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Asia

Kashmiri protesters take up stones

Stone throwing is a major part of the violence that has gripped the Kashmir Valley since early June. As public anger against Indian rule swells, the security forces seem at a loss as to how to react.

Kashmiri youths protesting in Srinagar on Aug. 3

The youths on the streets of Kashmir are as young as 11

Masked youths are now the ringleaders behind the recent protests in the Kashmir Valley. The sight of young boys hurling stones at heavily armed police and paramilitary contingents or climbing atop police vehicles flashing victory signs, heralds the coming of age of a new generation of freedom fighters.

Indian-administered Kashmir has been on the boil since early June when violent protests against the killing of civilians by security forces erupted.

Nearly 40 civilians have been killed in the past seven weeks – 23 since Friday.

Protests have been going on since early June

Protests have been going on since early June

A Kashmiri intifada against Indian rule?

During this period, Kashmir's towns have seen a wave of brutal clashes between police and protestors, fuelled by a new radical Islamism that has acquired ideological influence among young people. Some are seeing the unrest as a Kashmiri intifada against Indian rule.

"The leaders have not taken any positive steps to better the situation in Kashmir," said Shafayat Qayoom, who has been at the forefront of pitched battles in Magam, a town 30 kilometers away from Srinagar.

"The killings continue and so long as these deaths continue Allah will be with us. We have the strength to counter the forces. Be it the Indian forces or the state police. Whoever takes a wrong step against us will suffer."

Indian army troops have been patrolling the streets

Indian army troops have been patrolling the streets

Stone throwing has taken on new resonance

Stone throwing as a tactic is not new in Kashmir and has been used ever since armed conflict broke out in the late 80s. But this time it has taken on a new resonance for Kashmir’s youth, who make up a majority of the state’s population. Many are dressed in jeans and sport flashy T-shirts emblazoned with images of Che Guevara.

Basheeer Manzar, the editor of Kashmir Images, a popular daily, who has witnessed developments in the Valley over the past two decades, said that there was a difference about the current unrest.

"All the young boys on the streets, all over the Kashmir Valley and not only in Srinagar, are aged 10, 12, 16 or 17. They are very angry. They don’t care about anything. When the militancy started it was a new experiment for Kashmiris but these young boys have grown up amid violence, amid the security forces, the army, the police. They have seen all kinds of brutality so they don’t care about dying. See how they attack the police convoys."

Stone-throwing protesters in the streets of Srinagar

Stone-throwing protesters in the streets of Srinagar

Well-organized brigades

The stone-thrower brigade is well organized. As soon as news of a civilian being injured in police firing emerges from any town or village, they begin to gather in various parts of the Valley to vent their anger against the authorities in a choreographed manner.

"There is a cruel society in Kashmir," said Yusuf Ahmad Dhar, a 15-year-old teenager. "Stone strikers are coming on the roads, protesting against the Indian parties because the killings took place. And that is why we are coming out."

It is still not clear whether separatist groups are fuelling the stone-throwers or if this is a spontaneous movement, as there is no visible leadership among the protesters.

Author: Murali Krishnan (Srinagar)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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