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Important Anniversary

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Police fired on Uttarakhand statehood activists at Khatima on 1 September, 1994, resulting in seven deaths. Instead of dampening the movement, it fanned the flames and after a number of other such firings over the course of the agitation, the stage was set for the formation of a separate state. Through the course of the movement, which had a loose structure of leadership that basically set the protest agenda, the essential principle was that protestors would leave behind their ‘jhanda and danda’. This basically meant that they would forget their political affiliations (jhanda) and adhere strictly to non-violence (danda). While the progenitor of the movement, the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, as well as the Congress and BJP, did have their own units dedicated to the cause, generally the people followed the non-political ‘Sangharsh Samitis’ in their areas. A large number of activists from these parties participated in the agitation and returned to their original political affiliations after the state’s formation. This is why some of the tallest leaders of the movement did not get to participate in how the state shaped up later. Significantly, the Uttarakhand agitation also led to the acceptance of two other states, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Not every cause has a clear cut justification acceptable to all. Often, it is a case of clashing interests. Every effort needs to be made, therefore, to convince the adversary through argument and persuasion, particularly when it is one’s own government. The fundamentally non-violent nature of the Uttarakhand movement and the harsh reaction of UP’s Samajwadi Party Government and its stooges in the region created a stark contrast that gave the protestors the moral high ground. This won over the people in the rest of the country and it then became possible for PM Atal Behari Vajpayee to form the new states. This basic principle has been entirely absent in J&K. The separatists and jihadis have resorted to an armed struggle against the Indian State, and intimidation of the local people. The AK-47 and religion are being used to herd the common folk in a certain direction. The agenda is entirely Pakistan’s. The so-called moderates have remained largely confused about what they want and the methodology to adopt. The mainstream parties have become manipulators and exploiters, pursuing just their personal interests. The much vaunted Kashmiriyat would have had non-violence at its core, with the traditionally gentle Kashmiri earning the respect of the adversaries. The anniversaries of incidents such as the one that took place in Khatima, Mussoorie and Rampur Tiraha are reminders of the strength of human resolve to shape and pursue a just cause. Kashmir needs to learn from the Uttarakhand Movement if truth and justice are to prevail.