“I got no pistol, ain’t got no sword; I got no Army, ain’t got no land;
All I got is stones in my hand.”
– Lyrics of the Everlast song
‘Stones in My Hand’.
It was 22 years ago that the Kashmiri mass struggle for throwing away the yoke of Indian servitude surfaced and during this time span a whole new generation has come of age, living under the shadow of the Indian bayonet. These youngsters, much opposed to the Indian fabricated perception of uneducated youth hijacked and brainwashed into adopting terrorism as a way to express their affinity for freedom, are blazing new trails to fight India’s State suppression. Their weapon in this fight is not the guns and their aim not to shed the Indian blood, but instead demonstration of an ironclad will to prevail upon the State tyranny through a display of mass yet non-violent resistance.
This transformation of the Kashmiri struggle, encompassing massive street demonstrations, draws a parallel with the Palestinian intifada, which has given the dispossessed Palestinian youth power to challenge the might of the Israeli army. Adopting a pattern of protest refined by their brethren on the dusty streets of Gaza, the rebellious Kashmiri youth’s preferred expression of discontent are stones, hurled with a passion that is reflective of suppressed anger accumulated over the entire span of their young lives. In an environment carrying the whiffs of the Arab spring, this is no light matter for the Indian establishment to shrug off; whose contrived image of a Kashmiri freedom fighter carries the spurious patent of “cross border terrorism” syndrome.
The latest transformation in Kashmiri struggle took shape and form in the summer of 2008 when a teenager, Tufail Matoo, was killed by the tear gas canister fired by an Indian soldier. The spark of his tragic death soon turned into an uncontrollable bushfire of grassroots mutiny of the Kashmiri population. This massive social upheaval lasted for three months and involved hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets all over the Kashmir valley.
The spirit of this non-violent resistance was encapsulated by the fact that despite over a 100 demonstrators falling victim to the Indian bullets, no missiles other than stones were hurled by the youth to register their alienation with the Indian suppression of the Kashmiri resolve. Even as this nascent movement was ultimately suppressed by the force of arms, it heralded coming of age of the Kashmiri non-violent, yet powerful resistance, spearheaded by its youth; the baton of responsibility to defeat the unethical and brutish Indian occupation of Kashmir had been passed on to a new generation.
In hindsight, much like the Arab Spring, the revolt by the youth had been fermenting since long and June 2008 killing of Matoo was the moment of its powerful launch. By that eventful summer, the air of the valley was heavy with stench of oppression and something had to give way. Angana Chatterjee, who co-authored the damning report on the mass graves in Kashmir, described the disgusting state of affairs in the fabled Kashmiri landscape; pocked with “detention and interrogation centres, army cantonments, abandoned buildings, bullet holes, bunkers and watch towers, detour signs, deserted public squares….…and vehicular and electronic espionage.”
With their future looking bleak and ominous, the youth, its large segment educated and well versed with contemporary cyber culture, had to make a move. Beckoning it forward was the stoic patience of the civil society, which had peacefully begun illuminating the wanton killing of the Kashmiri population by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
By then the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) had begun developing new and effective vistas to draw global focus over the unending pain of Kashmir. During spring 2008, a benchmark was reached when APDP quietly unmasked a well documented report and published the locations of mass grave sites, used by the Indian security forces as dumping grounds, containing bodies of the victims of fake encounters, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses.
Facts Under Ground - the APDP’s compiled document - listed graves’ sites of at least 940 people discovered in 18 villages of Uri District. The Indian army claimed that those buried were “foreign militants” killed during military encounters, but the report presented testimonies of locals asserting that those buried were indigenous Kashmiris. This cry in the wilderness was heard by some.
In July 2008, the European Parliament during its plenary session in Strasbourg France adopted a protest resolution about the existence of mass graves in Kashmir and called upon the Indian government to “urgently ensure independent and impartial investigations into all sites of mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir and as immediate first step to secure the grave sites in order to preserve the evidence.”
The Kashmiri youth has grasped the reality that they have a strong case to break the spell of Indian propaganda and it is finding ways and means to make its voice heard. As Emily Wax reported from Kashmir for the Washington Post, one of the videos that went viral last summer was made by a Kashmiri computer graduate, who “edited a powerful video to the lyrics of the Everlast song Stone in My Hand and posted it on the YouTube, prompting the police to launch a manhunt for him.”
In much contrast to the Indian created hype, the message is beginning to get across that the young stone-pelters of Kashmir are no pawn of the ‘jihadi terrorists’ being manipulated from across the border, but are educated and tech savvy youngsters who are beginning to feel the power of the dispossessed.
The writer is a freelance columnist.