Soutik Biswas in Srinagar

From BBC: Kashmir’s cry for Freedom

“The interminable day and night curfews have drained all life out of Srinagar. People have retreated into their homes leaving back graffiti on the walls screaming Go Back India! In the restive old city, surly young men sit outside shuttered homes and shops and glare at the troops peering out of sandbagged bunkers and manning the razor wire checkpoints. People wake up at the crack of dawn to store up on supplies when the grocers open for a few minutes.”

A whole generation of children of the conflict – Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer evocatively calls it their “war of adolescence” – who grew up in the days of militancy and violence in the early 1990s are driving the protests today. (Seven out of 10 Kashmiris are below 25.)”

Mainstream politicians admit that they have lost confidence of the people. “We can only wait and watch how the situation develops,” says Ms Mufti. The hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelaniappears to be only leader with a modicum of legitimacy, however precarious. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “give peace a chance ” appeal to Kashmiris in a televised speech on Tuesday appears to have left them cold. When politics and the state withers away, it creates a dangerous vacuum. One senses an early beginning of this in Kashmir today.”

In their homes, mothers are stocking memories of their dead children in trunks, suitcases, cupboards and school bags. Most have died in the firing by security forces.

One mother emptied a cupboard and a suitcase full of of her 14 yr-old boy’s belongings for me. Wamiq Farooq had gone to play in the neighbourhood when a tear gas shell fired by the troops exploded on his head. Doctors tried to revive him for an hour at the hospital before declaring him dead.”

Now, sitting on a brown rug in a modest family home, his mother brings out Wamiq’s red tie, red belt, white cap, fraying blue uniform, half a dozen school trophies, report cards, school certificates and then his pithy death certificate. “He is sure to be a face in the crowd,” writes his school principal on one certificate praising Wamiq, the Tom and Jerry cartoons and science-loving teenaged son of a street vendor father. Then she slowly puts back Wamiq – his life and death – back into the suitcase and the cupboard and tells me, her eyes welling up: “I never understood why Kashmiri people demand freedom. After Wamiq’s death, I do. I want freedom too. So that my children can return home unharmed and in peace.”


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