Rage among youth in Kashmir

David vs. Goliath

Srinagar: After many days of undeclared curfew, hartal and severe restrictions on the movement of people, it was a day of freedom on 27 July. I had to go for some shopping and also to understand the mood of people and overhear their conversations over the issue of Aazadi. I was in a bus on my way back to home with a small child of 3-4 years as my companion on the seat holding a new toy gun in his hand. I socialized with the child and enquired what for had he the gun? I was surprised when he confided to me that he would kill the military man with his gun. I was born in late 1980s when the armed insurgency which had just begun and grew up in the gun culture. Such things were no surprise for my generation which is in the prime of youth; but it was difficult to understand such an attitude in the generation which was born after 2005 when the militancy had declined. I pondered deeper and I could comprehend that the sentiments of violence, enmity, resistance and resentment have been transferred to the new generation of infants and children who grew up with mobiles, internet and electronic gadgets in their hands and cartoon shows and movies. The daily atrocities, the conversations of thier elders and the hated figure of a soldier standing on every nook and corner of each alley plus the over-politicized environment, has led to the promiscuous political puberty of the new generation.  

Youth are an asset of every nation and the future rests with them. In Kashmir too they are no exception except the fact that youth have always been the driving force of political resistance. A whole generation of youth became cannon fodder for the armed insurgency and now my generation too is treading on the same path with the substitution of guns by stones while they are getting the same in return, i.e., bullets from Police and Army.

From Land Row Agitation of 2008, youth are dictating terms of the movement and the formation of the indigenous resistance groups of “Stone Pelters” is a new development. They are disgusted by the separatist leadership who have failed to deliver during the last 23 years despite the fact that much blood has flowed on the streets of the Valley. They, on certain occasions, have even defied the separatist leadership and announced their separate programme of hartals. These mysterious masked stone-pelters who even address press conferences are decried as “Pakistani Paid Agents” indulging in agitational terrorism by the Centre and state governments. Even some ‘separatists’ and ‘Maulanas’ from time to time describe their acts of stone-pelting as un-Islamic, but despite all these obstacles, ridicules and detestations all attempts proved futile.

These acts of stone-pelting similar to the Palestinian resistance are proving to be the worst nightmare for the State which is coming down heavily on these stone-pelters and during the current phase only, more than two thousand youth have been arrested or illegally detained by the Police but still stone-pelting continues unabated.  

The Indian and Kashmiri policy makers are naïve and ignorant of the grassroots level situation in the Valley and are trying to suppress the unrest with a heavy hand. Till now they have miserably failed in grasping the same. The daily atrocities and innocent killings have driven the youth to the wall where they wish to put an end to the vicious circle of atrocities and death. Stone-pelting is assumed to be a method to achieve this aim. This generation which has seen so much blood, violence and killings which has made it to overcome the fear of death and let it see ‘eye to eye’ to death during skirmishes and tussle with Police and Military.

If the Police and Army put an end to the atrocities and innocent killings, the acts of stone-pelting too will end as they are reactionary in nature. Instead of reining in the security forces which are supposed to protect the lives of common men, the State is giving them a free hand to kill with impunity, thus fuelling more resistance and resentment.

Instead of remedying the root cause, the State has gone berserk in arresting the youth.  Thousands are now languishing in police stations and jails and some are booked under the notorious Public Safety Act (PSA). While in custody they are tortured verbally, mentally and physically and even some serious allegations of sodomy have been made against the Police personnel. In some cases the youth who were arrested mostly in nocturnal raids, were made to pay heavy sums of money for their release which their families had to arrange somehow.

I remember a meeting with parents and brother of the first suicide bomber of the Valley Afaq Ahmad Shah. They told me that the Police and notorious Special Task Force (STF)’s torture, harassment and intimidation turned a meek, timid and shy boy of 17 into a suicide bomber. So how many Afaqs does the State want to manufacture in Kashmir? The horrendous ordeal which the youth recount to their compatriots when they come out turns them into an enemy of the State. The State itself is responsible for the creation of a breed of die-hard violent dissidents.

I am a witness to this change in many of my friends and acquaintances who till the other day were talking about galz, gadgets and gizmos but today take keen interest in politics and even actively participate in protests. State atrocities perpetrated on people have made them look the other way where they find themselves too vulnerable to be killed any time, but they want to give a chase and tough time to the State and Security agencies before becoming cannon fodder. It rests with the State to put an end to innocent killings and use of brute force against unarmed protestors and end the policy of “bullet for stone”, to understand the heartburn of youth and put them on the path of progress, prosperity and success instead of disparity, destruction and death.  

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2010 on page no. 14

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