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, December 27, 2010

Are Stone Pelters Heroes?

First an animated exchange between two opposing camps, followed by a report on the police investigation into stone pelting (3 related stories)

VIEWPOINT: The Moral Dilemma - Are Stone Pelters “The Real Heroes”?

Junaid Azim Mattu (Founding President of the World Kashmiri Students Association)

A lecturer at Gandhi College in Kashmir recently asked his students to answer a rather controversial and politically charged question in an exam paper – “Are stone-pelters the real heroes?”. I wrote an article condemning such blatant, conscious and deliberate politicization of academy and curricula in general and exam papers in particular, as warranted by this incident. Since then, the article has generated a heated debate and evoked sentiments on both sides of the line. A lot of people have personally attacked me for my views – in the most obnoxious ways there could be. But, what’s heartening is that a greater number of young men and women – students mostly – some of whom took this exam, have communicated their endorsement. I have also spoken to some of these students to gauge their views on this. I now, follow up that article with an attempt to answer Mr. Bhat’s misplaced question, in fourteen hundred words, placing myself in that exam hall.

In the year 2000, on the Lebanese-Israeli border, Edward Said – a Palestinian-American literary theorist, activist and founding figure in the study of Post-colonialism and Orientalism – was pictured allegedly throwing a stone at an abandoned Israeli guard station. Activists were quick to see this as the moral legalization of stone throwing as a romanticized expression of dissent, in Palestine and other conflict torn regions of the world. The David vs. Goliath metaphoric romanticism was hastily invoked from the arid Gaza strip to eventually the old inner city of Srinagar to reinforce an apparent justification for teenagers to pelt their suffocation and suppression away – one stone at a time – expressing their unwillingness to be coerced into submission.

Days after, the famous Edward Said picture was published in newspapers and magazines around the Middle East, academics and theorists the world over started debating on the moral and political repercussions of Said’s action. Said’s scheduled lectures and talks at some renowned universities were cancelled, as the world now perceived Said as a passive combatant. Impetuous praise poured in from Palestinian organizations, activists and even bandwagon anarchists from other parts of the world. Said’s little stone toss was soon immortalized in postcolonial revolutionary history as a cornerstone in the evolution of stone throwing as a form of symbolic resistance. Today the tragedy is that Kashmiris know Edward Said the stone-thrower and not Edward Said the founder of Orientalism. And in that tragedy, lies my argument.

We have conveniently forgotten the bitter fact that Edward Said came back to categorically state - that his picture was taken out of context and all he was guilty of doing was indulging with his young son in a stone-throwing competition. But much to Mr. Said’s anger and disappointment, he had become an unwilling poster-boy for the educated and virtual sympathizers of stone throwing – people who never knew what Edward Said stood for all his life. His daughter would later disclose that Mr. Said died with this shock in his heart, five years later. Edward Said in an interview about this incident, also spoke of this concept of “healthy anarchy” in stating why stones where thrown at Fatma Gate, a crossing at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Edward Said’s overt references to stone throwing were in the context of symbolism, not active combat against military/paramilitary forces. But who will tell this to the ideological pillars of stone-throwing in Kashmir, who ironically call Edward Said their hero?

I don’t know if stone-pelters are heroes or not but I certainly know this – stone pelting at it’s moral best is a symbolic expression of dissent not a form of combat and battle, as Edward Said would have said. I don’t think any political dividends can merit having an entire generation out on our roads with stones in their hands, battling troops in military gear, when they should be in schools – studying, growing and expanding the horizons of their minds. The Kashmir issue is multi-layered, too complex to be settled through a four month long annual war of bricks and stones. No quantity of stones can make an army flee, no number of self-imposed economic sanctions can make a State sacrifice it’s ultimate strategic interests. Is this question - are stone-pelters the “real heroes” - a derivative of the bigger, vague notion that self-destructive anarchy is the “real struggle”? That by closing our shops and offices we can make New Delhi scurry to the table? And, for a moment let’s hypothetically assume that Delhi does come to the table – are we willing to talk? Does our leadership have the freedom to take an autonomous call on that decision? Can our leadership bypass Pakistan’s apparent reluctance here and engage with Delhi in an integrative negotiation? Then how are anarchists, the “real heroes”? What is the happy ending they have in sight? In which castle does this Mario’s princess lie?

As a student who came to answer questions on literature, grammar and comprehension – predictably out of the text that was assigned to us – I’m emotionally unsettled to answer this question but will try my best to not mince any words. I’m a young Kashmiri boy who has witnessed blood and gore as the sixth and seventh elements of life. My life has been as much of a testament to political suppression as anyone else’s – having been born into this never-ending turmoil, a stranger to the very semblance of normality. I have grown up with more questions in my mind than answers I could seek. Now, I’m asked to answer another such question – one I have sought an answer for within my own teething, crawling conscience for months.

I have a moral dilemma with stone pelting. My friends mock me, call me a pacifist – a coward who would rather write about suppression than confront it – with a stone in his hand. My character comes into question. How could a Kashmiri condemn stone pelting as a medium of dissent, they say! In condemning stone pelting, I apparently become this monstrous “pseudo-intellectual” who won't put his money where his mouth is – a person whose prattle about Kashmir outweighs the stones that he pelts. The guilt is shoved down my throat repeatedly. In this anarchy, I’ve begun to see fascism – bloody fascism – in how moral codes are set, in how my choice is arbitrarily judged, in how one man and his disciple impose sanctions on their allegedly own nation and in the manner in which diktats are enforced under the presumption that Kashmir is one big political monolith – all I see is fascism in the guise of anarchy.

Tufail Mattoo, a young boy of seventeen, the first fatality in the recent summer agitation was not a stone-pelter. He fell to a paramilitary tear-gas shell while he was on his way for his tutorial class, a bag slung across his unassuming shoulders. Do I then presume that Tufail Mattoo is not a “real hero”? Zahid Farooq, another young boy, fell to the unprovoked bullets of a BSF jawan while he was playing an innocent game of cricket with his friends. Zahid Farooq wasn’t a stone pelter either. Would I assume that Zahid was not a “real hero”? Fancy Jan, a young hardworking girl fell to a stray bullet while she stood at the window of her house in Batmaloo. Fancy was not a stone pelter. A young eight year old boy was crushed to death during another such agitation this summer. I wouldn’t think that an eight-year-old kid could be a stone-pelter. So do all these losses amount to nothing beyond collateral sacrifices the “real heroes” are willing to make to both validate and sanctify their prolonged dream of an unhealthy, aimless and perpetual state of anarchy? I went to most city hospitals this summer with my dad, and found out – to my utter surprise – that most of those injured and dead were not stone pelters. Are they then not the “real heroes”?

I’m still not sure how throwing a stone at my neighbor’s car can possibly avenge for actions of the paramilitary forces. I’m still not sure if blocking roads that lead to specialized healthcare institutes is any less cruel and dictatorial than the atrocities we condemn. I’ve never pelted a stone in my life and never will. I want to grow up and have the moral high-ground to condemn fascism and senseless violence. I might be a traitor in the eyes of those who are out with masks and stones but I shall not be a coward. No, Sir – stone pelters are not the “real heroes”.

COUNTERPOINT: The Anarchy of Moral High Ground

Hilal Ahmad (Journalist)

Junaid Mattu has donned the mantle of a student writing his exam and answered a very important question: `are stone throwers real heroes'? He has chosen to answer `no'. In fact, he has gone a step further and termed them anarchists. Since the answer has appeared in a prestigious newspaper, every reader of the article automatically becomes his examiner. I give him a zero. Not because I have been a professed stone thrower in my school days and hence prejudiced but because Junaid misjudges the question as rhetorical, presuming that asking are stone throwers real heroes amounts to declaring them as real heroes. While the reality is students can trash the proposition, as he himself has done so passionately. But he is not willing to grant this luxury to thousands of students who could have as passionately answered this question in whatever manner they liked. But as we read through the article, it becomes clear that the rant is aimed at a “man and his disciple.”

He ran a promo of the article before its publication on his Facebook page by picking up and posting a fragment. Never before have I seen a writer capable of packing so much bile with vanity. He pre-empts criticism, even its possible degrees, and angrily dismisses it even before it is coming. Psychiatrists might construe it as a sign of incipient megalomania. I am reminded of a young man who, when he returned home after completing a PhD in philosophy from an American university, was offered two boiled eggs on a platter by his peasant father. The young philosopher, tired and famished due to travel, looked intently at the eggs and then addressed his father.

“Do you know there are six eggs on the plate,” he said. “But I see only two,” the father replied. “Dad, this is philosophy. At this moment there are two eggs in your consciousness, two in mine and two on the plate,” the young philosopher said.

The dad picked up two eggs from the plate and devoured them. “Son, you can have the remaining four,” the dad said and hastened toward the farm for more pressing, practical jobs than counting imaginary eggs.

Our political philosopher from Bishop Cotton and Michigan University too has arrived. But instead of imaginary eggs he is seeing apparitions of a handful of anarchists, more specifically a “man and his disciple”, imposing “sanctions on their allegedly own nation.” Here is the whole purpose of the article: to criticize the “man and his disciple”. It now becomes clear where it is coming from, because the “man and his disciple” were not in studios of Indian channels but, like the peasant, hurrying toward the field when the nation erupted. In the heat of the angry diatribe, Junaid has overlooked the fact that the “man” was criticized for asking people on the streets to restrain from burning government properties.

Junaid complains that “guilt is shoved down my throat repeatedly”, but forgets he might be doing the same, shoveling guilt into the bruised psyches of millions. One doesn’t begrudge him his own swift evolution from Omar Abdullah-Kodak-moment aspiring politician to one desirous of gaining moral high ground “to condemn fascism and violence”. But it seems clear that one thing he had missed out from his nuanced reading of Edward Said is that all fascists were moralists. The second most written about philosopher in the history after Aristotle, Martin Heidegger, was a card carrying Nazi.

Are stone throwers real heroes? Are the innocent bystanders who were killed real heroes? No. Both are victims in this resistance where even our moralist, I presume at my own risk, has no second opinion about who the oppressor is. Our political philosopher tells us Kashmir is not a political monolith that “a man and his disciple” can impose fascism upon the rest, but he conveniently imposes his perfunctory understanding of Edward Said’s stone throwing act. He thinks the boys in the lanes of old city borrowed the concept of stone throwing from the Palestinian theorist’s action, while the fact is Kashmiris have been throwing stones since the times of Mughals. Men who stormed the Dogra Maharaja’s jail in 1931 threw stones, when Said was not even an embryo in his mother’s womb. It is saddening to know how frustrating it might be for Junaid to be the only one who knows Edward Said the founder of a discipline in humanities while “Kashmiris know Edward Said the stone thrower and not Edward Said the founder of Orientalism”.

Junaid writes no amount of stone throwing can make an army flee. True. But it will remind the army that they are an unwelcome army of oppression. Once you forget to remind them of this fact, you lose an essential part of what you are. At the same time he forgets that Kashmiris have been trying the other ways, too. Sheikh Abdullah tried peaceful, mass movement for 23 years. He also fought an election, trumpeted to the “fairest of all” on anti-India plank in 1977. Mufti Sayeed tried elections recently to realize his vision through an elected assembly. Sajjad Lone through an innovative document, Yaseen Malik by giving up arms and collecting signatures of 1.5 million people, the only exercise of its kind in the recent history, I presume. Junaid himself tried to push for a solution to problems of Kashmiri Pandits by holding sit-ins at Pratap Park.

Kashmiris tried gun too (Now, please don’t say they were prompted to do so by the gun-hugging, romantic visage of Che Guevera). While boys out on Sopore streets were throwing stones, you were telling Indian newsmen to “look for reasons behind this rage” and connecting to the world through your facebook page. Bad memory can be a nasty thing.

Did you talk to all the 1800 men who have bullet injuries above the waist? Did they tell you anything apart from that they were not stone throwers? What exactly did they tell you? That some demon has possessed them and they wanted to destroy all that is left of Kashmir? Or did they tell you that they too want a normal life that is not possible in a military control. As a journalist, who has lived all his life in Kashmir without a break in a Guwahati college or an American university, I also visited hospitals and talked to them. A boy from Sopore who had lost an eye as a bystander and never thrown a pebble in his life was itching to become a stone thrower now. Did any of these anarchists kill a CRPF trooper they cornered on streets? I don’t think anarchists care much about killing. Besides, your facts are wrong. Most of those who were killed were either stone throwers or demonstrators.

Stones might not make an army flee but it will tire them. But no one can realize Junaid’s impossible dream of flourishing in a colony or “expand their horizons” as a collective nation, unless expanding horizons means securing a job within the existing power structures by pandering to the rulers. Show me which people flourished as a subjugated people in a nation of their own. I don’t count the words of my article like Junaid. But I hope they occupy less of GK’s precious column space than his rant aimed at domesticating ‘anarchists and fascists’. But if I were to answer Noor Mohammad Bhat’s question, I would have replied: Sir, please don’t undermine the sacrifices of those young boys by asking this question and subjecting them to them to the public scrutiny of morally confused.”

GROUND REALITY: Government Employee-Militant Nexus Fueled Unrest

DIG Muneer Khan: Stone pelters getting Rs 400 each for Friday stir

Baramulla: Police claimed that there was a nexus between some government employees, Hurriyat (G) cadres and militants in North Kashmir’s apple township to foment stone pelting in Sopore.

It said the maximum chunk of money for stone pelting is raised from the Fruit Mandi Sopore and Bandsaw mills.

“Police has unearthed a module comprising some government employees and Hurriyat (G) cadres, who in close liaison with militants are fomenting stone pelting in Sopore,” DIG North Kashmir Range, Muneer Ahmad Khan said during a press conference.

He said the nexus was exposed after police arrested a person namely Firdous Ahmad Sheikh alias Firbal of Jalal Sahib, Sopore. “During questioning he revealed the nexus between militants particularly Qalimullah of Harkat ul Mujahideen and Abdullah Uni of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hurriyat (G) cadres, some Government employees and the stone pelters. Subsequently numerous arrests were made on his revelation,” he said.
“Ashraf Malik of Batapora (employee of Education Department) is currently in police custody while an employee of Food and Supplies Department Bashir Ahmad Tali of Chankhan, Sopore is absconding. We have launched a manhunt to track him and others involved in fomenting stone pelting in Sopore,” DIG said.

This is for the first time that police has claimed that some government employees are involved in fomenting trouble and stone pelting.

“The militants of Lashkar not only sponsor the stone pelting but also participate physically in the stone pelting in the township,” Khan said.

He claimed that Rs 400 is being paid to youth on every Friday for stone pelting. “We arrested Abdul Lateef Lone, Imam of Jamia Masjid Amargarh Sopore and during questioning he revealed that Rs 400 is being paid to youth on Friday for stone pelting. The money is being raised by Hurriyat (G) cadres from Fruit Mandi Sopore and Bandsaw mills by coercion,” DIG said.

He also claimed that the militants were being supported by the women Over Ground Workers (OGWs) in the town. “We have identified 20 women OGWs and arrested, Raja Begum of model town Sopore after an army official was killed in an encounter at her house earlier this month. She was working as OGW. Another woman is absconding,” he said.

He said the women OGWs provide logistical support to the militants and help them transfer weapons from one place to another.

Giving details of anti militancy operations in Sopore, Khan said 26 militants were killed and 12 others including a foreigner arrested this year.

“Around 40 rifles and other kind of ammunition were recovered from the possession of militants and during search operations,” he said.

He said they have reports that about 15-20 militants are present in Sopore. “Efforts are on to flush them out,” he said.

Terming North Kashmir particularly Sopore town as the doorstep for any militant to operate in valley, Khan said if militants successfully infiltrate anywhere from LoC in north Kashmir, their first entry point is Sopore.

“Two militants namely Qayoom Bajad and Munshi Khan were arrested and during interrogation they confessed that they were managing the safe passage to militants from Sopore to Rajouri,” he said.

He, however, denied presence of Chechen militants in the township. “I have neither saw Chechen militant nor have reports of their presence in Sopore,” he added.

(Asem Mohiuddin, Rising Kashmir)

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