By Junaid Malik
The struggle for a peaceful and dignified life has marked the history of Kashmir for ages. The present epoch has now reached a stage where a generation has nothing but a stone to try and find answers to a decades-old question. And more struggles are to follow even as we have pools of blood and graves.
Kashmir now has become a place where everything is decided by a stone. You need food, pelt a stone; you need electricity to warm yourself, throw a stone; you need healthcare, fling a stone; you need education for your child, give him a stone; you need to say your prayers and you are barred, shower some stones. Even if you want to save your honour and live a peaceful life you have nothing but a stone. This object, which once used to lay foundations of civilisation, has now become the symbol of an unjust and inhumane order in Kashmir.
Today the youth of Kashmir is not alienated and frustrated only because of oppression and colonialist policies, but it is the collective effect of things on a generation that was born under the shadow of despair and the tears of their mothers. This aggrieved generation is sure to be sparked off by any amount of friction in a colonised society.
This alienated and frustrated generation has been stratified in an atmosphere, prevalent in the last three decades, where it feels dejected with one group and stabbed by the other. And these helpless youths keep struggling to find a peaceful and dignified existence.
The crux of this problem is the collective effect of many factors which has negated the growth of a fertile generation: the hurried and politically–driven decisions at the time of Partition, the aftermath of ‘integral part’ theory of India and the ‘jugular vein’ theory of Pakistan, the many promises and their breaking, and that particular section of an enlightened generation who always wanted a free and just society away from the clutches of colonial powers. The youth of Kashmir left no stone unturned, but at the end of the day they found nothing but a stone as an embodiment of years of struggle and strife. These stone-yielding hands are ones which wanted to write a new history of Kashmir. These are youngsters who are more enlightened, more educated, more emancipated and more rational on understanding things. But, in continuation of a sad legacy, they were bruised, tortured and tormented, and their hopes and aspirations attacked.
Today, this alienated youth of Kashmir is fatigued by political, social, educational and psychological trauma. The youth runs from pillar to post to find solace, which is hard to find since each group it turns to basically has a script written by somewhere else. The same group identifies itself with the separatists and with the mainstream, depending on circumstances. But all this means only one thing left in the hands of the youth at the end of the day: the stone. Now they have learnt over the decades that the solution of all their miseries lies within this object, which is easy to find in the streets of the Valley but hard to hit the target with.
This gradual drift from the gun to stones is the result of a multitude of factors during the periods of the Kashmiri struggle. This struggle has passed through different phases, which finally culminated in a ‘stone age’ which has given these alienated youths a sort of platform away from the armed struggle. The uprising of 2008 and 2010 is reminder of the fact as to how the movement has drifted from an armed struggle to civilian unrest. It is pertinent to mention here that the command of this uprising is now being held by the educated and aware youth of the Valley. This can be corroborated from the fact that more than 2,100 cases were registered on stone-pelters, mostly teens and those who are in the prime of their youth, in the 2010 civilian uprising against state oppression and atrocities. Hundreds of PSA cases are being registered on these youth now and then, which gives impetus to the already boiling situation in Kashmir.
Human rights activists are raising their voice more particularly after some startling photographs went viral on social media sites wherein teenage boys were seen handcuffed in court premises. This further maligned the credibility of law enforcing agencies and their ‘civic action programmes’ of counselling these youths. Many international and national NGOs, human rights organisations and civil rights watchdogs are extremely critical of this macabre situation in the Valley. All these factors of arrests and intimidation of youths, torture in police custody, application of draconian laws on teens are giving birth to a generation which in coming times will know nothing but pelting stones for every issue and will also transmit this to the coming generation.
A paradigm shift has been analysed in the last few years that separatist tendencies have become sandwiched between day-to-day issues of society, which collectively has made this militarised zone into a kind of zoo where animals can roam and feed on what they are fed inside limited boundaries. The result of all these issues is the emergence of the ‘sangbaaz brigade’, as they are called, on the streets of Kashmir, in front of guns and cannons.
These last three decades of oppression and uncertainty have turned the youth of Kashmir into lava, which finds its outlets, its fissures, as and when the crest is broken. The extent of mistrust and manipulation has reached such a level that a single yell from a distant corner on social media sites invokes a big response from every nook and corner of the Valley; a recent instance being the rumours of child deaths due to administration of polio drops. An alienated generation that has grown up on fires and explosions will only hold a stone, a stone with which it is scripting the new history of Kashmir. The colonial policies of India, the jugular vein approach of Pakistan, and last but not the least, the archaic ‘strike approach’ of the separatist camp has spoiled this generation. The alienation of this generation can be seen from the fact that some from this young brigade are now associating with pseudo-revolutions which have nothing to do with the Kashmir cause, like the waving of Isis flags. A trend is being seen in Kashmir wherein teens are seen waving Isis flags in front of security personnel. This alludes to the fact that though they may have no sympathy for Isis, they can associate with anything which gives sleepless nights to the security agencies.
The movement, which has passed through different epochs, has finally given a new weapon to this young brigade of Kashmir, the sangbaaz, who are writing a new history of Kashmir with their blood.
—The writer can be reached at: [email protected]