Costly protests

Costly protests


The protests in the Kashmir Valley have exacted an enormous cost of ordinary Kashmiris. Besides the loss of around 70 lives and injuries to hundreds of others, the endless stone-pelting, hartals and bundhs have upset daily routines, disrupted education and paralysed the economy. According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, protests over the past three months have caused financial losses of around Rs 21,000 crore. This is the tourist season in the Valley, a time when business would have been booming for hotels, houseboat owners and handicraft shops. Years of militancy had crippled the Kashmiri economy and it is only over the past 3-4 years that it seemed to be recovering. That recovery has now been stalled. The protests have brought business to a halt. The stone-pelting mobs have frightened tourists away and hotels are empty and shops closed. Taxi drivers and travel agencies as well as pony owners have also been hit badly. Srinagar has borne the brunt of the bundhs and violence. When protests first began in early June, it did seem that industrial units situated in government industrial belts would escape their impact. However, workers — many of them from outside the state — are said to have fled in fear of the mobs. More recently, masked men have forced industrial units to shut down, forcing tens of thousands of Kashmiris out of their jobs. Even education of children is suffering because of closure of schools.

Those masterminding the stone pelting and mass violence claim that their agitation against the state is aimed at furthering the ‘Kashmiri cause.’  Which cause of the ordinary Kashmiris has been served by this violence? Can the protestors define more clearly what interest of the Kashmiris has been furthered by the endless agitations? It is only those who’ve received payment for engaging in violence and those who’ve based their political fortunes on separatist politics that have gained from the shutdowns and violence.
That ordinary Kashmiris are now protesting against the protestors — shop owners in Budgam and Pulwama hurled stones at those forcing them to shut their businesses — is a telling sign of the true nature of the agitation. It is losing mass support. Ordinary Kashmiris are unhappy with the ongoing protests. They must join hands and publicly oppose the machinations of the separatists and those who are making a living out of protesting.

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