Stone pelting has remained a favourite way of expressing grievances in Kashmir since long, even before the insurgency started in 1989. Kashmir has a long tradition of stone pelting since as early as 1930s. We have fond memories of ‘sher-bakra’ stone pelting locally popular as kani jung, post 1960s, between supporters of two rival political groups – of the National Conference called ‘sher’ (lions) and of the Awami Action Committee called ‘bakra’ (goats). Over the years, it has become a cherished sporting activity and due to this the society has achieved both -perfection in rioting and notoriety.
Separatist politicians in kashmir, during the Amarnath agitation, had deftly utilised this kashmiri art for their political gains. Stone pelting, it is argued, gave a new lease of life to our octogenarian SAS Geelani and his stagnating politics aimed at merger of kashmir with Pakistan, a promised land for all Muslims…well, most of us!
Taking cue from separatists, even the mainstream politicians in kashmir, instead of controlling such destructive social tendencies, have encouraged this dangerous social trend. There are incidences of mainstream parties often paying for the organised stone-pelting with the help of ‘professional’ stone-pelters. Today, we pelt stone on government bodies to agitate against a wide array of our problems (real or perceived), ranging from azaadi to bijli/pani, ration supply. Stone-pelting is also used for celebrating an event for e.g., defeat of Indian cricket team by Pakistan, or for that matter, by any team in the world. We love stone pelting even to celebrate our festivals also! Perhaps, Kashmir is the only place on earth where people indulge in stone pelting even on the day of Eid, when the whole muslim world draped in nice clothes, offers prayers, greets people and just has fun!
Curiously, the Kashmiri intelligentsia and media also never condemns such social delinquency, rather they justify and even eulogise it. Politicians and intelligentsia justify stone-pelting for two reasons – first they live in safe havens and never get hurt themselves and secondly, they support this mass-foolishness, hoping for India to grant azaadi frustrated by all this. Granted!
What astounds me is the response of elderlies of our society. Every time a child (glorified as angry youth by local dailies) goes out to indulge in stone pelting on security forces, his chances of getting killed are quite high. How can a normal family afford taking such a risk?? A Kashmiri sociologist once told me that bigger family sizes in kashmir has a lot to do with this. A family with just one or two children is always bothered about the security of its children. But a father of five children doesn’t mind sacrificing a couple of his little ones for the ultimate aim of achieving azaadi in kashmir. The skewed concept of ‘shahid’ and mass celebration of the killed child’s ‘shahadat’ further alleviates the pain of loss. The society, instead of feeling ashamed for being responsible for the killing of its children, hysterically celebrates ‘death’ by indulging in stone pelting during the burial, on following friday and on deceased’s chaharrum!
Economically and socially well off Kashmiris have either migrated to other parts of India or abroad, or have sent their children out of this blessed land due to violence. Unfortunately, they, at the same time, blindly support Kani-jung and insane hartals, which have stalled the growth and development in kashmir. The game appears to be very simple – keep your kiddos safe at far off places and instigate the children of proletariat to lead the movement. Ain’t it azaadi outsourced? Mass-schizophrenia has bugged the entire society. Seriously!
We often forget that, even if azaadi dawns upon kashmir one day (inshallah), will we be able to rule ourselves peacefully with our entire population having become so violent! Don’t Azaad nations have problems of bijli/pani, communal strife -Sunni vs Shia vs Ahmediyas vs KPs/Sikhs, kashmiri-gujjar, shariah-lovers vs secularists!!!
Faced with stone pelting and violent rioting, each security force reacts differently depending upon its training, organisational resilience, acclimatisation and so forth. There is a degree of difference in the response of two jawans of the same unit when confronted with similarly violent stone pelting. After all, every individual is psychologically different, having different threshold, tripping point….
I don’t know what exactly transpired in Handwara. But unlike south kashmir, security forces (police,CRPF, BSF,army) in north kashmir, including in Handwara, are not used to daily rioting. Many of those who had handled (or mishandled) 2010 must have been transferred. Those deployed in Palhalan being the exceptions of course.
It may sound criminal, but believe me, when a gang of so called ‘angry youths,’ incensed with mob frenzy, attempts to lynch a jawan with stones and try to physically snatch his personal weapon, most often than not, the jawan fires. Believe me, if he doesn’t, he’ll die himself. There may be difference in the levels of provocation, but there is no such thing as ‘unproved firing’ by police or any other force. In today’s kashmir, for every firing incident, the unit and the individual official suffers.
Kashmiri intelligentsia and media may intellectualise and react based on their presumptions, sitting in the comforts of their drawing rooms and hamaams, but this is what the reality is. Separatists from both the camps – pro-azaadi & merger-with-Pakistan, and mainstream politicians have to re-think their strategy on stone pelting. Otherwise, we will just keep losing our precious lives and achieve nothing, including our cherished azaadi.
Till a few years back, the Americas and the Europe used to be not only worried about the violence in kashmir but were also quite resentful to India’s purported high-handedness. However, the stark reality is that post 9/11 America and post-IS Europe are least bothered about our plight. They seriously feel that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us -Muslims. Of course, there are a handful of western journalists who are critical of the West’s policies in general, and occasionally sympathise with the Muslims’ persecution worldwide. Their scholarly articles are also reproduced in some of the local dailies in kashmir, but frankly speaking, no one cares two hoot about our problems and miseries – most of which are our own creations.
In kashmir, it’s high time for us to get rid of self-imposed and self-debilitating hartals and fatal stone pelting. We need to deliberate and devise a new meaningful strategy to fight for our political cause, our cherished azaadi.
By an anonymous Kashmiri citizen refusing to disclose his identity fearing stone pelting