Stone pelting has become a routine feature of street protests in J & K. Kashmir has been witnessing these issues since 1989. If we look at the scenario there since 1989, we will find certain phases running for months, which made us feel that Kashmir has gone out of our hands but the state continues to be a part of India and will remain so in future. The Valley is burning today as it has repeatedly been disillusioned and frustrated with the inconsistent and incompetent governance it has faced, and the governments elected and re-elected over the years. It has witnessed unparalleled demonstrations led by students, including women. The problem of violence and unrest among Kashmiris is due to lack of development, rampant corruption and development funds never reaching the targeted people.
It is not hard to see where the frustration of the educated Kashmiri youth comes from. Student protests have become a new challenge for the administration in Kashmir where the law and order situation has gone downhill. The year 2016 was a tumultuous one in the Kashmir Valley. The gunning down of Burhan Wani, a terrorist who built his image by imaginative use of the social media, was accompanied by an unprecedented, but well-crafted agitation using stone-pelting youths to confront security forces.
Stone pelting is too complex a process, rather a psycho-social phenomenon, to understand. Stone pelter menace is to paralyze the functioning of the valley as a whole. They lay road blocks with large stones on entry points to the encounter the site so that the security forces are delayed in getting their own reinforcements there. Today some people believe that stone pelters are illiterate youths, idle and jobless. Some argue that they are hired by vested interests to create chaos, etc. However, hardly an analysis is done at the grass root level to find out the root cause of the problem. Some say, it is used by youth as a message to convey that though they are not militants with weapons, still they can fight against the forces and defend their honour. It is surprising that the protesters on the streets, apart from the teenagers, are educated doctors and MBAs, frustrated due to lack of employment and economic opportunities. Today’s protesters might shout anti-India slogans such as azadi, but their anger is specifically directed at the security forces in the context of the brutal killings of innocent boys.
Both the government and the Army are doing their best that they can to safeguard the interests of Kashmir, which is legally and constitutionally a part of India. The local political leadership, including that of the opposition, has failed to foster a responsible and mature political culture that can articulate the legitimate aspirations of the people.
Our security forces have always controlled the situation and have done their best. They cannot be expected to keep quiet and some actions may result in the death of one or two persons which in turn triggers bigger protests. We need to find ways to break the cycle of violence in the valley. Don’t we think that it is possible to solve any problem, including the Kashmir issue provided we approach it with an open mind and without getting bogged down by oratory such as Kashmir is an irrevocably integral part of India?
There is no option but to address the Kashmir issue in accordance with the aspirations of the people. Both India and Pakistan must initiate a meaningful dialogue over Kashmir. The administration should open the doors of development and engagement for the vulnerable Kashmiri youth and must listen to their aspirations and address their grievances, if we really want to see a progress and peace in Kashmir.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)