इंद्रप्रस्थ विश्व संवाद केन्द्र


Every Kashmiri youth is not a stone-pelter. Those who throw stones know that stones are not their future

Nishant Kr Azad in Srinagar
As a young journalist, travelling from Bihar to Delhi for pursuing education and career, the ‘Kashmir Problem’ was always a puzzle for me. Especially in the era of highly polarised narratives on each and every issue of national importance, it was very difficult to believe that either lack of development or particular religious identity can be the sole basis for separatism. “Do all Kashmiris think in the same way? If so, then why many of them queue up for recruitment in armed forces?” was the question that always haunted me. Despite the warnings and cautionary words, I decided to visit the ground-zero to get the real picture which cannot be explained either sitting in Delhi or just following media narrative fed by the separatist elements. In the last few weeks, some leading media houses, again based on the narrative given from Srinagar, tried their best to create the perception that India is on verge of losing Kashmir. This in fact strengthened my resolve to visit the actual scene, as any journalist would like to do and I planned my visit (with my friend from Jammu) to the Valley. What I found there was highly refreshing and reassuring. 

 

 
When I started my journey from Jammu to Kashmir, there was a fear in my mind and the reason was obvious i.e. unrest in Kashmir Valley.  It was 10.30 pm when we entered Srinagar; the road was packed with cars and trucks. Within few minutes, the initial fear faded away.

 

Next day, it was the busy morning on the famous Dal Lake Road popularly known as Boulevard Road. School children in their beautiful uniforms were waiting for their school buses, exactly like other parts of the country. This was a soothing and pleasant view, especially on the backdrop of a notion created in Delhi that every student we see in Kashmir will be having stone in his hand. I approached a school boy, Faeem Yawar (name changed). In a candid conversation, he said, “I study in class 10 and want to be a cricketer. My only dream is to play for India.” When asked about the stone-pelters, he said, “Not every Kashmiri youth is a stone-pelter. Their numbers is limited and they are nobody to decide the fate of all Kashmiris. I am against this stone-pelting and bandh. All this affects our study. I want a peaceful Kashmir.”

 

“Most of the students who pelt stones do it more out of ‘fun and adventure’ than for any other cause. Then there is one more factor that is, the schools ‘remain off’ so children are happy that there will be ‘no studies’. This has become a norm here,” he added. After talking to that boy, one can easily understand why Kashmir is very much India. Another student next to Faeem, Showkat Ali (name changed), who wants to pursue his career in modelling as his brother has already been working in the same sector in Mumbai for so many years said, “I want to follow the footsteps of my brother and earn name and fame in some other parts of the country after leaving Kashmir.” On being asked if any stone-pelter is his friend, he said, “Our parents have given us good upbringing wherein we have always been told since childhood that we have to excel our name in studies and remain away from any kind of the distractions prevalent in the Valley. Showkat said that his favourite actor is Hrithik Roshan. On being asked if they ever get stuck in stone-pelting incidents, he replied in positive. However, he added that even our bus drivers have now come to know which routes are safer in such a scenario, so they will avoid the routes having ruffians on the road.

 

Soon they boarded their school bus, however, not before inviting us to be their guest for the dinner. 
 

Rightly called ‘heaven on earth’ the beauty of this place can easily enchant the mind of any individual. The mountains, forests, and lush green grass together create a memorable moment in anyone’s life. This is the reason thousands of tourists are attracted to this place every year.
 

While travelling from Srinagar to Baramulla, with Javed Khan, 35, a taxi driver from Mysoma, I got to another shocking dimension of present situation in Kashmir, that is ‘entertainment’. Yes, Javed said in another touching conversation, “Jannab, these young kids don’t even know the meaning of Azadi. They are misguided by the miscreants in the Valley. Some of them do it for fun. There is no medium of entertainment so they get attracted to such activities. There are few people behind the curtain who get big amount of money to misguide these youths. It’s very tough for us to send our kids to schools because even schools are not safe from these elements. We are as Indians as you are. But media represents us, as if we are enemy of India. You can ask any Kashmiri, whether they want to be with India or Pakistan, the answer will be the same and i.e. India”.

 

“On many occasions, my taxi has been hit by stones on the national highway. We all suffer because of these mishappenings. I don’t think any human face or head is worth a stone”, he added.
During a visit to a school in Baramulla, a different side of Kashmir was visible, completely in contrast to what we see on television. While having a chat with a 16-year-old boy Murtaza (name changed), I realised that there are many things untold to the rest of India about Kashmir. “I want to be a footballer and my icon is Ronaldo. I want to play for my country. Some insane elements of Kashmir can’t decide the fate of all Kashmiris. We don’t want separatists, we don’t wantstone-pelters, we don’t want terrorism; what we want is development, peace, and a better future. It is absolutely wrong to pelt stones on our own Army and Police. Youths of Kashmir are being misguided by the separatists”, said Murtaza.
 

If someone analyses the sociology of the stone-pelting in Kashmir, it can be described as a culture that has been actually manufactured by a number of anti-India elements. A surprising incident that came across during the visit to Kashmir was conversation with a man in his 50s in Anantnag of South Kashmir who said, “Stone-pelting has gradually turned to a social practice. It has slowly turned to a habit among many youths and a medium of entertainment and fun for them.” He further said, “For school children, it’s not less than a leisure exercise. They call it T20. For them, it is no less than a movie or a medium of fun. To understand the full picture, one should visit Kashmir and engage with people, then only one can know the reality of Kashmir.”
 

Positive Youth  The next day we went to a college on the outskirts of Srinagar city where a Taekwondo competition was going on wherein students from different schools of Srinagar city and adjoining areas had come to participate. Again the surprising element was that the participation of the girls was more than those of the boys in the competition.
 

After engaging in informal conversation with half a dozen girl students who were dressed in their Taekwondo uniforms, all of them in unison said that their education was badly affected due to the recent unrest and there are only handfuls of miscreants who are doing it. They were more concerned that their sports activities were being hampered. 
 

One of the girls, Rabia (changed name), a 12th class student said, “I want to be a doctor but the atmosphere here is not very favourable. All this disturbs our study. We want to do something in future. Kashmiri girls look for future while the boys are living in dark shadows of the past. I love sports. There are many girls who are talented and want to make their career in sports but they can’t afford to buy their sports kits. I also play at the national level and participate in the Interstate competition. We want financial support from the government for those who want to pursue their career in sports and other fields. Kashmiri girls have a bigger role to play in development of Kashmir ahead.” She wanted to motivate youth to participate in sports.
 

Another girl Atika who aspires to be an IAS officer said, “We have a powerful Prime Minster i.e. Narender Modi who will solve all the problems in Kashmir in near future”. All her fellow students agreed. On being asked who is her idol and why she wants to be an IAS officer, she said, “Dr Shah Faisal who belongs to Kashmir and had topped IAS exams in 2010 (All India Ranking) is my idol and my only purpose is to serve people and bring some change in the society.”
 

We also spoke to some of the young boys who had come to participate in the Taekwondo event. Shakil, a boy in his 20s said about his aspirations. “I love Taekwondo but I want to be a footballer.” He said,  there is less scope in football in India but I am happy with the way present Government at Centre is taking initiative to promote the game in India.” Surprisingly, he was also aware about the   India’s improving position in the FIFA ranking.
Another 24-year-old girl Zazia Shah at the campus
narrates, “I am pursuing my Masters in Sociology from Kashmir University and want to be a Fashion Designer. I have four sisters and all are good at studies. Kashmir is a very beautiful place but because of some misguided youth, we all face the consequences. The violence has not benefitted anyone. We love Prime Minister Narendra Modi and have lot of faith in him. He is the man who can change the conditions of Kashmir. We expect a lot from him.”
 

Lack of Entertainment Kashmir has lost its cinema halls but not its love for the movies. There are no cinema halls in Kashmir. The eruption of militancy with Islamic overtones in the 1990s brought down the curtain on the movie culture in the Valley, in the name of religion.
 

After talking to many people of different age-groups, I came to know that lack of entertainment is one of the key reasons why many youth are pushed to the wrong path. One cannot understand it in the comforts of Delhi. Many experts have been advocating that entertainment can play a good role to eradicate violence from the Valley but experience on the ground is quite different. Masood, a hotel owner said, “I used to watch cinema regularly at Neelam Cinema Hall in Srinagar but the present generation grew up in an abnormal situation. There is no medium of entertainment. Night shows were common for us but the present generation has been deprived of that fun. I appeal to the Government to re-open all the cinema halls so that the youth can get engaged in them instead of choosing the distorted path. When movies could be shot in Kashmir, theatres can also be operational.”
 

  A school girl Nugma said, “We all love to watch cinema.” When asked about the last movie she watched, she said, “It was Bajrangi Bhai Jaan. All the theatres in Srinagar are shut down, so we don’t have any option but to buy pirated CDs.”
 

Fake Discourse Despite infiltration and rattled voices of separatism, if these are the sentiments representing the Valley, then what is the authenticity of what we read or see in rest of India, is the obvious question. Interaction with security officials has thrown some light on this during my visit. It is the media that propagates the fake discourse about Kashmir. “30 per cent of Kashmiri journalist are funded by Pakistan and Gulf”, said a senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer. He said, “Students are the new target of militants as the earlier crops of radicals and militancy inclined youths are in jail. Kashmir problem is a complex problem and it requires a complex solution. It is the local and national media which are creating more problems for India and Kashmir. There should be a proper enquiry to check their financial income.” He cautiously emphasised on one more fact, which sometimes is murmured in Delhi also that so many employees of Kashmir Government are writing against India in Newspapers through pseudo-names. He wanted thorough investigation about them and strict action against these elements.
 

Pak Befooling Youth Social media like other parts of India is more popular among youth. It has the side effects also. According to a senior Army official, “Pakistan’s new strategy is to recruit youth of Valley through social media and use them against India. We have identified hundreds of Whatsapp groups and thousands of Facebook pages originated in Pakistan. Through these Pakistan fuels protests in Kashmir.”
 

“The videos circulated by social media are affecting the psychology of Kashmiri youth”, he added.
 

It is a known fact that funds from Gulf in the Valley for setting up of infrastructure for the radicalisation of youth in Valley particularly Muslims is the new trend and has added to the  woes of security forces in Kashmir. There are many mosques set up by anti-national elements that are funded by those who have links with their masters across the border. “The government should find the ways to fight the menace of illegal money. This mishmash of selective groups in certain mosques propagating Wahhabi ideology and widespreading it through social media is another threat in the Valley,” are the common sentiments among security forces. 
 

“Terrorism-related cases should be nvestigated through NIA. DC or SP should be local but it’s time to bring more bureaucrats from other regions to Kashmir; this will help in curbing corruption ,” said another senior official. ‘There is no counter-narrative here. That is the real issue, and media can play a constructive role in this regard, is the common sentiment across the forces. 
 

 Kashmir was the land of sages and saints. Adi Shankaracharya came and meditated here. Famous saint Abhinavgupta shaped the Shaivait philosophy here thousand of years ago. This land of knowledge and spiritualism was very peaceful, but few people have disturbed its peace. Time is ripe to see Kashmir and Kashmiris as an opportunity for nation building. 
 

 After visiting Kashmir it is evidently clear that an aspirational generation is growing all across the Valley who wants to achieve big in life. Even after the Islamic onslaught, if girls are doing better than boys, movies are watched and the dreams of doing something for the nation still exist, then the Valley is certainly integral part of India.  This is a different set that raises voices against stone-pelting, violence and radicalisation. The need of the hour is to reach out to them and listen to their aspirations. The only satisfaction I have is I could experience this ground reality and could present the sentiments of the other side of ‘Kashmir’ to the nation.
 

(With inputs from Rajeev Pandita) 

 

Pakistani Propaganda Machines

Production of propaganda films and audios to radicalise Kashmiris, not just overtly but covertly too, through a large number of proxy social media accounts has been going on since long

 

Warfare has always been a game of the elites; the only thing that ensures the masses supporting it is ‘The Propaganda’. The main element needed to execute an attack is intelligence; the only element to justify the execution is strategic communication. Since the social media provides easy reach and resonance to the propagation of strategic communication, Pakistan is using it optimally to spread propaganda across the borders. From the inception of the armed rebellion, the propaganda was used optimally to ensure mass support to it. Initially, the tales of Soviet Union’s collapse in Afghanistan glorified the armed rebellion in Kashmir, now the heroic attitude of the young terrorists is being used in the same manner by Pakistan’s ISPR (Inter Services Public Relation). A young Kashmiri being radicalised cannot be blamed, when on an average, his social media newsfeed displays 30-35 graphically violent and emotionally manipulating content. ISPR ensures   production of propaganda films and audios on radicalising Kashmiris, not just overtly but covertly too through a large number of proxy social media accounts. The efficiency of Pakistani propaganda can ipso facto be understand from the scene whereby 70 per cent of the stone pelters in Kashmir are below the age of 18, who have no idea of even the word politics, leave aside the word ‘political discontent’, which the warlords and pseudo-stakeholders of Kashmir have been portraying as the Kashmir problem. The Government should look into the matter seriously.

 

 

Kashmir: Beyond Stones and Burhan

When locations like Mysoma witness heavy clashes, the young entrepreneurs at Lal Chowk (just 500 metres away) are busy developing businesses ties with Delhi

 

Ramzan, 23-year-old a BA LLB student:   To ninety per cent of Kashmiri people who have never been to any other State, India is just ‘a security forces man holding a gun’. Without even knowing the enormous diversity of the union, the only narrative of India in the Valley is an oppressive force.
 

The unfortunate truth is that Indian people, even though brilliantly forward are equally and contrarily made to believe that Kashmir Valley is just Burhan Wani and few stone pelters. Kashmir has a very rich culture and is full of peace loving people. Kashmir, enormously beautiful and diverse in nature is exactly just like a mini India in itself as PM Modi once said. Since India is a vast union, the number of narratives emerging cannot be restricted to just one and the same is the case with Kashmir.
 

On one hand when locations like Mysoma witness heavy clashes, the young entrepreneurs at Lal Chowk (just 500 metres away) are busy developing public relations for their businesses just like ordinary positivity inclined youngsters. Every Friday, when stone-pelting videos of Nowhatta flash every television channel, a young entrepreneur delivering a pizza to the nearby location is totally overshadowed.
 

While Burhan Wani and allies were busy spreading a new wave of militancy, a young lad was wondering if Kashmir had a cinema so that he might enjoy watching Sultan on a 70MM screen. And when Kashmir was burning in the Burhan Wani aftermath, a budding politician was looking for new avenues to engage youth in the peaceful process.  In just a population of one million, One per cent population equals to a huge number, potential to carry out a big unrest; and being judgmental about a community based on just that per cent is a huge disservice to the national integrity and the people of the community.
 

I just appeal to the Government to give youth a chance rather than engaging Abdullahs and Muftis. Everybody has aspirations; I want to be a Military Strategist or a Counter Insurgency Specialist if it ensures the formation of Kashmir, every Kashmiri dreams it to be.

 

 

Veggie Delight

 

Though Kashmir is known for non-vegetarian
delicacies but for those looking for best
vegetarian food, Krishna Vaishno Dhaba in Srinagar is the best place for them. The food served here includes south Indian and North Indian vegetarian dishes. If you are planning to eat here, you must not miss their super delicious Rajma Chawal and Kheer for dessert. It is inexpensive and pocket-friendly. The place is small and always crowded. There is always a long queue outside Krishna Dhaba, one has to wait for some time to get a table but the wait is worth

 

Another Summer of Turmoil at the Dal Lake

 

The disappearance of tourists from the Valley during this summer has resulted in a loss of business to Shikarawallahs. And they are worried

 

Empty Shikara (traditional wooden boat) and sad faces tell the pain of Shikarawallahs. For tourists, Shikara is one of the major attractions of Kashmir. The tourist from all over the country and the world flock to witness this beauty. The first wish for any tourist visiting Srinagar is likely to take a stroll around the peaceful Dal Lake.
 

The Lake has been a source of income for hundreds of Shikara owners. But the disappearance of tourists from the Valley because of unrest during the peak months resulted in a loss to Shikara owners. Vilal, a 40-year-old Shikarawallah says, “We all are suffering because of the protests and stone-pelting time and again. After the death of Burhan Wani, tourists are not coming to Kashmir. Tourists generally come to Srinagar in these months but this time there are no tourists.”
 

It is almost 7.30 in the evening and Vilal is still looking for a customer for a Shikara ride in the lake. He has been rowing a Shikara for the past 10 years. During normal times, Vilal used to earn Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000 per day, but the unrest in the Valley has reduced its income to Rs 500 to 700 only.
 

“We have only five to six months of summers to earn and use that income for the whole year when usually tourists do not come to Srinagar,” says Vilal.
 

Another Shikara owner Mubarak says, “I have no money to submit the school fees of my children. Some of my fellow boatmen have shifted to Delhi and other states to work as labourers because of poor business. Last year I also went to Delhi’s Paharganj to find some work to run my family. But this year I decided to stay here but now I  feel that my decision was wrong as tourists are not
coming to Kashmir because of unrest.”
 

“The only sufferers are the poor people. No Hurriyat leader’s son or daughter is involved in stone-pelting. They are living a lavish life but the common man is suffering. We have no option. We can only sit and hope for situation to get normal”, he added.

 



Source: www.organiser.org