It is time we took a stand. The poison in Kashmir must be countered. The enemy must be defanged. For too long it has been fashionable to describe Kashmir as a political problem. It was, many years back. It is now radical Wahhabi Islamism that has taken firm root. If we do not act now to purge India of this poison, it will be too late.
Ideologies, especially poisonous ones, know no geographical frontiers. If our masters think that the ideology of the Islamic State will stop short of the Banihal, they are lying to themselves. Suicide bombings and public hangings are signature tunes of this new Jihad. IEDs have been re-introduced into Kashmir. It’s only a matter of time.
Lets make up our minds as to what we really wish to do in Kashmir. Should we put our minds to it, it is fairly simple. Don’t touch the innocent. Don’t spare the guilty. Period. Solutions to vexing problems are often simple, staring at us in the face. We deliberately look for complicated cures, trying to foolishly satiate the maddening urge to justify a higher level of intellectualism.
When a political leader releases stone pelters for votes, the result is Sameer Bhat. This gives a sense of inflated importance to a petty criminal, and he starts calling himself Sameer Tiger. How many J&K Police and CRPF jawans must have been injured…how many would have been martyred…in arresting those 4000 stone pelters. No one knows or cares. Votes are important. Security personnel are expendable.
As I walked into my favorite bakery in Srinagar last week, the owner stepped out to greet me. He had grown a beard, as is the fashion in Srinagar these days.
“Assalam-o-Aleikum, Mudassir* bhai. I must call you Maulana saheb now” I greeted him, with a smile. Well, he certainly looked the part, beard in full flow.
“Waleikum Assalam, Major saheb”, he responded, warmly embracing me.
“One day they will kill me if they find out that I am your friend. The things you say on TV…”, he said, rolling his eyes in mock disapproval.
“They should anyway kill you because of your baking skills. You are a public hazard,” I laughed, punching him in the arm.
“Things are changing fast, Major Saheb. There is evil in the air. For too long we have stared at the abyss that did not exist. Now that abyss is staring back at us. It has become real,” my friend said sadly. It must be all about living in downtown. There can be no other reason for a Kashmiri baker, or any other baker for that matter, to quote Nietzsche, even if the quote is absolutely mangled.
There was nothing to say. So, I said nothing.
Six strawberry rolls. Six walnut cakes. Packed neatly in a large paper box. I started to reach for my wallet. He refused firmly. Typical. So, I did what I have always done. I put the entire amount in a donation box, which has been on his counter for ages. I know my friend. The money will go to the right place, every rupee accounted for.
We exchanged jokes, my friend and I. The same old jokes about each other. Kashmiris don’t know how to make biryani, I said. Lucknow is not Lucknow any longer, he said.
As we walked outside, my friend observed, “Have you seen those Zombie movies? Stone pelters are like that. They take drugs and keep throwing stones.”
We embraced. I left for BB Cantt.
Politics is tearing the Kashmir Valley apart. Each Kashmiri political party uses these zombies for their own agenda. Stone pelters will throw stones for anyone; anyone who can sponsor the next fix. It has become a respectable day job. Some will throw stones for entertainment, because there is nothing else to do. Its fun to see someone else bleed. And if you are hit in return, there is always sympathy and money. God forbid, should you die, you are a celebrity. Thousands of people will attend your funeral. Why? Same reason. There is nothing else to do.
Its time the government took a firm stand. Who are we afraid of? Why this typical Indian obsession with “What will people say?” The world will say nothing. Our civilization has not survived thousands of years because of the world’s approval.
I have spoken to stone pelters. They have a very healthy respect for Rashtriya Rifles. CRPF and J&K Police are under orders to deal with stone pelters with limited force. If that caveat is removed, stone pelters will soon develop a very healthy respect for CRPF and J&K Police. It’s a matter of 7 working days.
Lets stop this tamasha of tear gas and pellet guns. Lets stop this litany of “misled youth”, Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat. Our guns are not for the Republic Day Parade.
Stone pelters are murderers. They kill. They intend to kill each time they pick up a stone. They only understand the language of the heel of the soldier’s boot. That is the language we must speak to them in.
They are not mislead youth. They are not young men who have been given a bad deal by life. They are traitors and must get the “azaadi” of the grave. When stone pelters defile the uniform of a soldier, they are not just insulting the soldier and his uniform. They are insulting what that uniform stands for. They are insulting India. Such an insult cannot be left unanswered.
I have said it before and I will say it again. A nation does not live on its knees. It is time for all of us to rise together and roar in one voice…
My soldier is not expendable.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
*PS: Mudassir is a common Kashmiri name. My friend’s name is not Mudassir. And though I tease him, he is an excellent baker.
(Article replushed from blog of Major Gaurav Arya, Indian Army veteran of anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir)