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OLD ISSUE
FROM JAMMU & KASHMIR
Stone Age
Retaliation finds a new expression in the Valley
By Fayaz Wani
Militancy has given way to a new trend in the Valley — stone pelting, which is finding both opposition and favour in unexpected quarters. Even as the government has adopted ‘carrot and stick policy’ towards the miscreants with chief minister Omar Abdullah suggesting a rehabilitation policy for those indulging in stone-pelting, the hardliner Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has criticised this new form of resistance calling upon the youth to shun it. Speaking in the State Assembly in March, the chief minister said that the government was working on a rehabilitation policy for the stone-pelters. “No rehabilitation policy has been framed so far but the government is working on it. When the government can have a rehabilitation policy for militants, why can’t it have a similar policy for stone-pelters,” he said. Terming them as ‘our own boys’, Abdullah said, “I do not want to arrest anyone but I am forced to take such steps,” he said, expressing his surprise that the opposition party was supporting the stone-pelters.
However, it remains to be seen whether Abdullah’s rehabilitation policy can win-over the alienated youth which pours on the streets every Wednesday to vent its anger against the State. It looks like a tall order, especially when both the Separatists and the opposition parties have been blaming the government of using excessive force on the unarmed protestors, which leads to alienation and anger, thereby further pushing youth to stone-pelting.

However, it is not always people versus the state. Often the ordinary citizens become the victim as the death of 11-day-old Irfan showed. The incident which made the national media and got the chief minister to declare that the assailants would not be spared also prompted some amount of soul-searching within the people. So much so, that there were reports that Kashmir’s Grand Mufti, Mufti Bashir-ud-Din has issued a fatwa against stone-pelting calling it unIslamic. While denying that he has issued any such fatwa, Mufti Bashir-ud-Din said that people are better judge and know what is right and wrong. “Most of the people in Kashmir are educated. They should read the holy Quran and themselves realise whether stone pelting is Islamic or not,” the Mufti, who is authorised by J&K government to make decisions on Islamic law and issue fatwas said.

Pelting stones became the favourite form of protest when its lethality discovered during the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation. More than 60 persons were killed in the three-month-long agitation as the police and CRPF opened fire on unarmed protestors. That was the turning point and since then, stone-pelting has become a regular affair. The number of people indulging in such activities is on the rise and they have become more organised. Responding to the call of stone-throwers, Kashmir remained shut for four days recently. The call had been given by a group of masked men to protest the killing of teenagers in police and CRPF shelling and firing. During the four days of strike, stone pelting was reported from most parts of the Valley. Initially, stone pelting was confined to some downtown areas in Srinagar but the ‘menace’ has now spread to other areas of the Valley, especially Baramulla, Sopore in north and Anantnag and Shopian in South.
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