Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Politics of Stone Pelting

Two inter-related points of view on the burning issue of the day, followed by the inevitable news clip

Is Stone–Pelting the right way to protest?

Dr. Wasim Ahmad

Currently there are two theories rumoring around regarding Stone-Pelting. The first theory is that it is an “Emotional Outburst” against the inhuman atrocities committed by the Police Force. From Islamic point of view mourning is allowed for three days and on fourth day we are supposed to do our routine work. During the three days of mourning we are supposed to recite Fatiha and offer worship whose benefit we invoke upon the departed soul. In these three days we are supposed to give moral support to the bereaved family and help them overcome the tragedy. We are also supposed to do acts of charity and social service and the Sawaab of which is addressed to the departed soul. All this because the Holy prophet of Islam (SAWS) has advised us that the only things that are useful for a departed soul are his/her righteous deeds and the Sawaab from the righteous acts done in their name by their family members.

All of us have had an emotional outburst regarding the killings of these innocent kids. We have observed Hartals and endless stone-pelting after their killings. Now let us all ask ourselves a question. In week long Hartals how many times have we recited the Fatiha for these slain people? What righteous deeds and acts of charity have we done for the benefit of their souls? On the contrary we are destroying shops and vehicles of people who had no hand in their killings. We destroy hospital vehicles and prevent sick patients from reaching hospitals. We cause inconvenience to public who otherwise is already at the receiving end from criminalization of police force. What good will these destructive acts do to the souls of the slain people? Further, by stone-pelting do we expect the police and paramilitary forces to stop committing excesses and adopt a humane attitude towards us? Rather we actually are providing more fodder to their insatiable thirst for public massacres - more stone-pelting leading to more killings and hence a perpetual cycle of violence and killings.

The second theory is that these are organized events by people seeking political mileage by cashing on our blood. No matter where the incident occurs the locality, the groups involved and the stereotyped methodology used by the stone-pelters is always predictable. If this is the reality behind these “protests” to instigate a trigger happy police force for more killings and perpetual violence, then only God can save us from the hidden schemers. No matter what their intentions are, but by getting innocent people killed they can only be described as demonic. In this context the civil society should identify these groups and make sure they never succeed in their motives.

Lastly what one can say is that the killings we are witnessing are gruesome but “stonepelting” by no way is the right form of protest as it does no good to the souls of slain people, destroys our society, encourages more killings while allowing certain sections gain political mileage from our blood that has been rendered so cheap.

Stone Rage

Riyaz Ahmad

For the first time in the past twenty years, a group of masked stone pelters last week held a press conference in the downtown city. They ridiculed Hurriyat for calling for only one day’s hartal on Tuesday over the death of the 13 year old Wamiq Farooq in police action and unilaterally resolved to extend it for several days. They matched their words with deeds. From Islamabad to Varmul, the entire Valley was taken over by the stone pelting mobs paralyzing the transport and throwing the entire life off-gear.

This is what they had to say: “ No more Hurriyat leaders. We won’t listen to them. They are agents. It is our stone-pelting that has resurrected the movement. We will have our own hartal program and enforce it on our own”. The masked young men suddenly appeared from nowhere soon after the burial of Wamiq in Srinagar ’s Martyrs Graveyard.

This was not an isolated incident. When on the following day Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led a procession through the downtown city, the youth in the gathering were not all that devoted to him. In fact, when Mirwaiz said that Hurriyat will chart a protest program over the ongoing atrocities, many in the audience were not impressed. “ So, Mirwaiz has yet to formulate a program. There is no need now. We know how to carry on the struggle without them (separatist leaders),” a few young men in the crowd were telling among themselves.

And they were not alone. Across Srinagar and in the far-off Varmul and the 55 kilometre highway between the two places, mobs of stone-pelters took over, throwing Kashmir into turmoil. In Varmul, people spilled on to the roads in scattered groups which soon billowed into a frenzied mass of people, yelling, screaming and throwing stones. The town was all smoke and clamour as the police swung into action and fired tear gas shells into air.

The situation was same in Srinagar and the rest of the Valley. Along the highways, the groups of 10-20 stone pelting youth at the strategic intersections blocked traffic. Protesters even attacked an Army convoy at Rawalpur area of the city. And over the entire more than 100 people, including several securitymen, were injured.

The unfolding reality registered itself on the Hurriyat itself. With stone-pelters throwing down gauntlet and the fear of marginalization gripping them fast, a defensive Hurriyat decided to lead a march to the United Nations office in the city on Monday. He also said that Hurriyat was with the protesters and the youth throwing stones. This, he said, was a natural reaction to the atrocities of the forces.

But for all of us, before we could understand it Kashmir has taken yet another turbulent lurch. In the past three years, the place has been witness to some of the biggest agitations in its history. In 2008, it was Amarnath land row which put the entire Valley on the edge. Srinagar woke up to multitude of nightly revolts, with loudspeakers booming with Azadi slogans, followed by the raucous rumble of the seething masses through the streets. It was for the first time in years that the protests spread across the countryside and even swept the otherwise insulated border areas.

However, just when we concluded that an overwhelmingly participated assembly election in the following winter had turned the revolt on its head, Shopian followed. The rape and murder of the two women in this prosperous South Kashmir town unleashed fresh fury through the summer of 2009. And now we have the fresh tumult at hand over the deaths of two teenagers in police and paramilitary action. Things yet again seem to have gotten out of hand.

What baffles one is the predictable pattern of these protests. The hordes of youth heaving through Kashmir’s streets, shouting slogans and throwing stones. This is Valley’s raw, new generation, bred in the Valley’s violent conflict but until Amarnath agitation indifferent to it. It is angry, rebellious and willing to take up not only the stones but also guns. Compared to them, nineties’ generation was innocent. They took to guns in a rush, little knowing what was in store for them. But the new generation is consciously into it and seems to be ready for the consequences.

For them, the security posts along the streets are a domesticated presence and so invoke no fear. Their fuming groups tear down bunkers, jeer at police and paramilitary personnel and do a defying whirling dance when passing by the security camps.

The stone-pelting has become an everyday phenomenon. It seems organized on an ambitious scale and aspires to become an all-encompassing Valley-wide reality. There is a high degree of synchronization in the way assaults are launched at various places in the city and some major towns. What is more, the juggernaut at times gets rolling without any apparent cause. A death in the process has a metastasizing effect with protests soon swirling the entire Valley right from Islamabad to Varmul.

This has raised some troubling questions: whether what we are witnessing is prompted by the ongoing operation of the political conflict in the state, or that the situation has become a bit more complex. Without overlooking the fact of tragic deaths of our boys - which at times seems a result of the pure, inbuilt hatred in the security machinery against the protesters rather than a law and order urgency - there is a dire need, social as well as intellectual, to understand the growing incidence of stone-pelting in the Valley. That is, if it is certainly the authentic catharsis of the Valley’s pent-up sense of grievance, or an alternative form of struggle which has replaced gun.

But this reading of the situation is severely challenged by the wayward nature of the protests that take the form of stone-pelting. More often than not, it becomes difficult to assign a credible cause to these type of protests. Stone-pelting seems to go on regardless, in many areas of the downtown city or in some major towns like Varmul, creating an impression of a sport being pursued for the thrill of it. And if the protesters continue to create such an impression among a growing number of people, which they certainly do, then there is something very seriously amiss. For there cannot be a greater disservice to the cause, which they otherwise claim confers legitimacy on their practice.

Genuine protests, we know, understand the reason of their existence, generally follow a comprehensible pattern of their own and are geared toward an end. And if they don’t meet this criteria, then what we are witnessing on the streets of Kashmir may be actually a form of anarchy without us being necessarily conscious of the same.

Four masked men challenge Hurriyat, spark off stoning protests in Valley

Riyaz Wani

Srinagar: A group of four masked men in their early ‘20s addressed the local press on Monday, ridiculed the Hurriyat for calling just a one-day hartal over the death of teenager Wamiq Farooq in police clashes and announced a four-day protest plan.

Their words had a strong echo since Monday — from Anantnag to Baramulla, stone-pelting mobs paralyzed transport, shut down the Valley.

“No more Hurriyat leaders. We won’t listen to them. They are agents. It’s our stone-pelting that has resurrected the movement,” said the masked young men. DIG (Kashmir range) H K Lohia said that they (the masked men) are “definitely stone pelters trying to be leaders...we will arrest them”.

The Hurriyat is defensive. “We are with the protesters,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Nayeem Khan said the protestors “are our children and are on the streets because of atrocities by police and security forces.”

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