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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stone Pelting: The Boomerang Effect

Fayyaz says that civilian's murder by stone pelting draws widespread flak against 'only tool of resistance'

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times ( since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

Political, Intellectual Support to Stone Pelting Begins to Diminish in Valley

Srinagar: Many in politics and media attempted to underplay it as a routine incident of a civilian getting hit by a 'stray' stone during a street clash between the demonstrators and Police in this turbulent capital city. Others slogged to create an impression that the class 4thofficial of Jammu & Kashmir State Board of School Education died of a 'gunshot wound'. But, in the last five days, Kashmiris holding diverse political beliefs have been unanimous over the fact Shafeeq Ahmed Sheikh of Nattipora had been horribly killed in Batmaloo area on Friday last by a group of stone pelters who have embraced this form of social terrorism as a result of immense political and intellectual support in the Valley.

That the politicians and intellectuals, known for justifying stone pelting as "our only tool of resistance against the state repression", have been isolated by the people at large is evident from the fact that nobody in Kashmir has accepted Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani's initial suggestion of Sheikh's death in 'firing'. A day before Mr Geelani's visit to the bereaved family, Hurriyat (G) spokesman, Ayyaz Akbar, had quoted "people who performed Sheikh's funeral rituals" as having spotted "gunshot wounds" on the civilian's body.

When the brutal killing refused to pass off as a death in firing---which is conveniently attributed to Police or CRPF in Kashmir---Geelani swerved to safety and asserted that "some black sheep" had intruded into ranks of the pro-Azadi demonstrators. Identical reactions poured in from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other "pro-freedom leaders". As that too failed to click and even the ideologically paralyzed National Conference (NC) organized its maiden show in Srinagar Civil Lines with hardcore statements and slogans against the stone pelters and their political godfathers, Geelani was quick to withdraw his support to this anarchical form of 'resistance'. Addressing his followers in Sopore, he even advised the demonstrators not to shout anti-India slogans.

This kind of acrobatics used to be characteristic of the state actors whenever armed forces or their locally raised counter-insurgents killed civilians or militants in fake encounters in the Valley several years ago.

In 2009-2010, Geelani had emerged as the biggest supporter of stone pelting with his stylish argument. "This is not good but these boys feel that this is our only tool of resistance against the state repression", hardliner separatist leader had invariably said in his statements. His first volte face came a day after an eleven-day-old infant was killed by stone pelters in the lap of his mother in Baramulla.

Some of the mainstream political parties, also known for their encouragement to the stone pelting crowds, shot off a new theory. In a subtle categorization of "good stone pelters" and "bad stone pelters", on the pattern of "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists", they began alleging that the NC-led government had raised a "sarkari brigade of the stone pelters---Ikhwanis".

As the Baramulla tragedy faded into memory, quite a number of the Valley's politicians---pro-Azadi as well as pro-India---began lamenting that the "alienated youth" had no other way of asserting themselves against the "state repression". In a lengthy debate, that included the world's first ever conference on stone pelting, intelligentsia in Srinagar took pride to justify the lawless shows with subjective reference to religious history and jurisprudence. While the photo captions in media glorified the stone pelters as 'brave hearts", editorial comments and opinion articles---some of them drafted in luxury hotels---claimed that freedom thinktanks like Edward Said had had the privilege of performing stone pelting.

Death of the middle-aged civilian of Nattipora seems to have changed everything. In contrast to what was initially being projected as "a stray stone", the driver and the conductor of the minibus stated on camera that there was neither any clash between demonstrators and Police nor any deployment of Police or paramilitary forces when the vehicle was intercepted by an unruly group of eight to nine men. According to them, one person came close to the slowing vehicle with a weighty stone in his two hands and threw it on a windshield with full force. It shattered the glass and crushed the poor commuter's head, leading to his death on way to hospital. That is what deflated the balloons of "gunshot" (from Police/CRPF) and "a stray stone" (from the angry youth clashing with Police/CRPF).

Sheikh's death by a gunshot wound, or even Police or paramilitary presence 500 yards away, would have undoubtedly led to massive demonstrations and days of continuous shutdown in Valley.

Statements of the SKIMS Medical Superintendent, Dr Syed Amin Tabish, corroborated by a team of Kashmiri Muslim doctors who conducted Sheikh's post mortem, not only prompted the paralyzed NC to stage its first demonstration against the menace of stone pelting but also forced a number of the stanch supporters of the stone pelting in media and politics to change the tack. For them, brave hearts have suddenly turned into hooligans.

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