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OLD ISSUE
FROM JAMMU & KASHMIR
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Continuous stone pelting takes its toll on the security forces
By Inayat Jehangir
The vicious cycle of protests-killings-protests in Kashmir has witnessed 62 persons getting killed in firing by the police and paramilitary CRPF but the incessant stone pelting, which has led to longer hours of deployment on the roads of Valley, has taken a psychological toll on the security forces.

Recently, two constables of the state police were disarmed and sent to ‘protective psychiatric treatment’ after they showed signs of being on the verge of breakdown. Constable Rajendra Singh (name changed) was sent to Psychiatric Hospital Jammu while Constable Sajjad Ahmad (name changed) had to be admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital Srinagar after the psychiatrists declared them ‘high risk’ in dealing with law and order situations.

“Constable Singh was suffering from bouts of hallucination. His was a clear psychotic case as he would imagine being pelted with stones even when he was inside the police hospital,” a counselor, who attended to the jawan, said. Singh would often talk about not wanting to die due to stone pelting. “I do not want to be stoned to death. One should die in a dignified manner,” Singh would often murmur.

The case of Constable Aijaz Ahmad was not so severe but was nonetheless considered as a risk to be put on law and order duties. Psychoanalysis of his condition led the doctors to conclude that he was malingering to avoid being posted on the trouble-torn streets of the Valley.

Although senior police officials dismiss these as isolated cases, the psychologists at the Police drug de-addiction centre, which also provides counseling to the cops, say the number of malingerers is increasing. “If you look at the ordinary policeman or CRPF jawan, he is posted on the street for as long as 18-hours-a-day. Even officers to the rank of Station House Officers have been living out of their police stations for the past two months. Couple it with the constant battle with the stone throwing boys and the chances of suffering psychological problems increase exponentially,” says one of the counselors at the de-addiction centre on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media.

He maintains that the other major factor responsible for abnormal behaviour of the forces is the strong bond of camaraderie amongst them. “The lower ranked personnel generally spent more time with each other than with their families which develops a strong bond between them. If one of them gets injured during clashes with protestors, the others are definitely going to be affected,” he adds.

While over 60 protestors have been killed in the security forces firing, the police and CRPF personnel have also been on the receiving end. More than 1,800 personnel including officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and Deputy Commandants have been injured during stone pelting.

As both sides — the protestors and the security forces — can genuinely claim to be victims of the situation, how does Kashmir wriggle itself out of this situation, which the authorities in Delhi and Srinagar claim are fuelled by separatist elements and their ‘masters’ from across the border.

It will be fool hardy to rule out the element of instigation from across the border, given the role played by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir over the decades, but do these instigators hold so much sway over the people of the Valley that they pour out in hundreds of thousands on the streets after every alleged human rights violation? Chief Minister Omar Abdullah after a recent meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union home minister P. Chidambaram claimed that ‘foreign funds’ were finding their way into his state for fuelling the unrest.

However, the situation on the ground is not as simple as it would put a question mark over the massive participation of people in the Assembly elections in the Valley in winter of 2008. The Valley witnessed a turnout of 50 per cent in those elections, which were held just three months after a massive uprising in Kashmir during the Amarnath land row.
Are people of Kashmir so naïve to get carried out by instigators from Islamabad or New Delhi just at the drop of the hat?
Revisiting the history of this border state, particularly the Valley, would be helpful in understanding the genesis of present crisis — stone pelting and resultant dance of death. The phenomenon of stone pelting in Kashmir dates back to 1931 when the people of Kashmir, oppressed by the Dogra rulers, dared to raise the banner of revolt and took to roads and streets of the Valley.
The agitation in 1931 was spearheaded initially by Muslim religious leaders but turned out be the platform which propelled the tallest leader yet from Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to the forefront of the political scene. Abdul Qadeer Khan, whose place or origin is still a matter of debate even after nearly 80 years, used to make fiery speeches against the Dogra Maharaja and his autocratic rule. He was arrested on the charges of sedition and was to go on trial from 13 July 1931.
On the appointed day, Kashmiris turned out in thousands to protest against the arrest of their hero. The Dogra police retaliated by opening fire on them, killing 22 persons on the spot. The people of Kashmir gave them the status of martyrs and after the end of Dogra rule, the day is observed as Martyrs’ Day not only by the separatists but even by the government. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has been condemning the stone pelting incidents, has been paying homage to these martyrs since jumping into politics in 1998.
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