On Tuesday afternoon, as heated discussions were going on at the octogenarian Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani's residence, hundreds of people gathered outside and started shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. The protesters were demanding that the shutdown, which is in its fifth month, must continue, despite the costs.
That was exactly the message which reverberated during the day-long deliberations at Geelani's residence after the ruling PDP-BJP coalition allowed the powerful Hurriyat trio, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, to meet, hoping that the separatists might do what their elected government has failed in doing: bringing normalcy on the streets of Kashmir.
The all-important, day-long meeting was attended on Tuesday by different stakeholders including representatives of hoteliers and transporters, who have borne the brunt of the prevailing crisis in the Valley, business bodies, civil society activists, a professor of Kashmir University and heads of social and political gatherings.
"70 percent participants have voted for continuing the protest program," a Hurriyat leader told the protesters outside Geelani's residence. The announcement was greeted with massive anti-India and pro-freedom slogans in the area. Earlier, the government had pulled out security teams from the area to avoid any clashes.
However, sources said there were dissenting voices in the meeting who told the separatist leaders that the continued shutdown was impacting the impoverished and underprivileged who live from hand to mouth with thousands losing jobs during the prevailing crisis.
"But there were others who argued that people will have to bear small costs for taking the freedom movement to its logical conclusion," a civil society activist, who attended the meeting, told Firstpost.
Mirwaiz said the Hurriyat has patiently listened to the suggestions from the representatives of different sections of society "which will be kept in consideration while formulating the next protest program. The freedom movement is in a critical phase and we hope that people would follow the program in letter and spirit," he said.
According to a senior Hurriyat leader, the stakeholders unanimously agreed that the Class 10 and Class 12 board exams should be held in March next year and there should be "no compromise" on the quality of education imparted to students.
The state government has already announced that, while the exams will be held on schedule next week with 50 percent syllabus relaxation, those students who are not prepared and want to appear later, will have to write their papers in March next year with no relaxation.
The Hurriyat leadership, however, indicated that there might be further relaxation in the shutdown call, which cripples normal life in Kashmir, allowing opening of businesses only after 5 pm and that too on four days in a week, including Sunday.
Speaking with the media, Geelani said the Hurriyat was authorised by the participants to "continue the freedom struggle with zeal and passion. It was emphasized upon both, leadership and nation, to remain steadfast and committed to take the struggle to its logical end".
Joining Geelani, Mirwaiz, the head of moderate Hurriyat, said the protest program will be "followed in letter and spirit and whosoever violates it will be convinced and conveyed that discipline and resilience is important for achieving our goal”.
Which means that the political deadlock in Kashmir Valley is unlikely to end soon with the separatist leadership clearly indicating that it will not call off its protest program. The continuation of the protest calendar will shadow the PDP-BJP coalition government's efforts to restore normalcy in the restive Valley where at least 94 civilians have been killed to control protests since the killing of Burhan Wani.
“All the participants unanimously appreciated united face of resistance leadership and authorized them with their full mandate and support to continue the freedom struggle with zeal and passion. It was emphasized upon both, leadership and nation, to remain steadfast and committed to take the struggle to its logical end,” said a statement issued by joint resistance leadership after the meeting.