Showkat A. Motta in Srinagar

From Outlook: A Soliloquy of Stones

The Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Kashmir Police evokes the same emotions among a majority of Kashmiris as the Khmer Rouge did among Cambodians. Which is why, during the unprecedented spate of anger raging on the streets of Kashmir, half-a-dozen SOG camps were furiously torn down by demonstrators despite the bullets and teargas shells.”

Meanwhile, the “leaderless” protesters, as chief minister Omar Abdullah calls them, grow in size and fortitude and are out on the streets in defiance of shoot-at-sight orders. Nights are not calm either. Revolutionary songs play on loudspeakers in mosques, prompting authorities to cut power supply in many areas. There is a call for rebellion, for freedom from “Indian occupation”—a throwback to the early ’90s—by a generation that was bred in the tumultuous years of conflict.

Symbols of government are fast crumbling in Srinagar and across the Valley. Places unknown on the insurgency radar have erupted ferociously. For instance, protesters torched an SOG camp in nondescript Khrew town in southern Pulwama district on Aug 1 after police shot dead two youth.

Shockingly for the government, cops at Anantnag’s Sher Bagh police station joined the protesters on Aug 1, yelling pro-azadi slogans. The next day, however, a policeman’s house was set ablaze when word spread that he had shot dead a teenaged boy before pushing him into the Jhelum.”

A senior manager at an insurance company says several top police officers are insuring their houses. About 60 non-Kashmiri officials of the accountant general’s office have migrated from the Valley, citing security concerns. In the railways, over 100 employees left after protesters torched railway stations in Sopore and Budgam. There are reports of migration of employees from other central government departments like income-tax and the khadi and village board.

The key lies with New Delhi, says the Mirwaiz. “As a first step, it should have removed police and CRPF from Srinagar. Unfortunately, they are bringing in more soldiers,” he says. The PDP agrees—party patron and ex-CM Mufti Mohammed Sayeed says, “It’s sad that Gandhi’s India has only the gun and the soldier as its contact point with a self-respecting, dignified people, who find themselves fighting a war of survival and identity.”

The stones, meanwhile, are talking. “It’s the stones that have made Geelani relevant,” says Zahid Ahmad, a young protester. “Our movement for azadi will go on with or without Geelani.” The stones, says Faheen, a teacher in Kashmir University, have rewritten the script. “A new form, in the most primitive style, of an old line: we don’t want to be with you.”

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