Calls for action from Kashmir’s walls

Protestors in Soura, Srinagar on Friday. Soura has turned into a bastion of demonstrations since August 5.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Posters have emerged as the new means of communication in Jammu and Kashmir as the communication shut down enters the third week.

A walk in the interiors of Soura, located in the periphery of Srinagar, which has turned into a bastion of demonstrations since the August 5 decision to revoke J&K’s special status, shows posters on almost every pole calling for “civil disobedience” . Roads are barricaded with tins, sewer pipes and tree trunks. Outsiders' credentials are scrutinised by youth manning the barricades.

One poster in Urdu reads: “No employee should cooperate with the present government. Pay no taxes. Boycott paying bills for electricity and water”. It ends with a call to march to the residence of Mr. Geelani in Hyderpora on August 28.

These posters are being attributed to Hurriyat patriarch Syed Ali Geelani but the security agencies dismiss any direct role in these protest programmes. Mr. Geelani remains under house arrest and his second rung and workers, down to his family cook, has been booked and arrested, an official said.

A senior police officer told The Hindu that the security forces are not taking these posters “lightly as they have the potential to mobilise street protests in current situation”.

“We fear a local, amorphous street leadership is emerging in many pockets of Kashmir. The protests are steered properly in many locations. It might get more organised,” he added.

A similar poster campaign calling for a march to the UN offices in Srinagar, forced authorities to clamp down on movement and impose restrictions last Friday.

In contrast, posters in pockets of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district list the benefits of the suspension of Article 370. “The suspension has led to the introduction of the Right to Education, mid-day meals in schools, new central health schemes, central schemes for farmers. J&K will see equal development of Pondicherry. The land prices will go up,” reads the poster.

These contrasting posters have become the new weapons in the war of narratives in Jammu and Kashmir, seeking to shape opinion of the local people. However, it has unnerved Hurriyat supporters too, with fears of an uncontrolled leadership taking over the streets.

A police official said there are forces desperate to fill the void by issuing statements on behalf of an incarcerated Mr. Geelani.

Sources said the Hurriyat issued its first formal statement, attributed to Mr. Geelani on the current situation, on August 23 from “unknown location”.

“India’s intention is to force a demographic change in J&K and create colonies for settlers in violation of the international law. Courage, patience and discipline are weapons of defenceless,” reads Mr. Geelani’s statement. It also called for “organisation of peaceful protests and boycott by State [government] employees”.

Calling on Pakistan to “display action”, Mr. Geelani said, “If Pakistan gets ensconced in by so-called pragmatism and fails to act decisively this time, neither history nor your future generations will forgive you.”

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 2:08:46 AM |

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