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Kashmir: Protests are fine, not motivated ones

July 14, 2010 19:40 IST

The current round of stone pelting in Kashmir is violent posturing that is provocative in design aided and abetted by anti-national elements. Let us not imbue these protests with even an iota of sanctity: they are undeserving of that, writes Vivek Gumaste.

Hurriyat (Geelani-faction) leader Ghulam Mohd Dar: No, I have heard that it's a massive one - nearly 30,000.
Local Hurriyat activist, Shabir Ahmed: 30,000?
Hurriyat (G) leader Ghulam Mohd Dar: I swear, 30,000 of them. Protest near the Magam Forest check post. You enjoy your salaries without doing anything for it.
Local Hurriyat activist, Shabir Ahmed: You have to understand the reason for it
Hurriyat (G) leader Ghulam Mohd Dar: Tell me.
Local Hurriyat activist, Shabir Ahmed: The crowds get too big to handle at times. Lots of people join in and it's difficult to manage them.
Hurriyat (G) leader Ghulam Mohd Dar: We want 10-15 more martyred. Did you hear that?

OutlookIndia. July 9

This intercept of a damning piece of conversation between two senior hardline Hurriyat leaders Ghulam Ahmed Dar and Shabir Ahmed Wani released by the Union home ministry exposes the diabolical undercurrent that is driving the rash of violent protests engulfing Kashmir: namely money power and an unimaginable depravity that has no qualms about sacrificing young Kashmiri lives to maintain the momentum of the insurgency.

Some skeptics (Sundeep Dougal 'We Want 10-15 More Martyred'. OutlookIndia July 9) however, have dismissed the English version of the transcript as inaccurate, dubbing it as an overenthusiastic translation of harmless Kashmiri banter that fails to comprehend or reflect the nuances of the Kashmiri language.

While the intercept may not qualify as incontrovertible evidence or maybe open to varying interpretation, there is nothing equivocal about the deadly ground reality of the last few days that saw close to 15 civilian deaths. These were not instances of happenstance. A meticulous analysis of each of the lethal incidents reveals a duplicitous gameplan guilefully contrived and efficiently executed to trap security personnel into apparent wrongdoing.

Each incident appears to follow a set pattern. Either an accidental death is given a deliberate hue to fuel more violence or security personnel are directly targeted to perpetuate an escalating cycle of violence.

Take for example the death of Tufail Ahmad Matoo, the first civilian casualty in the current series of deaths, a 17-year-old schoolboy who was caught in the crossfire between an unruly mob and police personnel. Evidence does not point to him being the victim of a direct frontal police assault. In fact, the post mortem enquiry throws up the possibility of his death being caused by a tear gas shell accidentally gone awry: "The entrance wound was compared with a live tear smoke shell provided by the SSP, Srinagar on request and it was found by all possibilities like examining the shape, size of the shell etc. that this type of shell is well capable to cause the injury similar to one present on deceased's head." (Indian Express, June 19).

Notwithstanding the ambiguous nature of the post mortem findings, protestors went on a rampage flaunting this as an example of police atrocity.

Read this news report to ascertain for yourself whether these victims were innocent passersby, non-violent protestors or agent provocateurs:

"Security forces opened fire at a violent mob that attacked and torched a Central Reserve Police Force vehicle in north Kashmir's Sopore town on Friday, killing two persons and injuring three others.

The security forces were on their way back from Krankshivan locality in Sopore, where two Lashkar-e-Tayiba militants were killed after a fierce gunfight on Friday evening.

When the security forces were returning from the encounter site, the angry mob attacked and torched a vehicle of the CRPF."

Note that the attack was mounted on a police force which had just completed a militant clean up operation to gauge the unholy nexus that exists between this so-called populist movement and violent insurgents.

On July 6, the scene of violence shifted to Srinagar with four additional civilian fatalities. One would be hard pressed to ascribe these deaths purely to the vagaries of trigger happy security personnel. Careful perusal finds evidence of an accidental death being exploited to fuel more violence and proof direct provocation.

Excerpt:

"The protests had begun in the area late Monday night when a group of men started throwing stones at a security contingent. While security personnel were chasing the protesters, one of them -- identified as Muzaffar Ahmad -- fell into a drain. His body was later fished out. The death triggered a fresh round of protests on Tuesday morning with a mob hurling stones at CRPF and local police present in the area."

A stone throwing miscreant falls into a drain and dies while running away from the police and his death is attributed to police brutality to ratchet up the level of dissent; nothing can be more ironic than that.

While there is no denying that there have been instances of the security personnel exceeding their brief, the significant casualties sustained by the armed forces demolishes the claim to non violence touted by the separatists and erases the perception of a totally lopsided confrontation. Home Minister Chidambaram (Outlook. June 29), succinctly summed up the dilemma faced by the security forces:

"I may point out that since June 25, 53 CRPF personnel have been injured in the two districts of Sopore and Baramulla. In the incident on June 25 (at Chankhan Bridge, Sopore), a CRPF inspector and a CRPF jawan suffered bullet injuries. The people of J&K must therefore reflect on the nature of the challenge faced by the security forces."

Protest is an integral and acceptable aspect of a democracy as long as it is non-violent in nature and genuine in intent. A protest, however authentic, loses all credibility when it resorts to violence. A stone hurled with sufficient velocity can be as vicious as a bullet fired from a policeman's rifle with the capability of inflicting a death blow.

Therefore, the current round of stone pelting is best described as violent posturing that is provocative in design aided and abetted by anti-national elements from within and disruptive forces from without, read Pakistan. Let us not exhibit any degree of lassitude or imbue these protests with even an iota of sanctity: they are undeserving of that.

Vivek Gumaste