Girls with stones in their hands, fighting pitched battles, are an extremely scary sign of where the Kashmir Valley finds itself at the beginning of the summer of 2018.
The image of a young girl, her face and head covered, in a white college uniform, hurling stones at a parked CRPF van, caught everyone’s attention last week.
She was relentless and seemingly enraged as she picked up big stones and flung them with all her might, till a woman in a black abaya tried to stop her and then dragged her away.
This girl, however, was not alone. There were several others, all reportedly students at Government Women’s College, one of the main all-women institutes in Srinagar, and were protesting against the killings of 13 terrorists and civilians in south Kashmir.
The first ‘stone-pelter’
This is not the first time images of young stone-pelting girls have emerged from the Valley. Last year, 24-year-old Afshan Ashiq was identified across the national media as one of the Valley’s first female stone-pelters. Her story, however, has a silver lining. Afshan now plays club football in Mumbai and even captains the Jammu & Kashmir team.
But, a year later, several other girls are out on the streets, engaging in an activity largely associated with young boys so far.
‘Can’t remain uninfluenced’
Javaid Gillani, director of vigilance, Jammu & Kashmir, who has been observing the worrying trend, said, “We have got to understand that expression through violence has by and large become the accepted norm in Kashmir.”
“These girls come from the same society and go through the same newspapers and social media (posts). So they can’t remain uninfluenced,” he added, “However, a girl with a stone in her hand is a much stronger visual than a boy. So, it would suit the other side to… invest in it.”
Gillani said activists of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, led by separatist Asiya Andrabi and in trouble recently for celebrating Pakistan Day in the Valley, also encouraged young girls to engage in stone-pelting.
Andrabi was arrested last year under the Public Safety Act for instigating girls to target security forces. Gillani added, “Also, we have seen that the girls who are taking part in stone-pelting are confined to just two colleges in Srinagar and, interestingly, these two colleges are right next to a boy’s college.”
“In fact, some girls got out and took part only when the boys urged them.”
Sure enough, last week, as the security forces showed restraint, large groups of boys joined the girls and started pelting the personnel with stones.
An administration ‘soft’ on stone-pelters
Interestingly, last week’s stone-pelting occurred a day after chief minister Mehbooba Mufti completed two years in office. The chief minister, who is reportedly upset with the use of force by security forces on civilian protesters, has come under severe criticism for being “soft” on stone-pelters.
Her government’s amnesty scheme for stone-pelters who are first-time offenders was seen as a good measure. But what one can’t deny is her government’s inability to rein in habitual and, in most cases, paid stone-pelters, and allowing ‘hero funerals’ for slain terrorists, which has encouraged more youngsters to join terror outfits.
Tanvir Sadiq, political secretary to former chief minister Omar Abdullah, said, “We don’t approve of it but what’s happening today in Kashmir is pure anger. When you push the people to the wall, they will react.”
“It’s a reflection of the condition to which this government has brought Kashmir. When you see young local militants dying, it’s not an achievement, it’s a failure. The PDP’s biggest and least talked-about failure has been the massive jump in the numbers of young Kashmiri men joining the ranks of militant organisations,” he added. “Every day young boys go missing.”
Girls with stones in their hands, fighting pitched battles, are an extremely scary sign of where the Valley finds itself at the beginning of the summer of 2018.
Mehbooba Mufti needs deep introspection to analyse how wrong she has gone by soft-peddling the issue. The PDP’s slogan continues to be ‘healing touch’, but as Kashmir braces for what is set to be, by all indications, another bloody year, the hands that are supposed to write exam papers and build their future are picking up stones. It’s a tragedy of mammoth proportions.
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