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Criminals On The Loose On Streets: Why Stone-pelting Does Not Stop

The killing of 22-year old R Thirumani of Chennai, as a result of injuries sustained when he was accidentally caught in a stone-pelting scene, in Budgam district of Jammu & Kashmir, one would think, is the first recorded death caused by stone pelting, that has since become national news. Millions of stones have been hurled over several decades in Kashmir, at our army men, police and innocent people, including children. It is therefore mystifying why after thirty years of unremitting stone pelting on a weekly, daily and sometimes hourly basis, the first death is only now being acknowledged and reported. This calls for some deeper thinking. This could logically mean only two things: either the stone pelters are extremely poor marksmen or suffer from malnutrition, that their favoured projectiles leave their hands but don’t reach their targets, the heads of their perceived enemies. Or that their targets have been so agile that they have been able to see the stones in time and dodge them, time after time and escape death. But what is inescapable is the fact that these stones are meant to kill.

The picture of Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, consoling the father of the murdered young man (yes, he was murdered) appears as the picture of compassion and pity. She seems to have suddenly discovered that stone pelting can kill people, only when to her chagrin the victim turned to be young tourist, not one among the vile Indian Army or police. All these years when stones were being hurled, the possibility never crossed her mind. It occurred to none from Kashmir. Not the Abdullahs nor the Geelanis. No wonder, only recently she pardoned hundreds of stone pelters and granted them reprieve believing their hearts have reformed (doesn't matter how unlikely a prospect that is!) Her acquiescing, ever obliging coalition partner in the J & K government and at the Centre, also did not think once of objecting to her magnanimous decision. After all, stone-pelting at Indians is Kashmiri youths’ sport, a talent to be honed, a calling to be pursued, taught by the elders in their family to be a sacred and pious duty essential to achieve manhood.

Ms. Mufti and every leader of her ilk is perhaps worried that this act will blow the lid off their carefully cultivated image over the years of the Kashmiri stone throwers, the reason for which is not hard to fathom: The aazadi and jihad in Kashmir is intricately linked to the image of the stone thrower, that of the poor, oppressed Kashmiri victims of the ruthless Indian regime. 

Tihar Jail at one time housed many a stone pelter. They were known as ‘pattharbaaz’ group. It was one such group of six people who I came in contact with and who told me where and how they practiced this art. (Yes, they see it as an art.)

24-year old Parvez (name changed) had told me with visible glow of reminiscence of the time when he threw his first stone at the Indian Army... at the age of nine. His father had hugged him in exultation and called all the male members of his family and proclaimed him a man of the house. When Parvez boasted that his stone had bloodied the face of an army man, the celebration in the home had been even more jubilant. Whether the soldier died consequently or had been maimed for life, was in all likelihood not entered in any record, it will never be part of any statistic that would make it a matter of concern for the authorities. It is not difficult to pass it as death due to injury. It obviously never made it to the news even in passing reference, leave alone be a headline for even a day. Friends of Parvez had nodded along through his narration and shared that they too had gone through the same rite of passage in their families.

So, does R Thirumani’s tragic death have the possibility to change the status quo in Kashmir? Has it evoked the underlying humanity of Kashmiris as is claimed and being touted in the media? Unfortunately, this is just a fond hope of the naïve. The death of the young man that the whole of India is shocked about today, to the Kashmiri, is only a tourist who symbolizes flow of money to Kashmir and which is in danger of drying up. Easy money (for a people who shun industry) the only thing almost every Kashmiri living in the valley considers of value, apart from their 'aazadi' and jihad. If it peters out, it can seriously jeopardise the lazy life they have led, on Indian State aid (aside from perks of stone pelting and looted properties of Kashmiri Pandits).

Therefore, for the first time we see condemnation of this stone pelting incident. From Ms. Mufti to Mr. Omar Abdullah and, hold your breath, from even the separatist leaders! For say what would happen if the tourists now stop coming out of fear of getting killed or maimed?! Last time that happened, it was twenty nine years ago. The average Kashmiri had come to the verge of starvation and every 'otherwise peace-loving' Kashmiri had put down their stones and told the gun toting militants to buzz off. One stone hit wrongly, at the wrong time and at the wrong person, could upset the whole apple cart. Some of them must be thanking their stars that it did not hit a white skin from Europe. Liberals and human rights groups would find it very hard to sympathise with the 'cause'.

So, the reality of stone pelters has to be carefully hidden from the rest of the world: that they are willing, paid participants in the daily 'street jihad', thoroughly islamised and lacking the slightest compunction or human consideration, part of the extremists' calculated plan to frustrate a disciplined army constrained with code of honour and fair play, and the lily-livered, irresolute political establishment they are answerable to. Everyone who has any voice in Kashmir, those demanding 'aazadi', every Hurriyat type has joined the average 'peace loving Kashmiri' (and so must they always be referred to, irrespective of the reality) who cried slogans of 'death to infidels', has agreed that there would be universal condemnation for at least a little while now. The tourists must not be frightened away from coming to Kashmir. There would be no stone throwing by the 'poor, unemployed' youth (for fear that this should become their actual and permanent situation) ...for a few days at least. There would be talks arranged on the value of insaniyat... sorry, 'kashmiriyat'. Till the 'Indians' (read: accursed infidels) have put the incident behind them and start coming again bringing in the moolah. Of course, it is the other side which have created the Kashmir problem, not the "innocent" Kashmiris.

Will now a few leftist liberals be roped in for the desired dressing of the salad that is being prepared? It depends on how quickly the Indians and the world forget this tragedy. (So far it appears they have forgotten it rather swiftly!) Some might speak about R Thirumani’s bright life being cut short, pour forth tributes and light candles for one who became a victim of the present intolerable regime. They might slip in the suggestion in the sly, that if the Kashmir problem had been solved by India, this young man and every other young man from Kashmir of his age, some of whom were killed by Indian army, innocent boys labelled as terrorists, would not have lost their lives. They would solemnly urge all parties to 'give up their differences' and the present party in power in particular, to 'find a solution for [the elusive] lasting peace in Kashmir'. Of course they would have to be careful not to invite any condemnation of stone pelters or imputation on their ideology for this violence over thirty years.

But under no condition, in no event, neither in this case nor the countless deaths caused by such violent, hostile Islamic mobs in the three decades of the 'Kashmir Problem' will there be a denouncement brought upon the instigators or actors of stone-pelting.

Fact is, that stones have been thrown all along and that they are always meant to kill. Every young man who picks up a stone is doing so to kill an infidel and will suffer no guilt or shame if his act achieves the desired end, in fact just the opposite, they would go down on their knees and thank their Allah. Maiming is not enough. It is merely a missed opportunity. It is death and death alone that they wish inflict. Why is the lethality of stone pelting, its barbaric nature (it is always aimed at someone’s head. Ask any stone pelter) and its use by children never condemned by their elders who witness it?

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CRPF Jawan of 177 Batallion critically injured in Sopore of North Kashmir in a stone pelting incident on forces. Serious injury on head. (Source: https://t.co/vypxixhj3I)

Sometime during the heydays of terrorism in Kashmir, in the 90s, Parvez told me, “My Abbu encouraged me. He would smile every time I told him I threw a stone and it hit a soldier’s head. Once when I told him that I threw a stone and the driver of the truck lost his balance, my Abbu gave me one rupee and embraced me for joy! He never stopped me from throwing stones and after I bloodied a soldier I became a hero in my area.”

“But did you never think that you may kill someone, even at that young age?

“No, he replied, I learnt from my elders that throwing stones at infidels is a holy act and there is a special place in heaven reserved for them who do so. It has been done, recommended to pick up stones to end injustice in the world. If you read our history, you will know. Stones have been picked up and thrown for punishment, for everything what is considered immoral and oppressive.” [By "his history" was meant of course, the history of Islam and Quranic accounts, and those in the Islamic holy texts].

“So how is one supposed to do it, that is, throw stones?” I had asked.

“It is not a mechanical thing that you pick up a stone from the ground and throw it. It is a ritual akin to prayer that one aims and targets at the enemy taking the name of God. Then one never misses,” Parvez told me with a smile.

Parvez had shown me two skills. He picked up two small stones and hit one in air and then the other one. The second one hit the first one midair and the two fell together. The second was when he made a small pile of stones at a distance and after closing his eyes hit the mound without seeing. “That is the way an average stone thrower develops his art,” he had told me.

“Any enemy, however powerful, can be brought to his knees by stone throwers, our Abbus told us. Every Kashmiri knows in their heart of hearts that if 'aazadi' ever comes it will be because of stone pelters.”

“Will you ever stop stone pelting?” I had asked them.

“No, never. It will never stop. It is the identity of six million Kashmiri Muslims,” was his answer.  

Looking far away he said, “One day every child will pick up stones in Kashmir and throw them high. That day the sky of Kashmir will turn black and bring 'aazadi'.”

The tragic death of R Thirumani and the grief it has caused has the potential to bring to an end the sadistic and barbaric practice of stone throwing. But the change will not come from the side of the remorseless throwers enacting a hate-filled ideology ceaselessly over centuries. It will, if at all, be brought about in the form of a resolute, unified people with a unified purpose, who bring pressure to bear upon the Indian establishment to effectively, stridently deal with this horrific crime, and not be weakened by convoluted appeals to human rights of those who act against all considerations of humanity. I pray that things change, sooner than later, and the conscience of every Indian is shaken, so that more lives are not lost, at least not on account of Indians' own self-centredness and apathy towards their fellow countrymen.

Author: Rajat Mitra

Published: May 13, 2018

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