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Hear it from a former stone-pelter: What Kashmir needs is dialogue and non-violent discourse

Covai Post Network


This video, excerpted from a speech given by a former stone-pelter, Irfan Gull, acquires greater significance today in light of sudden rise in militant activities in Kashmir and after the events at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where apparently a few young Kashmiris, with their faces covered, shouted provocative slogans against India and then vanished.

This video is not only an exposé of how Kashmir’s youth are manipulated but also an honestly told story, a realisation based on experience, an expression of moderation, a confession, and, above all, an appeal to all sections of people – for introspection, dialogue and resolution of the Kashmir problem through understanding and non-violent discourse.

The historic importance of this video may be seen in light of many Kashmiri people’s experiences in Kashmir, where free expression of one’s political disagreement with the dominant discourse is fraught with grave risks to life. Irfan Gull, a young Kashmiri student, has taken a great risk and shown courage in articulating his heart-felt thoughts.

This is a 12-minute, edited and subtitled version of the 34-minute long speech and the question answer session that followed.

The transcript of the full un-edited speech in Irfan Gul’s own words is given below.

On February 14, 2016, a seminar was held in Srinagar, I was invited to express my views. The title of the seminar was: “Has gun proven to be the enemy of Kashmir? Will violence achieve anything?”

And this was my speech:

I am feeling honoured that I have been given an opportunity to express my viewpoint about this subject. Kashmir dispute is one of the determining factors for the stability of the subcontinent. It is a complex Issue, which may take time to get resolved.

We will strive for its solution but at the same time we need to keep in mind that we have to survive as well.

Being concerned citizens, we must give space and respect to everyone’s views – so let us have a debate of ideas rather than a battle of bullets.

It is neither the question of “integral part” [as India maintains] nor the “jugular vein” [as Pakistan argued] but it is the struggle for dignity which finally will culminate in emancipation from miseries.

Life as a protester

I was involved in stone pelting, fighting against Indian forces, but later I drew some lessons from those years of my stone pelting which I believe was not in the good interests of common people of Kashmir.

When Amarnath land row started in 2008, I was in class 10. I was active in that agitation and was organising and mobilising people from my village and its adjacent areas for protests and demonstrations in Kulgam. We were using loudspeakers and other mediums for it, which I realised was either immaturity or some instability which hits every concerned youth of the valley.

I grew up in the village which was known as the hotbed of resistance in Kulgam. I noticed that I was being glorified and, perhaps instigated. People used to call me a jihadi and say, “You will go to heaven” and so many such things.

When late Sheikh Abdul Aziz sahib was killed, we gathered people and went to Pampore for his funeral prayers and also joined rallies at TRC and Eidgah. Finally the day came when it was announced that the lease order [granted for Somnath Yatra] was cancelled.

The sense of victory not only delighted us but was a ray of hope as it was after long time we gave up violence and hit the streets in a mass movement. It was the stage where every Kashmiri was proud of the people’s movement rather than the barrels of guns.

Later on, we again failed to shape the real resistance movement which not only hurts me personally but also made me think that we need to have a concrete analysis of society.

To be honest I must tell you frankly that our whole political spectrum is in wayward direction: They don’t have any concrete analysis of this dispute.

Some view it as a complete religious battle between Hindus and Muslims, some view it as a battle of India and Pakistan, and accordingly they will have their own sides.

Hijacked movement

Then life returned to normalcy (normalcy by Kashmiri standards). Now it was time for Assembly elections. We again started our mission, pelting stones at every political party except one party.

I asked my friends, “Why are we not supposed to pelt stones today?”

One among them said, “This is our own party”!

It was shocking. I don’t need to praise mainstream parties as you all know the electoral leaders consider themselves to be the epitome of honesty and integrity, which they are not. Actually, they are also responsible for every brutality as well.

In 2009, again, we started the same thing, a protest against Asiya and Neelofar’s rape and murder [widely known as the Shopian rape and murder case]. Later, it was confined to Shopian only, and we couldn’t achieve anything.

In 2010, again, I was studying in KGP Gogi Bagh and we were pelting stones at Rambagh and Natipora area of Srinagar. And we all know what happened in 2010. Hundreds were killed. But again we couldn’t achieve anything.

Then I started thinking seriously that we are losing a life every day. We lost so many lives and faced economic and educational loss as well. Why doesn’t international community talk about us?

I understood that our movement is hijacked – it is not a religions fight with India but a political one. India brands our resistance as a communal one, and it is true that it is gradually being influenced by fundamentalist elements who have made it into a religious movement, which is detrimental for the movement.

After that I started talking with some friends that here is a problem with us and telling the people that we need to do things this way, by all this we – the people – are at the receiving end, not India or Pakistan. Then I started posting on Facebook which was my platform and started meeting friends from all the regions of this part of Jammu and Kashmir, learning from their experiences in life.

And then some months back I thought that since I am working on the ground, I must write to the newspapers as well on some untold stories of Kashmir history and give direction to my anger through the use of pen instead of stone or gun.

As per my little experience, I have got to understand that we need to make people aware about how we can achieve our goals, we need to unite people of all regions to get our issues solved.

Speak-up against injustice

If one wants to work for better society, he or she must be fair in calling a spade a spade. Injustice to anyone by anyone is condemnable and we must speak up against every injustice irrespective of religion, region, caste, language, sex etcetera.

It is known to all that India cheated us right from 1953, when then Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah was unseated and then change of nomenclature of sadar-i-riyasat to governor and Prime Minister to Chief Minister in 1965. The year 1984 was the turning point for the insurgency, when India toppled elected government by organising defection through the then governor Jagmohan. Then again rigging of elections in 1987 proved to be the last nail in the coffin.

These may not be all the reasons for the eruption of violence in Kashmir but these are the main and substantial reasons for it. Vitiating the essence of Article 370 and then legitimising that erosion by the brute [state] power is one of the reasons of dissent, which further alienated [Kashmiris] and then turned into hatred.

The brutality unleashed by the counter insurgency agencies in terms of civilian killings, rape, torture etcetera. created havoc in Jammu and Kashmir as that was worst form of state terrorism. Even denial of Kunan Poshpora.

If we believe Arif Jamal, a Pakistani journalist, his book Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir” says it all. He says more than 7,000 gun men of one pro-Azadi organisation, who were fighting against India, were killed by their own people.

Several hundreds were killed in fight between rebel groups, one example is of Pulwama 1993. The pro-independence political leaders having different opinion were eliminated, these included Dr Ahad Guru, Professor Abdul Ahad Wailoo, Mirwaiz Farooq, Qazi Nissar and Ghulam Qadir Wani.

The gun is in total control of ISI, whatever they wish they do that with it.

Kashmiri Pandits were killed and forced to leave Kashmir, which is a blot on the movement – and what did we get by that? Our movement got labeled as terrorist movement, a communal moment and what not.

So it is debatable whether the gun was relevant or not in 1990s, but I believe it is certainly not relevant now. What we need is a pluralist movement of the people, which must include all the regions of the state. It should be a a revolutionary mass movement. Thank you

Disclaimer:The views expressed above are the author’s own

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