Image from Flickr via La Priz

I wasn’t one of them. Or I wasn’t, perhaps, anymore. When people spoke to me, people whom I had known since my childhood, they addressed me differently; ahan’u, for instance, had become ahan’haz. Both mean “yes,” the affirmative, but the respectful formality of the latter word had replaced the affectionate familiarity of the former. In any case, there I stood at a distance watching, moving forward only when the boys charged, returning to my place when they were chased back. I did not shout any slogans nor throw any stones. I may have handed a couple of small pebbles lying next to me to a teenager—a stone warrior—who was running short. During the “stone battles” of Anantnag, however, everyone shed painful tears, the throwers and the bystanders. There was no escape from the tear gas. That is why my eyes grew red.

It was dangerous to stand where I was, but I had an emergency exit plan in place. Quite close by is the shrine of Resh-Moal—the Sufi Father—my old refuge. Throughout my childhood and teenage life I walked through the shrine almost every single day. I knew it, and the surrounding labyrinthine alleys and snaky streets, like the back of my hand. In the early 1990s, when the insurgency in Kashmir was at its peak, my schoolmates and I often waited out the gun battles and military sieges of the town inside the shrine until it was safe to go home. The elderly shrine keepers kept us well fed; they would dig out the best date palms for us from their deep pheran pockets—the long woolen gowns with flannel lining that kept them warm. While devotees brought the choicest flaky bagirkhanis from nearby bakeries in large wicker baskets, the shrine keepers kept samovars of almond kahwa going round the clock. This hot saffron-tinged tea, which we drank in carefully measured sips so as not to run out of the bread before the tea was finished, made us quite receptive to the spiritual verses the devotees hummed together—or so we told the shrine keepers.

The local government argued that the women had drowned in water. The bodies had been found on the banks of a gently flowing stream no more than knee deep, in close proximity to three large Indian security camps.

It was a June afternoon of a sleepy hartal day in 2009. Kashmir was hotter than any summer in previous memory. On a hartal day, everything would be shut down in protest, and the streets would simmer with anger. Protests against the rape and murder of two women, attacked by Indian soldiers in an adjoining town the week before, had reached the boiling point as the India-loyalist local government refused to admit that the crime had taken place. To remain in the Indian army’s good books, the local government argued that the women had drowned in water. The bodies had been found on the banks of a gently flowing stream no more than knee deep, in close proximity to three large Indian security camps. Why the bodies had struggle wounds, why at least one was found stark naked—for these questions, the government had no answer. Clampdowns and extended curfews, the government’s old strategies, followed its failure to answer or investigate impartially—a chronic problem under the military occupation.

As the deadlock continued, everyday life halted. An old friend, a reformed hustler, cajoled me out of my home for an idle talk over tea. I wasn’t interested in tea, or talk, but I had heard that every afternoon young folks assembled in the alleys surrounding the main market square and fought stone battles with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), India’s main paramilitary force in Kashmir. I was interested in watching these battles. My friend said there was a chance I might be able to see one. We agreed to meet at a small café that we knew kept business running on hartal days behind its downed shutters.

I walked my way down the sun-beaten, potholed streets of Anantnag, keeping away from the main roads where CRPF soldiers, I had been told, pummeled anyone they could catch. Shops were closed and no buses or cars were running, but the cacophony of small vendors selling roasted peas and ice-kulfis in the narrow lanes and auto-rickshaws ferrying patients and old people offset the gray feeling that had descended upon the town after the violent quelling of the previous evening’s protests.

Little boys and girls played hopscotch in the alleys. Menfolk, out of work, sat on stools at shop fronts poring over newspapers, or engaged in small talk. Occasionally, a woman would come out of her house and let a barrage of insults fly at a useless or inconsiderate husband and drag him inside while people giggled. No one had swept the streets since the shutdown, and they were filthy with newspapers and cardboard boxes.

My friend was waiting for me outside the café. He knocked a few times on the shutter. A few moments later the shutter flew halfway open and we bent ourselves in. The place was full of smoke and raucous talk. While we stood waiting for a table, my friend pointed toward a bunch of spirited teenagers speaking loudly over the other voices, perhaps about cricket, or the rape and murder case, or both. One of them waved at my friend, and my friend waved back. I paid no further attention. I went to the counter and ordered some coffee. Sometime later I looked back toward the table my friend had waved at and saw the boys furtively talking over their phones. They got up and left. My friend asked me if I wanted to see where they were going. I was curious and followed him out.

Once outside, the boys covered their faces with scarves and hoods. An auto-rickshaw stopped by and they got together to unload stones from it. Another rickshaw followed, and then another. My friend told me the stones were brought from a roadside pile a few blocks away, where they had been lying for a number of years and were originally supposed to fill potholes in the roads. Soon a number of other teenagers came out of other alleys and joined them. They spread out and started piling the stones in different places, which my friend said were strategically located. But as I was to notice later, in the heat of the battle no strategies were followed, no commands were given or taken, and yet not many fell short of stones; as soon as stones were hurled, new ones would almost magically materialize.

They put down their rifles, picked up stones, and began a charge spewing obscenities…
I liked the contest with no rifles or any other modern technology involved because it was fair.

Stone wars test human endurance, and their long history in Kashmir also says something about the collective endurance of Kashmiris. No one remembers anymore when the stone wars began in Kashmir. There is a legend that it was a practice invented in the older neighborhoods of Kashmir’s capital city, Srinagar, more than a century back, and deployed first against oppressive moneylenders and then against the region’s autocratic rulers. Older Kashmiris remember throwing stones at the cavalcade of Indian Prime Minister Nehru on one of his visits to Kashmir. They hold him responsible for occupying Kashmir against the wishes of Kashmir’s inhabitants. As India became the hungriest and poorest nuclear weapons state in the world, Kashmiris persisted with throwing stones at symbols of its presence in their country.

The bronze tip of Resh-Moal’s shrine glimmered in the setting sun. We followed the boys past the shrine to a place where one had a clear view of the main market. The market had been under strict curfew for the preceding week. There used to be four CRPF pickets there until only a few weeks before, but two of them were abandoned after protesters threw stones at them. The stone throwers persisted even when the CRPF shot directly into their crowds, injuring many. After the pickets were abandoned, young men from the town pulled down the ugly sandbag bunkers, freeing up space on the choked road that the CRPF had occupied for seventeen years. But two pickets were still there, one inside a bank building and another next to a girls’ senior secondary school.

Several streets converged farther down from where I was standing and more people came from there to join the little crowd that was rapidly building ahead of me. Soon a few hundred people started chanting rhythmic slogans, many with stones hanging heavily in the pockets of their pants and some with stones in their hands. My friend asked me to withdraw to a place from where I still had a clear view. Hum kya chahte? Azadi!—What do we want? Freedom! Ae zaalim-o ae jaabir-o, Kashmir hamara chhodh do!—O tyrants, o oppressors, quit our Kashmir!

The first tear gas shells started landing on the protesters a few minutes after the slogans began. A few enterprising young boys had brought big, wet jute bags with them, and instantly placed them over the shells spurting noxious gas. One boy even managed to catch a couple straight into his bag. Everyone clapped and whistled. This was an old game. Both sides were good at it. In the distance, a couple of armored cars appeared on the scene and started driving quickly toward the crowd, which just as quickly splintered into the alleys. As the lead car reached where the protesters had been, a spatter of stones greeted it. The car stood there as if stupefied, unable to move, unsure of its purpose. No one came out of it. The intensity of stones increased. The car retreated. The stone warriors returned in triumphant joy. They had won the first round. The slogans grew shriller. Bharat ko ragda, ye ragda!—We clobbered India, here we did! See-Aar-Pee (CRP) ko ragda, ye ragda!–We clobbered the CRP, yes here we did!

The Special Operations Group (SOG) of the local police, better known among Kashmiris as the “Task Force,” soon joined the CRPF soldiers. SOG specializes in torture and killing, and is loathed by one and all. They show a level of brutality disproportionate to their puny salaries—it is believed that they are paid 1500 rupees a month, or around 30 dollars, along with food and lodging for their services—and have become the butt of dark humor over the years for this reason. When they confront the protesters, people shout “pandah sheth te bateh”—“1500 and a rice plate”—an insult that riles up SOG men, turning them ever more fiendish. It was no different this time around. In uproarious glee, people shouted at the approaching SOG men, who went wild with rage. They put down their rifles, and picked up stones, and began a charge spewing obscenities. It was horrifying to watch, but one couldn’t miss the ironic lightness of this moment.

I liked the contest with no rifles or any other modern technology involved because it was fair. Only rocks and expletives allowed. The unsettling and eerily boisterous nature of the “stone battle”—the kanni-jung—that I saw, made me think of it as a form of sport. Yet, its politics are clear, and its symbolism manifest: pelting a stone is purely a political act.

“Stone throwing is an art,” a young man explained… If the streets are canvasses where stone pelters perfect their techniques, soldiers are just olive-colored blotches symbolizing Indian domination of the region. “They have turned themselves into objects of our anger, the young man said.”

Mostly, the stones hit no one. They don’t hurt the soldiers, who are always in full body armor, nor are they intended to injure. Stones are thrown from a distance where the stone throwers can outpace soldiers if chased, but this necessary distance also ensures that the stones don’t reach the soldiers. They are hurled, as a young man told me, at the “idea of domination.” They are defiance flying out of hands. Each stone follows its own line of flight out of the hegemonic code.

It wasn’t long before the SOG men realized that they were getting beaten back. As they retreated, they picked up their rifles and began shooting straight at the crowd. No one was hit, but it was a tense moment. “Stone throwing is an art,” a young man explained. The soldiers are not artists, but part of the creation itself. If the streets are canvasses where stone pelters perfect their techniques, soldiers are just olive-colored blotches symbolizing Indian domination of the region. “They have turned themselves into objects of our anger,” the young man said.

Summer evenings in Kashmir are long. The evening has to pass through all its hues before it lets the night take over. Evening is a time when working-class men come down to street corners to grab a grilled kabab or a rista, and smoke a smoke. On hartal days, after filling themselves up with kababs, they join the town boys for a few rounds of stone throwing until it gets dark. I noticed some older men flinging stones high into the air from the back of the crowd, drawing surprisingly long distances from their weak-looking arms. As each stone traveled the distance, the younger boys applauded, and when the soldiers chased them the older men ran clumsily. The tempting aroma of kababs filled the air.

A young man apparently hit in his face by a shell was lying unconscious on the road. A small pool of blood formed around his head. The soldiers fired shots at anyone trying to pull the man to safety. Desperation grew. The man was going to die in front of us.

The boys stockpiled stones from the streets. The soldiers were still shooting sporadically, and from time to time tear gas shells continued to explode in the vicinity of the crowd. The gas mixed with the aroma of grilled kababs. The smell was perplexing, filled with foreboding and melancholia, yet enticing, drawing one nearer to danger. A few moments later a boy came running down the street announcing that the CRPF was firing expired tear gas shells. Expired shells emit no smoke; they are used as metal projectiles, intended simply to injure. They are more dangerous than tear gas shells, which explode into smoke as soon as they hit a surface, because one may not see them ricochet off the road or buildings. Everyone ran for cover. My friend and I ran toward the shrine; the metal shells were hitting the streets with frightening clanks. We were only a few meters in when we heard people crying out on the street. “Morukh ho!”—Murder! We returned to the scene.

A young man apparently hit in his face by a shell was lying unconscious on the road. A small pool of blood formed around his head. The soldiers fired shots at anyone trying to pull the man to safety. Desperation grew. The man was going to die in front of us. Someone went into a nearby mosque and called for help over the loudspeaker. He asked the people inside their homes to come out to help retrieve the man, and soon after men and women came out into the streets. Cries of anguish rent the air. Young boys assembled themselves and led a charge. The CRPF retreated for long enough to allow the young man to be lifted out. He was piled onto a motorcycle and taken to the hospital.

The stone battle continued for another hour, but it was dark by then. People looked tired. Fathers and mothers found their sons and took them home. Another group of boys collected stones and tossed them into the auto-rickshaws, which were apparently driven back to the same stone piles from which they had been taken. People soon disappeared from the streets. My friend and I went into the shrine to have a kahwa. Outside, CRPF armored cars were moving about, looking to pick someone up to take revenge. In the night, my friend told me, the CRPF goes into the alleys hurling abuses and beating against the doors of people’s homes. Occasionally they break into the houses and beat up men, molest women, and loot valuables.

Before leaving that night, my friend asked me if I knew what Einstein had once said: “I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth—rocks!” Perhaps, it was not so much about the Fourth World War, but war in the Fourth World, the one that lies buried under the first three. The Third World has forgotten that it was once colonized, controlled, enslaved. It celebrates its freedom, but under its feet it tramples those for whom dates like 1947 don’t resonate freedom, but rather its opposite. This Fourth World lies strewn across the world in patches, disconnected, dismembered, and beleaguered. Or, perhaps, the Fourth World War is on after all. It started before the Third, and is being fought with stones.

I reached home with eyes red and itchy. Nobody believed that I had only watched. My hands were inspected carefully. “How did you manage to run in your sandals? You should have worn proper shoes!” I should have. My mother was right. She told me about young boys who had died over the years throwing stones.

“How is this going to help?” she pleaded. “No one in the world gives a care.”

Those who threw stones knew that the world didn’t care. Perhaps, they also didn’t care for such a world. I told my mother what I had heard all along: “Then what else can Kashmiris do?”

Mohamad Junaid grew up in Kashmir. He has contributed essays in recently published volumes, Everyday Occupations: Experiencing Militarism in South Asia and the Middle East(Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights) ; Of Occupation and Resistance: Writing From Kashmir; and Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir. He is a doctoral student in anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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37 Comments on “Stone Wars

  1. Youngsters of Kashmir are misguided by some interested group.I agree youngsters of Kashmir are frustrated by tremendous poverty and unemployment.,harassment of military .but stone throwing or protesting their problem will not solve.. Only solution is they must achieve some skill and find the job out side Kashmir, there are tremendous opportunities in India for skill workers.Even they develop tourism in Kashmir they can earn more that government services.They must remember they to live in India and prosperous themselves.there is no future for them merging in Pakistan or independent Kashmir

  2. The Special Operations Group of J&K Police is a highly trained professional counter terrorism organ of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Having to its credit to put an end to highly provocative and communal pan-Islamic terrorism in Kashmir being sponsored by Pakisatni state, the force has lost hundreds of its men while fighting the terrorists. With this fiction the author is trying to juxtapose the reality with his ideology. He tries to glamorize street urchins, anarchist, stone pelters who want to disturb the peaceful life of ordinary people. This price of fiction won’t change the ground realities in Kashmir.

  3. salam(peace be upon you)

    please keep your thoughts upto your india since you cant help humanity.
    kashmir belongs to people indigenous to it.
    To every local an indian stands a criminal because they act ignorant when innocent people are being killed by you occupied army in the valley.
    Every home in kashmir has lost a mother, or sister, father , son, daughter.
    And yet you have the audacity to claim kashmir when you wern’t even born there.
    You should either be blind or coward turning away from the human right violations happening in the valley.
    May God make you brave enough to stand up for the humanity .
    Kashmir doesn’t belong to India nor pakistan.

    free kashmir ( No india no pakistan)
    And may God bless you and your countrymen with some human care .

  4. We would like to remind commenters that this is a moderated space. While we encourage readers to engage in lively discussion and debate in response to the pieces we publish, intolerance, threats of violence, name-calling, and inflammatory language will not be approved.

    Thank you,

    The Editors

  5. Re: Syed Womiq Qadri

    Here is an excerpt from a report that Human Rights Watch (1996) wrote in which HRW details the extensive human rights abuses committed by “India’s Secret Army in Kashmir” which includes the STF/SOG of JK Police. (And this was only a year or so after the group was created):

    “International human rights law prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of life under any circumstances. The government of India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 6 of the ICCPR expressly prohibits derogation from the right to life. Thus, even during time of emergency, “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Articles 4 and 7 of the ICCPR explicitly ban torture, even in times of national emergency or when the security of the state is threatened. The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch/Asia indicates that the Indian army, Border Security Force, Special Task Force, Central Reserve Police Force, and state-sponsored paramilitary “renegade” groups- the principal government forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir-have systematically violated these fundamental norms of international human rights law.”

    Here is an Indian newspaper report on a fake encounter killing in which SOG was involved:——————————–/22251/0

    The list of abuses is long. Some of it is being documented by civil society groups. See this

  6. What a way of looking at the reality Junaid. This piece speaks.

    I am saddened to see the comment space on this article also dirtied by those Hyper nationalist right wing Indians who want to impose their views on everyone across the board. Kashmir is a disputed territory and it belongs to the kashmir’s people. If India has an ounce of civilization flowing somewhere in its blood (if at all) it should pack up its 0.7 million gun trotting half-animals from kashmir and let its citizens free.

    These stone battles are played out in almost every street in Kashmir. Young boys brave it out with merely stones and in return are killed with bullets by ‘brave’ indian soldiers. It is high time that the world community takes cognizance of the happenings in kashmir and advises India (which seems incomprehensible to its govt) to concentrate on its own hungry and dying population, rather than spending money on army which is put in kashmir to kill, rape and loot.

    Believe me Future would like to see at least something positive emerging from India.

  7. Kashmir problem is an issue of uncompromised egos. Let us recognize that the problem is situated in the valley of Kashmir which is 140 kms in length and 30 kms in width. Really – a small landmass for a military to control. But it is not about land. It is about people, folks. We have three unyielding situations. a) Kashmir valley wants complete freedom for itself and wants to include in its vision of freedom, other parts of J&K in India and in Pakistan. b) Pakistan wants the Kashmri Valley to be included in its part of Kashmir and leave Jammu and Laddakh for India. c) India will never let another division of the country or its reorganization. A compromise has to be made to make each party feel that it is the winner in a deal and let life move on. How does Pakistan get a sense of ownership in Kashmir? Hw does India does not get an impression that the borders have changed? How does Kashmir get a feeling that its cause for a unified J&LK has not gone in vain? These three questions need to be answered. Lot of people have come up with their ideas. Musharraf’s 4 point formula, PDP’s Self Rule etc. Whatever has to be done, must be done fast. Hurriyat folks need to keep their ego aside. Armed forces need to get out of the cities. Pakistan needs to stop encouraging movementof armed men across LOC. Time is of essence here. If eparatists are unwilling to come forward and bite the bullet, the Indian government needs to take the lead. After all, if you claim that the citizens of Kahmri are Indian, what moral obligation do you have detaining them with the might of military? And please do not go back to look at things historically. History was never the same for any place. Look at the present and decide on something which works and brings relief.

  8. In 1989, a section of people in Kashmir with clear guidance and planning of Pakistan started an armed, violent and religious – political movement against India and consequently Hindu minorities. In ensuing years, the Indian state, as was to be expected, hit back to curb the so called movement. In ensuing conflict, thousands were displaced and killed both innocent and guilty from either side. Militarily defeated by yearly 2000 and discredited due to fall of grace from Pakistan, the tone and tenor of movement was changed to make it look like “oppressed and oppressor” storyline with complete disregard to it’s violent and militant origins. A group of well off people, specially those settled and educated abroad and having no stake in future of poor young victims of conflict, have become cheerleaders of this storyline championing it in front of unsuspecting readers. Also conveniently forgotten is the lack of any historical nationhood of Kashmir, concentration of such sentiments in only the Kashmir valley wherein Ladakh and Jammu regions being totally opposed to any conflict with India. Readers are suggested to take this narrative with pinch of salt or believe it at their own intellectual risk.

  9. Author forgot writting about Kashmiris treatment of their hindu neighbours during millitancy years…

    Its basically what you sow is what you reap…

  10. kashmiris are fighting for the freedom of kashmir for the last more than six decades.the indian occupational forces are trying to spress the freedom movement.more than 1.50 lac people got killed for the last 20 years by the forces.india, pakistan and the kashmiris had to settle this issue ,already in UNO”””’

  11. I don’t know what purpose this article serves other than glorifying street urchins. Yes, a majority of Indians have no sympathy for the Kashmiri cause because it is based on religion. Indians are not blind to what happened to the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley over the years and their mass exodus over the last century. You want us to sympathize with the people who cleansed the original inhabitants of the land to create an Islamic state? Your biased reporting will not fool anyone. Kashmiri is surviving because of the army otherwise it would be bombed everyday like Pakistan.

  12. “In the disputed territory of Kashmir, civilians wage a battle without modern weapons against “the idea of domination.””

    They first used modern weapons and succeeded in cleansing the hindu population from the area. Then once the Indian army went in and broke their backs, they have resorted to the “peaceful” method of stone throwing (it is more like rock throwing, as the projectiles are large enough to be capable of killing a person).

    Also the conflict cannot be seen in and of itself. It is a continuation of the hasty partition conducted in 1947 which led to the Muslim majority regions becoming today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh. While Pakistan has almost completely wiped out the hindu population and Bangladesh reduced it, the muslims in India on the other hand are growing at a higher rate than hindus and have increased as a proportion of the Indian population. So this is seen in India as yet another attempt by muslims where they are in a majority to secede and cleanse the minority hindus, while the rest continue to stay back in India and keep growing.

  13. Ever heard of the Kabailis? Or may be Operation Gibraltar?
    How many Kashmiri Pundits are left in the valley?
    Or, perhaps not being on the side of the ‘Stone Warriors’ they do not count.

  14. The author is clearly attempting to paint a picture without canvass(truth). Blatantly misrepresenting facts has become a pastime for those with no stakes in facts as well as those with vested interests in the disguise as ‘scholars’. The author should have started with how the current ongoing strife was orchestrated. How mosques were used to issue threats to minority Hindu community. How women belonging to minority community were raped and killed. How unsuspecting Hindus were killed by their own Muslim neighbors. This was all well planned with instruction coming from across the line of control. The author also conceals the fact that stone pelters are often paid to throw stones, and stones are delivered to them (wheel barrows filled with stones conveniently appear at the scene). Kashmiri masses have been systematically and steadily fed doses of misinformation and lies (social network comes handy here). Kashmir is not just valley of Kashmir, and yet somehow separatists and terrorist sympathizers come to believe so, Go ahead and read this article by Mr. Junaid if you believe in lies and deceptions. I feel saddened as a Kashmiri that lies and distortions have gone unchallenged and thus the machinery churning out fiction in the name of history goes on.

  15. What about the Hindus who were driven out of their homes and now occupied by the elites of Kashmir whose sons throw stones at Indian forces?

  16. Dear All,

    Stone Pelting is nothing bu INTIFIDA tactics of the JIHADI Extremism. There are 100s of people who have got killed due to stone pelting on passers by & Civilians . Organised Mobs catapulted by Gun wielding Extremists have used this tactics in Palestine , Afghanistan & now in Kashmir from last 2-3 years.

    No emotional rhetoric can justify it or no Religious doctrine since the time of PBUH of Stoning the KAFIRs can legalize it.

    Regards ,

    Y4PK Coordinator

  17. have any kasmiri youth understood why the indians are so desprate in making kashmir a stable & prosperous state within india, beacause it completes the modren idea of a secular country like india, kasmiri youth should also consider the plight of INDIAN MUSLIMS, if the care for them, whose position will so much solidify in india is kasmir settles in india. on the other hand it will add a new dimesnion to the idea of india because kasmir will become the first state of india with a muslim majority and if kasmir goes the other way it will prove that “where ever muslims are in majority they cant tolerate other religion” like in pakistan where every day is a hell with question of life & death for all minorities

  18. It is ironic – the Kashmiris ask for freedom, but they already have freedom if they just stop demanding it violently. They have freedom under the Indian constitution; and the world recognizes that there is freedom in India – freedom of religion, in particular. No number of emotional articles like this one will move the world to support Kashmiris – the countries that matter will no longer support the creation of another Islamic Emirate.

    What the author should write about is how minorities are treated in Muslim majority states. For one, Kashmir itself which has killed or driven off Pandits. But go on to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia. There is plenty of emotional gut wrenching writing material there. When these states give freedom to their minorities, will Muslims have any moral standing to ask for a “free” Kashmir.

  19. Another poor defense of freedom

    A recently published article on the magazine Guernica, “Stone Wars”, attempts to present the horror of a people living under foreign subjugation [1]. Unfortunately, it lets down those it would serve, by making a few significant errors.

    The author clearly states his role as an observer: “(I did not) throw any stones”. However, he admits something that makes it hard to retain a good opinion of him: “I may have handed a couple of small pebbles lying next to me to a teenager—a stone warrior—who was running short.” The first objection, of course, is to encourage a younger person (a minor?) to engage in an activity that might possibly rob him of his ability to get an education or a job, or even cost him his life, while keeping one’s own hands clean. The writer gets to observe the spectacle, and go back to a comfortable existence, and write about it, transferring the risk to one of those he wishes to defend.

    The second objection is that the writer insists that what he supplied consisted of pebbles. Now, pebbles are small stones. But the author goes further. He supplied “small pebbles”. Small, small stones. These could not possibly harm anyone, especially if they don’t reach the intended victims, and said victims have full-on body armor anyway. This act of proclaiming participation, and moral backing, but only in a way that would allow any court to instantly acquit the journalist, but not those with whom commiseration is declared, is shabby. In an earlier draft, perhaps, the author would have surreptitiously disinfected those small pebbles, and discarded any with rough edges.

    A horrible crime is described. “The bodies had been found on the banks of a gently flowing stream no more than knee deep, in close proximity to three large Indian security camps. Why the bodies had struggle wounds, why at least one was found stark naked—for these questions, the government had no answer.” This appears damning. How did the courts react, though? The journalist makes no comment on this. When the executive commits excesses, the courts must step in, and the press, surely? All we are told, or can infer, is that the crime took place in May or June, 2009, in an unnamed town close to Anantnag. Perhaps the journalist does not wish the exact facts (as far as they are easily available in the public domain) to be studied?

    But perhaps the exact facts do not matter. “In the night, my friend told me, the CRPF goes into the alleys hurling abuses and beating against the doors of people’s homes. Occasionally they break into the houses and beat up men, molest women, and loot valuables.” If that’s true, then injustice is rife, and must be challenged. But our author does not try to delve further, to ascertain details, to raise a stink, to inform the national and international press, and the courts. He leaves it as “a friend told me”. Surely, we may expect more from a journalist? Our author, perhaps as compensation, gives us a culinary portrait of Kashmir: the article references “date palms”, “choicest flaky bagirkhanis”, “samovars of almond kahwa”, “roasted peas and ice-kulfis” and “grilled kabab or a rista”. All this in an article that appears to be about a subjugated people resisting the oppressor.

    There is a picture accompanying the article. It shows what appear to be two Indian policemen. No date is suggested, no location is mentioned, and while there are at least two vehicles in the background, their license plates cannot be read, for only the two men are in focus. The picture is attributed to another website, but, there too, we find no identifying information. Surely, we are past putting in pictures for the sake of pictures, which may or may not have anything to do with the article?

    The author describes young boys and men throwing stones at the armed aggressors. This appears to be something every lover of liberty must applaud – as long as no one gets hurt. That should be quite achievable, for the author suggests:

    “…..nor are they (the stones) intended to injure”

    This is a little incredible. A group of people throwing stones at another group of people, and not intending to injure them? Perhaps our author confuses stones with orchids, as far as their effect on being flung at human tissue is concerned.

    However, he does attempt two strokes in the defense of his thesis: that the soldiers are “always in full body armor”, and that “Stones are thrown from a distance where the stone throwers can outpace soldiers if chased, but this necessary distance also ensures that the stones don’t reach the soldiers”. That sounds plausible, except that the picture with the two uniformed men shows them with their faces exposed. And, the author goes on to add,” Mostly, the stones hit no one”. That bit seems to detract from the too-far-to-hit and have-body-armor-anyway defenses, no pun intended.

    Also, the author permits himself too much adolescent romanticizing.

    “The soldiers are not artists, but part of the creation itself. If the streets are canvasses where stone pelters perfect their techniques, soldiers are just olive-colored blotches symbolizing Indian domination of the region.”

    Very poetic, if it wouldn’t attempt to conceal the fact that the olive-colored blotches were human beings.

    And some naiveté too:

    “SOG specializes in torture and killing, and is loathed by one and all. They show a level of brutality disproportionate to their puny salaries—it is believed that they are paid 1500 rupees a month, or around 30 dollars, along with food and lodging for their services….”

    Disproportionate? So, if their salaries were less puny, then they would be even more brutal? Surely, higher-income levels might be expected to reduce the desire to wade into a group of “stone-warriors” (yes, the author so refers to the throwers of stones)?

    Of course, one of the major themes of the conflict is domination and freedom. Alas, our journalist refrains from presenting a balanced view, in terms of the democratic process, access to courts, the (nominally?) free media, the historic origin of the conflict, the religious and ethnic angles to the issue et cetera.

    Once again, Nietzsche: “a poor defense of truth is a disservice to truth”. Or something similar.

  20. Rather than stones, they should have education on their sides. Wrong choice – they have been making for the last 30 years.

    Kashmiri Pandits, who are the original inhabitants of Kashmir, have been hounded out of the region using threats, selective killing and religious extremism. No mention of that and distorting history does not serve the region, leave aside the cause. Kashmiri Pandits are a part of the region and no one can take it away – they have an equal right and say. Jammu & Ladakh region are and ant to be a part of India, which is the bigger picture.

    Kashmiris need to reassess hat they are upto.

    STONES might create a street battle, but definitely NOT the war!

  21. If anyone thinks that Kashmiri separatism is a nationalistic struggle he should review his opinion. With thousands of terrorists belonging to groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jash-e-Mohammed, Hizbul-Mujahideen,Al-Badr, Harkatul Mujhahideen having been trained and armed in Pakistan the Kashmir narrative has since made a paradigm shift. Kashmir as on date is nothing more than a pan-Islamic Terrorist discourse. Moderate Kashmiri Muslims are already suffering by the offshoots of aforementioned groups day in and day out. If police and Security Forces are removed from the scene it’s going to be anarchy around with fanatic terrorists enjoying a field day. These terrorists have killed thousands of Kashmiri Muslims besides with the help of local Muslim cronies hounded Kashmiri Pandits out of their homes. The kind of proxy war that India faced in Kashmir is unprecedented and the state response has by and large been quire rational and appropriate. There have been certain excesses which is quite understandable though unjustified given the magnitude of terrorism in Kashmir. The victim hood mindset that’s prevalent in some Kadhmiri fiction writers who in the process end up glorifying terror and destruction is complicating the situation. World is very much aware what’s going on in Kashmir. Fiction won’t Change anything. Being a Kashmiri Muslim I am witness to terrorist atrocities and also that some people who made fortunes in this conflict. Some people want the conflict lingered on to write fables and lies and call it conflict literature. They cozy themselves in far off lands inciting trouble in our Kashmir.

  22. I fail to understand what freedom we want. We in Kashmir enjoy all freedoms. We elect our own government. We have absolute religious freedoms. We have highest seats of learning with about 12 universities, engineering, medical,agricultural colleges. We brought guns from Pakistan in 1989 and invited Army into civilian areas thus bringing conflict into our homes. We have time and again voted in elections prior to onslaught of terrorism and as well as after that exhibiting our faith in democracy and rule of law. Once the remnants of terror are gone we will again be a democratic and prosperous state. I dread the preposition of theo-fascist state which is propounded by extremists with likes of this author. Write ups like this is an attempt to dilute the crimes committed by terrorists, anarchists and paid-stone pelters. Recently these stone pelters killed a civilian from Rajouri who was traveling in a cab near Awantipora. A small violent and vocal minority of religious zealots with fear and intimidation want to force their ideology upon large peace loving majority. Often taking refuge in fabricated stories of human rights to paint the state in bad light and stall the efforts of law enforcing agencies to bring peace and stability. Many so called human rights groups are being funded by Pakistani ISI through their proxies in west like Ghulam Nabi Fai in USA( now convicted and jailed in USA for terror links), charities in Canada and so on. But they stand exposed now and world community is concerned about terrorism and spread of religious fascism in Kashmir.

  23. The beautiful prose is bewitching but no amount of whitewashing will change the fact that the very same ‘oppressed kashmiris’ killed, threatened, hounded the kashmiri hindus out of kashmir. At that time, they were dreaming of Pakistan. Now, with that dream shattered, they have changed the modus operandi. Since the militant costume wasn’t working out very well, they decided to change roles and put on the costume of the oppressed…

    It would be interesting to read an article about the exodus of kashmiri hindus by this esteemed writer…or is that asking for too much…does he have the courage? I will wait for it…

  24. Re: S

    Since one cannot address bad reading habits in a comment—or the relentless abuse of history and logic to justify the Indian presence in Kashmir—I will address only those questions that are pertinent to the essay.

    The essay is an eyewitness account of the physical risks involved, both for stone throwers as well as bystanders (including observers), during anti-state protests in Anantnag, as well as in many other cities and towns in Kashmir. These protests are highly dangerous, as the essay tries to show, but given that people do resort to them regularly points to desperation caused by the lack of pressure on the Indian government to address the Kashmir conflict from the same ‘international press and courts’ etc, that S wants me to “raise the stink” in. Historically, Kashmiri people have raised questions concerning the lack of political rights, injustice, and oppression in Kashmir in front of the international community and the press—there are several UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, which remain unimplemented, and many collective memoranda and letters that Kashmiris have submitted to UN institutions and other international human rights organizations—so S’s suggestion is neither path-breaking nor based on any informed understanding of the Kashmir question.

    Not that those avenues must not be continuously pursued, but Kashmiri writers or journalists cannot be asked to write letters instead to the international courts each time they write accounts about events in Kashmir.

    The essay is an attempt to understand what this form of protest—stone throwing—entails for the people who are involved in them, and for those who live close by, in those moments when they are out there facing the soldiers. I grew up in Kashmir and lived there during the most intense period of the popular armed revolt against India. And since I am not a journalist, and I don’t carry a journalist’s card, to be among the stone-throwers on that day carried the same amount of risk and danger for me as for others.

    Nevertheless, even the journalists don’t escape the wrath of the state forces. There are many cases in which journalists, especially photojournalists, have been injured during the protests, or were beaten or harassed by the police for covering them. For instance see this report from 2010:

    For an outsider, who feels discomforted by certain forms of protest, it might come naturally to teach the natives how to protest, but to say that there can be any “comfortable existence” in a place like Kashmir where more than half a million Indian soldiers sit atop the population, is sheer irresponsibility. Every writer in the world, who writes about protests and resistance, can be accused of ‘romanticizing’ resistance. But what is the alternative? Not write about them. Even if one accepted S’s contention about democracy and courts, how would you convince the protestors, who receive widespread support across Kashmir, about the so-called “democratic process”, “access to courts” etc in Kashmir, when these processes and institutions of the occupier state are neither seen as credible nor impartial? How can they be credible and impartial under a military occupation that is reinforced by impunity laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

    The government in Kashmir describes stone-throwing youngsters as “agitational terrorists” “drug addicts,” “hired hands”, etc, a language which was quickly adopted by the “free press” in India. The courts slap them with Public Safety Act for minor offenses, and put them away for two years at a time. What “balance” can exist, in such a situation, between the narrative of the mighty Indian state and that of the beleaguered Kashmiri protestors?

    And you are not the first to dangle the carrot of “education” and “jobs” in front of the protestors. Indian government believes those who protest its rule in Kashmir are uneducated subalterns who can be cheaply bought off with jobs—reducing the questions of justice to economic sops.

    And may I know how by writing about a form of protest in Kashmir “transfers risk” to people involved in those protests, when none of details that might implicate them has been given?

    The incident of rape and murder, which I refer to in the essay, took place in Shopian on May 29, 2009. There are extensive reports on the issue in the media. Several Kashmiri civil society organizations, including the Majlis Mashawarat, produced independent reports. See this news report about the report prepared by Independent Women’s Initiative for Justice which consisted of prominent Indian lawyers and activists: .

    For the benefit of the readers, the entire report can be found here:

    The event that I report took place before the courts had come into the picture over the issue.

    Indian soldiers are human, and the essay does not deny that; unfortunately in a space of violence and oppression the opponent’s humanity loses it’s meaning—especially if the opponent uses overwhelming force to crush protests. As far as I know, not a single soldier has died over the last five years because of stone throwing. In contrast the soldiers shot dead 68 protestors in 2008, more than a dozen in 2009, and around 115 in 2010.

    I have not supplied the picture for the essay—the editors have. Clearly the picture seems to be of normal times in Kashmir—normal by Kashmiri standards, that is, with CRPF personnel in body armor, if not in full body gear and inside armored cars, still walking the streets.

    Regarding the size of pebbles, I leave that to S’s imagination.

  25. Indians – there’s one and a half billion of them. There’s just 13.7 million Kashmiris. So, don’t judge the reality by the number of comments on this article.

    Facts presented by the author are truth. It’s easy to judge an occupied people and their action in self-defence while not being part of the situation. Kashmiri Pandits were a small minority and they were driven out by Indian intelligence agencies so that the remaining Muslim population could be easily killed off. It is not conceivable that an oppressed people who are themselves struggling to protect their own lives, dignity and property can threaten a minority.

    Readers are advised to plan a trip to Kashmir, live amongst its people and witness the truth by themselves. We don’t need to be told by Indians who do not understand us, neither sympathise with us – how to think and what to wish. No economic incentives are more lucrative than the taste of absolute freedom and political autonomy. We don’t need it under Indian constitution where people as evidenced by the commentators on this article are so biased along religious lines. Rather than seeing the truth, they see Kashmir through the prism of Hindu-Muslim tug-of-war. We have never been part of that communalist narrative and neither do we want to be. India may be great but thank, no but thanks.

  26. It’s unfortunate that many of the comments fail to understand the point of this piece. Stone Wars is a vignette of the day-to-day existence living in an occupied territory, illustrating one way people choose to resist their Indian oppressors.

    This piece is not intended to be a broad overview of the situation in Kashmir, therefore it does not and should not have to mention the full history of the conflict. Some who commented, i.e. Syed Wamiq Qadri, want to distort the present day realities of Kashmir, labeling these stone throwers as terrorists in a “free” Kashmir (his example of elections in a place where elections are certainly not free is erroneous, in Kashmir the government imposes curfews on districts not actively voting and there are many examples of armed soldiers ferrying in villagers to vote, etc.).

    Others who comment, like Priya Raina, etc., want to change the entire conversation by only discussing events surrounding the Kashmiri Hindu community thereby ignoring all the pain and suffering others have endured in the valley.

    Some who comment also seem to think that the world understands what is happening in Kashmir, again, seeking to silence any voice that doesn’t parrot what the Indian government would like people across the world to think: that Kashmir is filled with Muslim terrorists seeking to “separate” from “secular” India. This is a convenient narrative given the times, however, it is grossly inaccurate.

  27. For those interested in pictures and voices from protests in Kashmir see this photoessay

    The pictures are from summer 2010 a year after the events that I describe.

  28. The comments provide a truly spectacular display of the bigotry and hatred that underlies six decades of Indian state violence in Kashmir. I think my favorite is “Then once the Indian army went in and broke their backs”
    The syntax and grammer are suited to the deplorable opinions.
    Congratulations to the writer and editors for daring to publish the truth about Kashmir. Please continue to do so.

  29. Sad that the author responds with such trash and his few supporters tend to play comments as numbers game. I am a Kashmiri born and raised in Srinagar. Kashmir is a miscalculation on part of religious zealots who seem to draw inspiration from disinformation, killings and intimidation. No matter how howling the protests from religious nuts, those of us who love Kashmir with every fiber of our being will spare no attempt to discredit the murderers, fascists and brainwashed individuals who want the world to believe that India is to blame. Yes India is to blame for putting up with traitors and those responsible directly and indirectly for bringing death and destruction to Kashmir. Distorted interpretation of scriptures, bogus claims of desecration of religious books seems to be global modus- operandi of these misled goons who bite the very hand that feeds them.

  30. I love this piece by Junaid. Only somebody like me,who’s been witness to the things Junaid talks about in the essay, can fully grasp what he’s trying to convey. I live a couple of miles from from where Junaid lives in Anantnag/Islamabad. The comments here by Indians only betray their sick mentality.

  31. I thought the tactic of using a Muslim-sounding name (and explicitly trying to suggest that someone is born and living in Kashmir) and hoping to be taken seriously on that account alone was quite an outdated tactic used by Indian bigots to confuse an otherwise clear debate. But it seems, the trolls still believe the Internet is that of the 2004 where your opinion will be evaluated based on who you claim to be rather than how much sense you are making.

    Just a small bit of information: Kashmir (which includes Chenab valley, Rajouri, Laddakh, Gilgit, Jammu city etc; not just your 140 kms) is neither poor nor desperate. Despite decades of subjugation, exploitation of our natural resources and continued colonization, we’re economically quite well off. Most of the youth joining the ranks in armed struggle are very well educated. This has destroyed the myth that the persistence of centuries of cultural, religious and nationalist conscience until today has anything to do with economy.

  32. I live in Pampore and I know how paid agents of militants,terrorists and Pakistani ISI backed seccsionists organise and orchestrate these street battles with a lot of money bein paid to young boys and being motivated by religious fundamentals and promise of 72 virgins in heaven. Kashmir problem is nothing but extension of Islamo-Fascist mindset prevailing from Syria to Bangladeh. World community needs to listen to voices of scanner and moderate Muslims like me who live in continuous fear of being branded as Indian or non-believer and being killed ultimately.

  33. Again not making sense ‘Wamiq’! How is you supposedly living in Pampore (in which case you ought to have a better experience of the brutalities being committed by the Army there) relevant to your name-calling a religion you seem to have vendetta against and a country easily targeted by your fellow bigots? You’re simply spewing what you wish were reality.

  34. Suhaib,
    1) Doubting my Pampore credentials illustrates that you are some Pakistani agent of Ghulam Nabi Faie kind who believe that if you are not an Islamo-Fascist Jammati of Geelani like you are not a Kashmiri. For you all those 70% people who excercise their right to vote in democratic elections aren’t Kashmiris. Every Kashmiri who votes in elections reaffirms and reiterates its faith in idea and democracy of india. And every couple of years in State Assembly elections and Parliamentary elections people vote. There is not a single report of any coercion. People voluntarily come and take part in democratic excercise. There though are few pockets including my town where people don’t vote in such huge numbers.
    2) One can’t deny that excesses have been committed by Indian Security Forces but those are negligible what terrorist of Pakistani origin have committed. They killed thousands of innocent non combatants accusing them for standing with India or being members of Pro India Parties like NC or PDP or being informers.
    3) Whole world now knows what this anarchical anti human terrorist movement was actually.
    4) I am a Kashmri, a Musllim and an Indian who loves peace and tranquility. I hate terrorism and anarchy.

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