.No amount of strikes can change history or your destiny. Better get to work or study and be productive.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

well friends …. in this so called civilized world, we have only way left…protest strikes…New Delhi has left no way for reconciliation with Kashmiris, may be we are Muslim majority nation, with illegal Hindu occupation. protest…protest…one day a sensible and pro-Muslim world policeman will prevail upon India and Kashmir will be free country as it was before partition.

Posted by Adil | Report as abusive

I think we need to rethink, but only about frequency…otherwise peaceful strikes and demonstrations are the only way to protest human rights violations and indian ruloe.

Posted by Farooq | Report as abusive

i think strikes are a part of the ongoing struggle,where people are supporting it in a majority,while many have there individual opinions about it which differ when economy in the present world is the issue,but these things are going to change only when there is a suitable solution,while as things have changed since the early nineties so a bit more patience will take us on the other side democracy was announced by people in the recent elections, so a wider spectrum of peace and prosperity is expected in the near future.

Posted by adeel shafi | Report as abusive

Only the person who has measured the dominion of force, and knows how not to respect it, is capable of love and justice. (Simone Weil, The Iliad: or, The Poem of Force)

Posted by Imtiyaz | Report as abusive

I dont think any kind of freedom can be won through war and bloodshed,we cant wash away blood by blood.The power of pen has always been stronger than the power of sword.Lets strive to make this world a better place,instead of adding on to the existing mess,no one can win a war,bcz war in itself means, that the both sides are losers…one mans freedom fighter is another man terroist.sorry to to say but kashmir freedom movement right now desperately needs reformers, those who can streamline the things.

Posted by asma | Report as abusive

The Truth is that there is no sincere & dedicated leader in Kashmir at present, all who claim to be so are serving Indian policy in Kashmir.Even mainstream parties have no power. It is India who decides there faith. So How can separatist leaders rethink on this issue. But we have to find a way to protest against human rights violations and attrocities.

Posted by Aijaz Bhat | Report as abusive

Kashmir is known for sliding swiftly from relative order to chaos and back to relative order. I wonder if Kashmiris agree on their priorities. May be, they want their cake and eat it too – that is, conveniently get the economic gains from India whenever possible but also foul mouth India and make demands for freedom at drop of a hat.The Shopian incident is condemnable and the perpetrators must be punished. Such acts, unfortunately, have occured in other parts of the country. However, only in Kashmir, such a solitary incident slides in to anarchy and suddenly the out-of-work seperatists find new project to keep them busy. The Indian government admits its political mistakes in Kashmir; so does its army in its excesses. But, are the Kashmiris blameless? Shouldn’t they do some introspection? Only then conciliation is possible.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

WELL! ALL THESE YEARS OF STRIFE IN THE VALLEY WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT LEADERSHIP CRISIS AND THE OTHER WAY OUTS OF RESISTANCE. WILL SOMEBODY EVER COME UP WITH AN ALTERNATIVE OR A ROAD MAP FOR A MORE EFFECTIVE WAY TO EXPRESS THE DISSENT????

Posted by jeelani | Report as abusive

Why do Kashmiris talk about only Indian occupation? If Pakistan wants an independent Kashmir, why did it give away a portion of Kashmir to China? Can’t the Pakistan free up the Kashmiri land that is under its occupation and recognise that as a country? Why doesn’t anyone question about the clause that anyone who wants to contest the elections to become PM in Pakistan-occupied-kashmir should unconditionally accept accession to Pakistan?Why there are no protests to get back the land given by Pakistan to China?

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive

@India is not like british who would take notice of symbolic protests……for them symbolism means delay, peace and consuming time…..”-says Wasim–Neither are Kashmiri freedom fighters like the Indian Freedom fighters. Indian Freedom fighters made sure they do target killing. See the contarst of kashmiri freedom fighters–10 of them (LeT , the contract killers from Pakistan) killed 180 in Mumbai, although selectively of non-Muslims, as an example. Go read about Indian Freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh. Udham Singh, Azad, Sukhdev…..

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

freedom from India… that’s all.

Posted by Shezan | Report as abusive

strike in protest against human rights violations and indian rule is no problem. we have been fighting since 20 years and it has not at all dented our economy. as a conscious nation we have to show resistance and in present day world peaceful protests are the only way. cause is bigger than economy… i am sure even my indian friends will agree. i am sure one day world will take cognizance of indian attrocities in our land and kashmir will be a free contry…..protest….protest….protest

Posted by hina | Report as abusive

we are weary and tired after twenty years of fighting. we need a strong economy to fight oppression and i think we have to rethink and find a new way to protest and show our anger..so let us rethink….

Posted by mushafiq | Report as abusive

strikes are demonstration on bearing a economic or other related paralysed life, its a way more prominent since the 19th century industrial revolution,in the present world kashmir has presented it the most,though not a economically strong region but still people thought it was an association to thier armed resistance the strugle continues for thier better tommorow they have chosen between the right and wrong to thier complete satisfaction and waiting for the day where they will remember thier sacrifice didnt go waste.

Posted by hina | Report as abusive

kashmir a disputed teritory remained in indian hands for more than 70 years,strugle against their occupants sought an approach whether that was armed or demonstartion which they called for hartlas..made a dent to thier economy, where they feel sacrifised even after loosing lives,when loss of life was bigger than anyother they chose a democratic way of bringing thier cause in the eyes of the world, it still contiues till a common term of peace is spoken from each side.

Posted by juneeda | Report as abusive

as the armed sruggle has been considered no means of solving a conflict talks and diplomacy is leading the way in present world,peaceful demonstrations saw no loss of lives it became a weapon in making issue being understood aspirations collected under one banner shouting the slogan of thier cause, hartals telling them thier unhappiness,thier peace loving intent no matter they bear the loss of thier own economic intrests a stopper to thier daily lives thier childrens education but they believe in thier cause which is true and higgest to them.

Posted by faisal | Report as abusive

if separitists r so concerned about kashmir then why they r not protesting against pakistan for giving a portion of kashmir to china. why they are not protesting against the domestic violence, crime done by the terorists. Murders and rapes are happening every parts of the world but we cann not afford the shutdowns everyday. its a bigger game plan by Pakistan. Kashmir is part of India It will remain so till world’s end.

Posted by Parwez Alli Khan | Report as abusive