The boys are capable of more than just pelting stones. During the peak of 2010 summer uprising, one boy points out, they got together to arrange a truck load of aid, food and vegetables, which was secretly dispatched to Srinagar that was reeling under a strict government imposed week long curfew, writes Majid Maqbool.
Some months back, in a picturesque village in south Kashmir, I met some boys who see their acts of stone pelting at the government forces as an honorable way to live a dignified life under occupation. Especially active during the 2008 (over 60 civilians killed) and 2010 uprisings (over 100 killed), the boys said they will quit stone pelting only when India quits Kashmir.
“In my family everyone is a stone pelter,” one boy proudly says. “My mother, my sister and my grandfather also come out to protest from time to time.”
The only thing that comes in the way of their love for freedom is the hatred for the Indian state in Kashmir… and the bullets, in return for their stones, fired by police and CRPF personnel when they come out to protest on the streets. And the cumulative memory of what the Indian state—and those who represent it in Kashmir—has done to their homeland. “In my family everyone is a stone pelter,” one boy proudly says. “My mother, my sister and my grandfather also come out to protest from time to time.” But there is more to these boys than the mere act of pelting stones. They are in love with the idea of freedom, Azadi. While talking about the motivation behind stone pelting, the boys repeatedly bring up the word Azadi.
“Ager heaz aese soene sinze sadke te de na Hindustan,” one boy gestures at the recently macdamised road, “toete gaese aese Azadi”. (Even if India makes golden roads for us, we will still want Azadi)One of them meets me in a branded clothing store owned by his family. On his table there’s a small, foldable calendar. He shows me many dates in it that he has circled, every month, with a black sketch pen. These are the days when he is supposed to be in the court. He can’t afford to forget these dates. Otherwise, police will appear at his doorstep, and he will be summoned. And if he fails to appear regularly in the court, the police will drag him to the nearest police station. And he knows, from experience, that the stone pelters are not treated dearly inside the police stations. There are many cases filed against me by the police, he says, all of them for engaging in stone pelting over the years. But he doesn’t mind the discomfort of regularly appearing in the court many months, sometimes years after taking part in stone pelting. Sometimes he has to miss out on college too. “But this is nothing,” he brushes aside the troubles he has been facing because of the summons, “my friends have been killed while protesting on the streets.”
The boys are capable of more than just pelting stones. During the peak of 2010 summer uprising, one boy points out, they got together to arrange a truck load of aid, food and vegetables, which was secretly dispatched to Srinagar that was reeling under a strict government imposed week long curfew. “Everyone pitched in with something when we approached them for aid,” the boys recount that act of solidarity for their people in distress.
There’s a boy in their town, the boys are excited to inform me, who never misses any opportunity to come out on the streets and pelt stones at the police and CRPF troopers during anti-government protests. And do you know, the boys point out, he is just a12-year-old boy, a 6th standard student. Sometimes, the little boy comes out to protest along with his father.
“Even kids gave us their pocket money as their contribution.” “What about your own town?” I ask them. “We can survive a shutdown for two years,” the boys say with confidence, “We observed a shutdown for 54 days in 2009 and no one died of hunger here.”
“Soe heaz che nearan neaber undershirte manz,” (He comes out on the street in his briefs), one boy adds with a chuckle. “soe heaz chu balae… soe chu mae zange soamat,” another gestures at his legs to show how tall the boy really is. (He is not taller than my leg.)
The unassuming little boy, when he is out protesting on the street, is known to transform into a fierce stone pelter. And he likes to be at the front of the protesters on the street. The police and CRPF men fear him, the boys tell me, particularly that stone in his hand. Once flung, the stone pelted from his hand seldom misses the intended target, which can be charging police men, a CRPF trooper, a police or a CRPF armored vehicle. He’s a very focused kid on the street, one boy adds with a smile. Curiously, the boys tell me, when the little boy is away from the street, he is a quiet kid at home and school.
Other policemen, sweating from chasing the stone pelters on the street, laughed back. In return for his release, the police officer, after reprimanding him, asked the boy to promise not to be seen again on the street. The little boy is reported to have kept quiet, and said “Okay”. However, the next day the boy was again seen leading the protesters on the street, pelting stones, shouting for freedom at the top of his voice.
Once, the boys recount with relish, the little boy was caught by a police officer who let out a laugh when he finally caught hold of him on the street. Holding his neck by one hand, while he unsuccessfully struggled to break free, he turned towards his colleagues: so what should I arrest here? This little kid, this bachae!?
Temeas man haeaz chu jazbae baereath, one boy says the little boy is the embodiment of sentiment of freedom in their town. (He is filled with the Sentiment.)
The boys know him only by one name, the name that is famous in the town. The boy is named, appropriately, for what he represents – Jazbae (Sentiment). He represents the sentiment of freedom. He is the sentiment. And he is growing up.
“Wean kya chu tuhaye basan,” I ask the boys at the end of our conversation, curious to know when Kashmir will get Azadi according to them. “Aese kar maelae Aazadi?” (When will we get freedom?)
The boys, all in their early twenties, look at each other and consider the question. After a few moments of contemplation, they come up with a unanimous answer.
“Yaele heaz Jazbae boed gase…” — When Jazbae, the little boy, grows up.