Srinagar: Paramilitary forces guarding pooling booths were bemused by the public boycott of the parliamentary election in Srinagar constituency. Inside most of the booths, the troops were making enquiries as to the reason behind the boycott. One CRPF trooper who was sitting on stairs had a different question. “Kab sudhrega ye Kashmir? (When will this Kashmir improve?)” he asked this reporter. “Ek baar 370 hataao, phir yeh line pe aayega (Remove Article 370 and it will fall in line),” he said in a monologue, while his colleague from SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal) stood by his side.
The CRPF man said he had served in the Valley for three years, from 2003 to 2007. In those days, the forces faced only militants’ attack, he said. “The situation has changed now. Ye patthar-baazi nahi thi (this stone-pelting wasn’t there),” he said.
His colleague from the SSB told him that when people were demanding statehood for Telangana, there had been killings as well. “Humne dat ke ladaa, phir state mila. Kuch paane ke liye kuch khona bhi padta hai (We fought resolutely, only then we won the state. To gain something, one has to lose something),” said the soldier from Telangana with a wry smile.
An ITBP trooper posted at Beerwah said, “We have no idea why people are against us.” He was guarding the polling station at Beerwah Girls Higher Secondary School, which was vacated after protests and stone-pelting by local youths.
“We have never experienced such stone-pelting,” said the ITBP trooper who had come all the way from Jalandhar in Punjab. “Since the day we landed here, we are being stoned. In the morning we were stoned, in the evening we were stoned,” he said.
Along with his other colleagues, he said that politicians were not properly addressing the Kashmir issue.
“We cannot do anything. We are just doing our duty. All this mess has been created by politicians,” the men said.
Referring to the stone throwing, one of the ITBP troopers said that he had given 20 rupees to a six-year-old to buy biscuits for him. “I asked him to keep Rs 10. An hour later, he was at the forefront of throwing stones at me and my other colleagues. I was really confused. The lines here change quickly,” he said.
Just ahead, a CRPF trooper was carrying a bag of marbles. He was using his slingshot to hit the protesters.
“These marbles are used by children for playing. I also played with them when I was a child,” he said. “I think I never grew up. I still play with them,” he observed.