Frequent strikes a crippling blow to Kashmir’s economy
During two decades of anti-India revolt, Kashmir has lost tens of thousands of people, property worth billions of dollars and much more.
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.
“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?