A moment to think: Is Kashmir safe for genuine activism?

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Views from Srinagar

Fida Iqbal

MAY be inappropriate, but I am constrained to put a rider of genuineness with our version of activism because very few people crusade genuinely in this land of devious mindset. Activism is essentially an inborn trait and fewer people turn to activism after experiencing injustice in their own life. All along activists face condemnation at the hands of exploiters and at times are unable to gain the trust of common people even for a genuine cause. Anyway, whatever the reason and circumstances to disparage the noble work of activism in the present-day avaricious world, the activists are the real torchbearers of exploring justice and the realities. Democracy empowers people! And empowerment is the soul of crusading.
Kashmir because of its fluid political situation has suffered a lot on almost all fronts of life, particularly for impartiality and equality. With the arrival of popular politicking in the thirties of the last century, activism started making inroads in our social and political system. After the abolition of autocracy, activism bloomed into enormous aspiration for politics of freedom and self-governance but this aura of political freeness did not last long and our activism changed into a vigorous crusade for political, social and legal empowerment. At occasions, our brand of activism is dubbed as separatism by vested interests within the state whose political interests get hit. A section of activists beyond the struggle for political empowerment is motivated to seek justice beyond politics within the ambit of the existing skeleton of the democratic setup. These guys plead for equality, justice, and impartiality under existing laws. For the last more than a decade, the government has been generous enough to fullfil their commitments of transparency and accountability and institutions like State information commission, State Accountability Commission and State Vigilance Commission were constituted in addition to existing institutions of answerability. With a hope for equality and justice, many activists became more active to explore possibilities of equality and transparency within these initiatives of the state. A big RTI (Right to information) movement and a huge accountability crusade became the face of democratic values in the state. However, with the best use of RTI and accountability several of the state and nonstate actors feeling the heat of activism started conspiring against the new institutions of empowerment and transparency. Thus, started a chain of curtailments, riders, and caveats to this new era of activism by curtailing the powers of these institutions of public scrutiny!
Presently, not only the activism but the institutions catering to aspirations of fair activists are badly hit. Coercion, intimidation, persecution and physical threats to activists is a norm now. Particularly, the state’s employees exploring the right to information, or right to accountability for justice and fair play are the worst hit. They face punishing transfers, are slapped with memos of vague explanations and at occasions taste termination proceedings. If activists are to be believed without any question, recently an activist was threatened with the implication in a false case of sexual harassment at the hands of mighty and the powerful. The institutions for ensuring and delivering public scrutiny too have become sluggish and unknowingly strengthen the old saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. This situation of despair on part of activists who have reposed trust in egalitarianism puts a question mark on the whole process of accountability initiated by the government with great enthusiasm.
The worst part of the situation is that Kashmir with its unstable political situation and the badly manipulated social system is torn between several forces of dissent that most of the times use violence to coerce and browbeat the voices and under these circumstances, the activists are the most vulnerable lot. Any fellow with good intentions of doing good can easily be got bumped off with very little efforts and no one can be blamed in existing charged situation of confusion and blame game. So, in Kashmir activists (the real activists to be precise) definitely move with a tag of helplessness and in a situation like that our future generation would definitely prefer to compromise with the situation of trickery even if their genetic map and the DNA depicts of their compulsive inclination towards activism. The present government should come out of political compulsions and fulfill the sacred dreams of its leadership to safeguard the interests of activists and ensure a congenial atmosphere for a positive activism that can, in turn, help the system of governance to deliver quality justice and ensure equal opportunities. mail@fidaiqbal.com

—Courtesy: GK