Saba Naqvi and Showkat Motta in Srinagar

From Outlook: Writing on the Menhir

“This is urban warfare in downtown Srinagar. The young and restless are on the frontline. It has nothing to do with guns and militancy. This is a spontaneous outburst, a renewed call for azadi.”

“Death and humiliation can be random in the Valley and it is that which is fuelling the rage of the young Kashmiri. Omar Abdullah, contrary to media perceptions, is not so much the issue in this latest eruption of azadi sentiment. The slogans on the streets are ‘Indian dogs go home’ and ‘Freedom Now’. When massive protests broke out over the Amarnath land transfer issue in 2008, some slogans were in favour of the Lashkar-e-Toiba; yet others supported Pakistan. There was a subtle but unmistakable Islamic articulation. That has changed. Now it’s just about Indian oppression and azadi.”

“At the martyrs’ graveyard, another CRPF man complains of a 14-hour shift wearing a heavy bullet-proof jacket. “Elsewhere in India, entire companies of ours are getting blown up, here too we are getting beaten with stones,” he says. As the Outlookteam displays a pass to get into the old town during curfew hour, another CRPF jawan from Bihar jokes—“You are pass, we are all fail.”

“Indeed, democracy appears a farce in a theatre like Kashmir where the armed forces call the shots and New Delhi pulls the strings.”

“Senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz says the government’s priority should be to train the J&K police. “I believe we should suspend all development and raise 15 new battalions of well-trained police so that we don’t have mishaps. Because the reality is that those who say we can live without the CRPF and the army are living in a fool’s paradise.”

“Dr Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist at the only government mental health facility in the state, says the hospital got 1,700 patients when militancy began 20 years ago. In the past year alone, one lakh visited. It is estimated that 17 per cent of the population suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“…youngsters and children’s behaviour, you give them open space, give them alternatives; you certainly don’t give them a thought police. In Kashmir, on the contrary, they live in a virtual police state.”

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