There is an old universal saying that “violence begets violence”. If a rock is thrown at the armed forces, the response is gunfire, resulting in death, injury or the loss of eyesight.
This violence is a two way street. The youth seem to think that stone pelting is a way to get their rights ever since the Indian forces entered the valley in 1947. They take their frustrations out on the armed forces that ring the entire Kashmir Valley.
The overwhelming presence these armed forces, just about everywhere, on the roads and
highways, streets, shopping Centers, residential areas, every village, every mohalla, every city and town, just to mention a few places is a provocation to the youth.
Thus the local police and the armed forces become a target. If these armed forces were not so
visible, the youth would not have any target to throw stones at. Any psychologist can explain that. I have had the personal experience of negotiating peace between the armed forces and the stone pelters.
The Indian armed forces are hated and looked at as occupiers. The Indian authorities cannot seem to understand that(or do not want to accept that) and use a different strategy rather than armed oppression is beyond any one’s imagination.
Considering the total lack of attempts being made by the Indian authorities to have a dialogue with the people of Kashmir, builds up the anger inside of the hearts of the youth. They feel attacked(Pulwama College), ignored and insulted.
This has been the case ever since Mr. Gulab Singh supposedly purchased the Valley of Kashmir from the British in 1846( as if they owned the valley) for a mere Rs. 75 lakhs(less than what a home can be built today). Added to this is the complete lack of leadership which could provide a vision and some direction to the youth and explain the detrimental effects of violence and using peaceful means is a way to go.
Kashmiris have historically been peaceful and passive people. They were never exposed
to the gun. This violence has been thrust upon them and the consequences are the violent response from the youth.
This reminds me a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the famous Civil Rights leader of the USA, who using non-violent means to bring about a revolution in that country, He said “Peace is the greatest weapon in the world…not the USA, not Russia, not the nuclear weapons…the results of Peace overcomes the plunder of war and violence”
This stone pelting is exploited and gives the negative image about Kashmiris to the world, as being violent, dangerous and at times referred to as “terrorists”. Now that both the Indian authorities and the state authorities seem to have recognized that the feelings of the youth need to be addressed, as well as the causes behind this violence, here are some of my suggestions to the youth leaders as well as powers to be:
- A coordinated effort should be made by all the different youth groups throughout the Valley and decide to declare a unilateral ceasefire on the condition that all the CRPF personnel and the armed forces are removed from the roads and streets and other places throughout the Valley. Give the authorities 30 days to accomplish this. This announcement should be made public.
- The youth should be allowed to take out Peace Marches, without flying any flags of other countries. If they choose to fly any flags, those should be neutral like a plain green flag or the one with a chinar leaf in the crescent. They can also carry a banner with Peace messages like ” We want Peace, Justice, Prosperity and Dignity” for Kashmir and Kashmiris. No slogans shall be allowed.
- The local police and the armed forces shall not be allowed to use force on these Peace Marchers.
- Youth should be released from various jails.
- Since pro-freedom and pro-India parties are unable to seek any dialogue with the Indian authorities, the youth should take the lead, seek help and guidance from experienced consultants in Peace & Conflict Resolution and offer to make a proposal to the Indian authorities for ways and means of bringing about some sort of normalcy in the Valley.
Should all the concerned parties be willing to commit to this process, there might be a possibility of bringing about some degree of normalcy in the Valley, thus helping develop an environment for further negotiations for the resolution of the conflict.
The writer is a Kashmiri-American Consultant on Peace & Conflict Resolution and Executive Director, Kashmir Peace Network.
(The views expressed are his own)