The nuances of stone pelting in Kashmir

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New Delhi, July 3 (ANI): Stone pelting has once again achieved centre stage in the politics of Kashmir.

The Valley is witnessing massive agitations accompanied by violence and stone pelting since the beginning of June this year.

There is a need to look for a pattern in the agitational scenario that has been unfolding since the few years.

On 26 May 2008, the government of J and K agreed to transfer 99 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

Violent protests in Kashmir accompanied by stone throwing were triggered immediately. An equally violent reaction from the people of Jammu resulted in the blockade of the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

The turmoil carried on for over two months and led to the fall of the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government on July 7, 2008.

One year later, on May 29, 2009, a young Kashmiri lady Aasiya Jan and her pregnant sister-in-law, Neelofar, were found dead under mysterious circumstances in the Rambiara Nullah in District Shopian of North Kashmir.

The incident led to massive protests across Kashmir, clashes with the police and the inevitable stone throwing.

The agitation subsided in mid-July 2009.

This year, the trigger was provided by the death of a teenager, Tufail Ahmad Matoo, on June 11, 2010 in the Rajouri Kadal area of Srinagar during clashes between stone pelting youths and the security forces after Friday prayers.

Post this incident, ding dong battles between the security forces and violent protestors, ably supported by professional stone throwers, have become a daily happening in areas of downtown Srinagar and North Kashmir.

As the time approached for the first batch of Amarnath pilgrims to enter into Kashmir, the protest somehow shifted to South Kashmir, from where the pilgrimage begins.

Since June, 11, eleven precious lives have been lost in this meaningless violence.

The foregoing amply illustrates that reasons for protest have differed over the years but the methodology and the timing, from beginning May to July end, has remained more or less the same.

This is the time when the summer holiday season is coming to an end, and the Kashmiri tourist industry has earned its keep for the year. This is also the time for the sensitive and politically charged Armarnath Yatra to begin. It is evident that some vested interests are keeping the Valley on the boil at this particular period every year.

The common perception that is being assiduously created is that these widespread protests are the result of frustration of a long suffering population.

Actually the use of stone pelting as a political tool in not new in Kashmir, there are many recorded incidents of stone pelting between the workers of the National Conference and the Muslim Conference which go back to pre-independence days, these incidents caused widespread damage to both life and property.

Jinnah, Nehru, Khan Abdul Gafar Khan, Maulana Azad, the Viceroys wife, the Maharani of J and K, all have been greeted with stone pelting in the Valley at one time or the other.

Post-Independence, political demands, student movements or inter-party rivalry have witnessed the use of stone pelting to gain political mileage and put up a show of strength.

A comparison is also being drawn between the Palestinian Muslims of the Gaza strip and these "jeans and Nike" clad young men in Kashmir.

It is being conveniently forgotten that the Palestinian Muslims have been fenced out of their homeland while the Kashmiri's are enjoying the fruits of an elected democracy and civil liberties comparable to the most enlightened in the world.

Such are the political compulsions of those who follow this path that stone pelting has not abated the same being declared as un-Islamic by the Grand Mufti of J and K, Maulana Bashir-ud-Din has.

One also wonders if indeed there is something spontaneous about these protests. If so then what accounts for the ready availability of the stones? How come these pelters have the foresight to partially hide their faces as well?

Moreover how does one explain the fortuitous presence of media at the critical time and space? Obviously such events are planned well in advance and the whole process reeks of insidious strategy and orchestration.

The seriousness with which the destabilising potential of these protests is measured has to be viewed in the context of the geographic area to which they are confined and the number of people who respond to the call.

No effect of this tool of agitation in being felt in Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi, Doda, rural areas of the Kashmir Valley, large swathe's of land within the Valley like Gurez and the Ladakh region. Thus disruption of normal life due to stone pelting, though reprehensible, is not critical enough to be seen as a sentiment of the people as a whole, instead, it should be viewed as a law and order problem. By Jaibans Singh (ANI)

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