2008, 2010 and 2016, three mass uprisings have seen propulsion from Kani Jung or stone pelting. Let’s understand how stone pelting works, how it has morphed politics in Kashmir and altered the dynamics of the whole equation.
Political power is either derived from the support of the people or by suppression of the people. Suppression and support, much like stone pelting comes from the street. The underlying politics of stone pelting in Kashmir are not complicated at all, but are sought to be thought of as nothing more than a bunch of imprudent youth who have nothing else to do. What happens when one single person hurls stones at anyone, he’s a madman, what happens when an entire population hurls stones, or at least feels like hurling stones, it is a political statement to be strict, and it is political power to be generous.
A hero is someone who is finite and expendable like the rest of us are what makes him a hero is the ability to conquer fear, make sacrifice and challenge the enemy, no matter how powerful the enemy is. The hero does not need to win, for he has already conquered the only potent weapon of the enemy—fear. This phenomenon made Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander, a hero, and hence every unknown stone pelter is a hero, there are so many stone pelters than exclusivity kills the heroism and they become unsung heroes. They dare India, the military, the paramilitary, the police, the spies, the civil administration or the Indian state altogether. They are ‘miscreants’ for the status quo or the ‘normalcy’ that India tries to sell as ‘peace’. This status quo has been achieved by a genocidal execution of Kashmiris. The stone pelters are heroes for a population that has been choked into helplessness. India’s rule is destroyed the moment it takes a stone to leave a stonepelter’s hand and it hits an armored Indian vehicle, momentarily though. It goes away so fast that we don’t even realize the Indian rule was just destroyed. Fear and trepidation is what the entire machinery of an occupation uses to keep the population subjugated. Rebellion is what destroys the fear that the machinery of an occupation has managed to generate. The rebellion has outpoured itself in the form of stone pelting. The blood and tears of Kashmiris have snowballed and evolved into stones—they haunt India. The boys are merely carters of this evolution.
A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something is called a protest, the means and methods may vary vastly with some being approved and others being disapproved, some being violent and others non-violent. India with its intimidating 1 million forces in Kashmir is violent in its antecedents; there is force and the threat of use of force. A violent occupation of this scale would, as an effect, obliterate any space for non-violent means, frustrate the resistance into pelting stones. The penal system has the concept of assault and battery, assault is the threat of use of force and battery is the actual use of force. Kashmir remains in a perpetual assault, and the battery is “looked into” with every fresh killing. The stone when flung is not thrown at the police or the Indian paramilitaries; it is intended to hit the Indian occupation and to make a statement of protest that with or without means, with or without weapons, we fight the Indian occupation. We are as rudimentary and as powerless as a stone, but we have not given up. We have rejected India, we have inherited a fight, we are the rebels, we want India out; they have subdued us militarily but we are here, fighting back with nothing but a stone. The stone has power because we are powerless, politics follows power, always. It happens in this case too. By the power of a flung stone, the Kashmir dispute reverberates in the United Nations, it forces the governments in India and Pakistan to change their policies, quickly. It makes them even nervous and frustrates them into making grievous mistakes. It has the power to alter foreign policy, for example, India erroneously talking about Baluchistan, it very well appears a stone hit the Indian Prime Minister’s head. This is neither an armed uprising nor a civil unrest; it is something in between them. Governments are not structured for this; they are structured for containing riots or disorderly profusions in public with a certain group of people resorting to rioting, an entire population cannot be dismissed as a group. Kani Jung or a pitched battle with stones, has a birth, a reason, a history, an objective and most of all it provides the browbeaten Kashmiri youth a medium to reclaim their dignity or a way to assert their political aspirations.
In the capillaries of downtown Srinagar—the vast network of lanes and alleys, the rule of autocratic Dogra Maharajas from Jammu was challenged with stones much before the rebellion culminated into a political outfit—the Muslim Conference and the subsequent 1931 uprising. The Dogras “purchased” Kashmir from the British and obviously saw the people as commodities, persecution became a payoff and Kani Jung became resistance. Kani Jung has not stopped to this day.
Passing off stone pelting as resistance is a bewilderment. In the world we live today, violence of any form is seen as unacceptable. At the same time, governments keep on increasing their abilities to use violence and tend to prefer the word ‘force’ instead of ‘violence’ with the undefined metrics of minimum and maximum force. Sophisticated weapons continue to be developed; huge portions of budgets are allocated by governments to develop more and more weapons capabilities. Countries compete in possession and development of weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. We must understand stone pelting in this context. A stone pelter risks being shot to death and yet he does what he does. Laws do provide us the right to self-defense, it is more reasonable to think of stone pelting as self-defense by a defenseless population against a sustained and violent incursion into our personal, social, economic and political lives by a state that posses nuclear weapons and militarizes Kashmir with a 1 million strong force.
Stone pelting is widely seen as rioting. It is seen as futile since history has not seen any country’s liberation by the stone. Kashmir cannot expect Azadi or freedom or liberation by means of stone pelting—tactically it is impossible and politically it is implausible. Stone pelting has all the symbolism of resistance much like stoning of the Devil—Jamarat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The ritual of stoning the Devil involves Muslim pilgrims flinging pebbles at three walls. It is a symbolic reenactment of Abraham’s Hajj, where he stoned three pillars representing the temptation to disobey God and preserve Ishmael. Kashmiris see India as the Devil and the various forces, the police, the CRPF, the Army and others, are seen as the tentacles of the Devil, and thus the Devil is stoned in the streets of Kashmir—thousands of miles away from Mina—symbolically.
The question that if force used by the people is violence, and the violence used by the state is force remains unanswered. But the indigenous nature and spontaneity of stone-pelting as a method of resistance is undisputed. The au courant Indian media has not reported a single incident of the Indian forces intercepting a truckload of stones coming in from Pakistan, and there have been no reports of any stones having the ‘Made in Pakistan’ insignia. Most of all, nothing can fund spontaneity, moreover, spontaneity does not need a sponsor.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narender Modi, in his Man Ki Baat radio address on 28 August 2016, said, “those getting the kids to pelt stones will one day be answerable to the same kids”. The Prime Minister did not acknowledge an inverted time lapse, or the fact that it is India and the suffocation it has caused that has perturbed the kids to pelt stones and the youth won’t make anyone answerable in future since they are already walled up against India, demanding an answer to all of their sufferings—Azadi.
To the Kashmir conflict, there are fundamentally three parties, India, Pakistan and Kashmiris itself. Both India and Pakistan have the military and political capital to assert their national interests viz-a-viz Kashmir. The people of Kashmir do not have any such capital and are further marred by an endless number of unknown religious organizations that have fancy names but no social sanction. The popular politics is the fight against India, armed and unarmed, organized and unorganized. The popular politicians are called the “separatists”. This definition has such predominance that even the separatists call themselves separatists—tell a lie over and over again and it becomes the truth. The “mainstream” politicians are widely seen as Indian lapdogs, every “party” or the kennel having a different color, some are green and some are red, the master remains the same. India wants the international community to believe elections to choose the mainstream politicians are a referendum by Kashmiris that they are okay with India and wants the Kashmiris to look down upon themselves as a people who are suspicious and incredulous. What can defeat someone more than being disgruntled with himself. The question of voting mainstream politicians into power can be found in a prison, where the prisoner eats food, wears clothes and is offered shelter by the captors. Yet the prisoner never gives up on wanting to be free or can be better understood by looking at a caged bird. The poor bird does everything to stay alive even sings songs but always wants to be free. Historically, this has been the treachery of every occupation—putting up smokescreens in form of local politicians, administrators and the police. The British used the same swindle against the Indians by keeping some Kings and politicians in place and these chosen ones kept the larger population in place. History repeats itself, treachery, it appears, does it too.
Since the early times when man used to hunt, the stone has been known as a sharp tool—the first manmade tool, and later the same weapon was put to use by ancient armies in wars. The idea is when we had nothing and our survival was at risk we used the stone, and Kashmiris are much the same—pushed to the wall with nothing to help us and we too like early man have taken to the stone for help. The hunger here replaces the aspirations of Kashmiris, be it political or otherwise. The word “otherwise” in the previous line is definitive, as we all know people don’t do politics, politicians do. People don’t have agendas, governments have.
Some would laugh if term “genocide” was used for describing the unending killing of civilians but the dictionary defines genocide as “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group”. The Kashmiris, are a people, a distinct race, with their own political position that does not identify with the politics of either India or Pakistan, with unique culture where human killings are certainly deliberate. The fact that so many other genocides are being carried out in this world, the attention to genocide of Kashmiris appears to be blocked by a canopy of international power politics or maybe that genocide needs international recognition like a newly declared state does.
Speaking of peaceful protests, India seeks to stultify protests as illegal, crushing them with overwhelming force and then following up with prosecution under laws that unconstitutional. There is a huge procession of protesters, they are raising slogans, it is all peaceful until the Indian forces start with a barrage of tear gas shells, volleys of live ammunition, a cannonade of pellets. The result of this violence is the peaceful protest is disrupted, hundreds are maimed permanently, some are often killed and several others are flounced off to police stations where they are tortured and then booked under laws that violate even India’s own constitution leave alone Human Rights and International Law. Thus as a response to such violence by the state, stone-pelting begins. The youth pelt stones, the elders want to do the same. Now here is the catch, India deceitfully stultifies peaceful protests as stone-pelting and seeks to make stone-pelting a taboo. Stone-pelting is thus used by India as a marquee to crackdown on peaceful protests or mass uprisings.
Yasir Aziz (M.A. International Relations at University of Warsaw)
Muhamad Arooj (Law student at the Central University of Kashmir)