Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stop Casting Stones

Editorial published in Punjab Today 
edition of July 3-9, 2010

Every Friday morning, young men and school boys who should be discussing whether or not to shave their moustaches to impress the girls get together for a ritual in Kashmir valley: throwing stones at the security forces. In the last few days, the ritual was matched by a counter ritual as CRPF and police chose to fire at the protesters. In 18 days, 11 have died, and Paradise has been turned into a valley of death.
The stone-pelting actually has support sites on Facebook and other social networking domains, among these being ‘Kaushar Haatyar—Kann’e Jang’ (Kashmiri weapon—stone pelting) and Anjuman e Himaayat e Sangbazaan e Kashmir (The Association of Supporters of
But the stone pelting has perhaps more socio-cultural layers than the rulers or the police are prepared to deal with, or even acknowledge. Perfectly reasonable youth have been taking up stone pelting every Friday as an almost cathartic experience. While it is possible that the ring leaders may be driven by strong anti-India sentiments, or may have links across the border, as Home Minister P Chidambaram is suggesting, substantial numbers have found in stone pelting their chance to resist.
The valley is these days not the best place for a young man to find his destiny. Even picture postcard perfect towns have often failed to contain the
rush of youthfulness.
Kashmir's young men throwing stones and the women coming out to wail are making a point. They are demanding space for expression of rebellion. That expression is finding an expression even in Punjab. In Kashmir, the youth are throwing stones. In Punjab, they are desperate for jobs and climbing up water tanks, threatening to jump. In Manipur, they are laying road blocks.
The answer lies in engagement. You often have to engage exactly when you are not on the same page.  Because you are not listening, they are gathering the stones. Listen to them, they have a tale to tell. It isn’t easy to skip cricket every Friday in Kashmir, just as it shouldn’t be a way of life to climb atop water tanks at the sight of an education minister in

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