Stone Pelters in Kashmir and the Elephant in the Room

via Dr. Vijaya Rajiva published on July 22, 2010

In June-July 2010, when 15 civilians were killed in clashes in the Kashmir Valley all hell broke loose and the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) was subjected to a second wave of stone throwing ,this time in the writings of some misguided and naive journalists . While the death of innocent civilians is always a cause for sorrow, the blame cannot be pinned solely on the CRPF. An investigation must be undertaken, especially after the revelation of the intercepts where the raucous voices were calling for more martyrs  for the cause of azad. The woman looking out from her window could just as easily have been killed by someone in the crowd. And what, for heaven’s sake, was a 9 year old child doing in a stone pelting jamboree ?  

Fortunately, Arundhati Roy has not yet made an appearance. She  has been strangely silent on the Indian scene after her misadventures with the Maoists. Let us keep our fingers crossed ! Bharat does not need her antics. Best that she does the international gallery rounds. Let us pray !

Even a sensible journalist like Vinod Mehta(editor of Outlookindia) asked : if the youngsters of Srinagar want azadi (freedom) so desperately should we not consider giving it to them ? Never
mind that the trouble started with stone pelting elsewhere in the valley. Never mind that the trouble was only in 4 places in the Valley. Never mind that one swallow does not make a spring. Never mind that  coached youngsters provoked a conflict and that the dangerous hand behind can easily be detected.

One of the columnists of Outlookindia (Saba Naqvi) wrote  a la di dah piece focused on the ‘anger’ of the youth of Srinagar. There is an air of unreality about the article. Much of her writing has that quality, and her pronouncements on television programs on related topics are basically more of the same.

(‘ Writing on the Menhir ‘ Outlookindia,July 26,2010)

The present writer was drawn to the article by the picture of solid stones being carted away by the CRPF. While it doesn’t take much skill and effort for young people to throw these smoothly cut stones (where did they come from, one wonders) it must take a lot of gullibility not to see that this stone pelting was not random or spontaneous but carefully planned. The stones had not been picked up at random. These smoothly cut bricks and stones had been commissioned and delivered by deadly hands. Indeed, some stone throwing associations have been set up in the Valley. One has to wonder where the funds came from and how these stone throwers managed to receive Rs. 300  per day for their efforts. The intercepts, with a raucous voice calling for some more martyrs for azadi,tell the story.

That intercept episode must obviously be investigated. Mehooba Mufti’s duplicitous remark that intercepts have always been there, should also be looked into.
No, Mr. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq (Hurriyat), the stones may not have come from Pakistan,   but certainly some other things did. In this context Bharat must seriously revisit the notion of moderate Hurriyat and extremist Hurriyat. Azadi is not an entitlement for any state in the Union.

There were the usual assortment of pundits and political commentators who spoke about
alienation and anger etc. ,some listing unemployment, others the alienation of people
living in a police state etc. It is to the credit of some television channels such as Times Now that the public got to see the lone CRPF policeman flat on the ground being surrounded by a
group of  youngsters with bats and and being thrashed mercilessly by them.He used only his arms to defend  himself.   Likewise the story of the CRPF man who was blinded when the stone  hit his cornea and damaged it permanently or the many CRPF who had been injured
grievously and even killed in these incidents. The human rights activists had  conveniently gone back to their woodwork.

Kanchan Gupta of The Pioneer did a service to the nation by a detailed report of what
goes on with the  security forces side and the grievous injuries they have sustained in this and the continuous losses they suffered in other episodes (‘ Let’s not defame the armed forces’, The Pioneer, July 11,2010).

But hey, the CRPF  and their grieving families are not persons, they are just automatons,
whose fate is to endure their lot, while the spin doctors of Bharat’s metropolises berate them for their thankless task in Kashmir. Human rights exist only for the civilians but
not it seems for Bharat’s security and defence personnel.

If Kashmir is a confused state, that confusion has been inherited from the circumstances of it being a spoilt child of Bharat. Of the nearly 1 billion citizens of the subcontinent, poverty and deprivation are not new to the majority. The Centre has poured in inordinate amounts of money into Kashmir. It has been estimated that per capita the Centre invests 10 times more on a Kashmiri than on a Bihari.

And, ofcourse, no one pays any heed to the elephant in the room ,Article 370, which
gives special status to Kashmir.It prohibits citizens from the sister states in  Bharat from owning land in Kashmir  or travelling  freely there.

Whereas a Kashmiri can purchase land elsewhere in Bharat and travel there freely.
Many do. They have set up shops, own businesses, find local employment. Kashmir has
its own constitution and has its own flag. What on earth was Jawaharlal Nehru thinking
of when he left this legacy to Bharat ?

The human rights activists who jumped up and down at ‘Mumbai for Mumbaikers’ have
been strangely silent at this anomaly. The sooner the anomalous Article 370 is abolished, the better the chances that Kashmir will be saved from self inflicted wounds. It was intended as a temporary measure, in any case. The Kashmir philosophy seems to be:
what is mine is mine and some of yours too !

While the common man in Kashmir may not feel any dislike for Bharat(the experience with the Amarnath pilgrims alone tells the story) the educated classes seem to be infected by that Pakistani ailment : a  permanent grudge towards Bharat. This grudge too is nursed in Pakistan by the Punjabi elite who have never seriously grappled with their civil society’s inability to deal with the government, the army and the ISI. Periodically one sees human rights groups and writers trot down to Bharat and hold meetings there. But is there a serious movement to challenge the repressive regime in Pakistan ? Or is Bharat left to carry that ball also ?

The Pakistani virus  may spread in Kashmir  and must be handled at the earliest. The separatists are a vicious lot, and Mehbooba Mufti and the PDP are two faced. The centre can call, as it is now doing, for an all parties conference to deal with the present situation. Talk of development is a red herring. Much of it has already been initiated by various plans and projects of the Centre. Kashmir cannot always ask for more and not return anything to the sister states.

  More importantly, the educational system must teach youngsters the history of Kashmir, a history which is not all about Partition, or manufactured azadi sentiment, but about ancient and medieval history also.

This would place the problem in an historical context and show young Kashmiris that
their state has a long history where the Bharatiya presence was indelibly there in the shape of religion, culture, art and architecture since ancient times. Islam was a late comer to the scene and even there Kashmiri Islam developed differently from Arab-Turkish Islam owing to the civilisational heritage of Bharat. The Talibanisation of Pakistani society must surely quiten  those stone throwing youngsters wearing running shoes and jeans and stop their induction to a retrograde political movement like azadi.

And parents would do well to keep young children in the safety of their homes during stone pelting theatrics.

The young man in Naqvi’s article complained that Bharat does not take Kashmir seriously. This is, ofcourse, not true. But one could ask this young man : do Kashmiris  take the  sister  states of Bharat seriously ?

To return to Vinod Mehta’s question . Arun Jaitley, in a debate with Mehbooba Mufti said clearly and distinctly: Azad is not a distant dream, it is an impossibility.

This is because the Independence Act which created Pakistan  also allowed for the validity of the accession of princely states to either Pakistan or India. Kashmir’s Maharajah acceded to India. Period. End of story. The subsequent history of confusion and muddlement was a disaster that was brought on by the incompetence of the Nehru government. And the present Cogress governement is set on the same course. The charming duo of the father son Abdullahs have to pull their weight more substantially.

Omar simply has to shut up and not talk about half baked ideas of autonomy. There is much talk of the Muslim vote bank.  What Muslim vote bank ? The bugaboo set upby the Congress ? No sensible Muslim in Bharat would want to leave a pluralistic democracy. As for residual sympathies for fellow Muslims, it is time for a genuine self searching in the community.

There is no evidence at all that Muslims in Bharat would support azad in Kashmir. Occasionally one sees the spectacle   of mullahs covertly preaching pan Islamism as the reason for azad.

It is time for the government of India and the opposition parties to get together and formulate a national policy that will call for the abolition of Article 370. At that juncture Kashmir will stop being the spoiled child of Bharat and will take its proper place among all the states of the Union.

(The writer is a Political Scientist who taught at a Canadian university).

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