What are their aims? Who are their leaders? And what, if anything, can authorities do about the problem? Mapping the violence in Kashmir helps understand who the protestors are, as well as the reach of the urban Islamism that has manifested itself in repeated clashes since Parts of the city of Srinagar, police data makes clear, have accounted for a disproportionate share of the violence.
More than half of the 21 civilians killed in police action between January 1 and July 7, , were Srinagar residents. Thirty-two of 72 civilians injured in the clashes also belonged to the city. Between these dates, the police recorded clashes involving violent mobs across Kashmir. Just under 45 per cent of those clashes took place in Srinagar city — and most were concentrated in the five police stations of Rainawari, Nowhatta, Maharajgunj, Khanyar and Safakadal.
Small urban pockets in northern Kashmir have accounted for the bulk of violence outside of Srinagar. Nearby Sopore, a major apple-trading concentration, which has been an historic stronghold of the Jamaat-e-Islami JeI , saw Put together, the three towns accounted for Last year, too, the pattern was similar.
The Stone Thrower
Notwithstanding claims made both by Indian authorities and separatist propagandists, there is little to show that the violence is underpinned by a coherent political design. The rioters are, for the most part, children of a once-powerful social class that has been in decline for decades. Indian authorities have intercepted conversations, which suggest local activists of Islamists groups have paid small groups of agitators to initiate protests by throwing stones at the police. Investigators say funds for this enterprise have come from Pakistan-based organisations sympathetic to Islamists in Kashmir.
But the sums of money involved are small — and neither telephone intercepts nor the actual character of the protests suggest that any one organisation binds them together. On ground, though, neither has significant influence. Instead, local political dynamics are key to understanding what is going on. I n the years after Independence in , the shahr-e-khaas saw intense contestation between the traditionalist cleric Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and the National Conference NC.
In , facing a common threat from new alliances of the religious right, the two parties allied. Mirwaiz Farooq refused to support secessionism after jihadist violence broke out three years later, and paid the price in May, , when he was assassinated. Mirwaiz Farooq, focussed on securing a dialogue with India, which he hoped would lead to power, made little effort to address the concerns of his constituency. Problems like unemployment and drug use went unaddressed. For their part, NC legislators elected from Srinagar won in low-turnout elections that gave them little legitimacy — and had little interest in working for constituents who, in any case, did not vote.
Frustrated by the failure of traditional politicians to deliver, young people began lashing out at a political order that had no space for their concerns. Their anger expressed itself in hostility towards India and, increasingly, in slogans supportive of the Islamist movement and jihadist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba LeT. Pro-Lashkar slogans began to be regularly heard in the shahar-e-khaas from , when protestors backing the group disrupted a rally intended to commemorate the assassination of pro-dialogue leader Abdul Gani Lone the previous year.
Stones Throwing Association (STA)
It is significant, however, that these slogans — and others calling for an Islamic state — have been largely confined to the sphere of polemics. There is no evidence of large-scale recruitment by jihadist groups from the shahar-e-khaas ; indeed, many of the protests have been made up of young men dressed in western clothes, very different in their aesthetic from the neo-fundamentalists that groups like the Lashkar have historically attracted to their ranks.
Put simply, the rioting marks the death-throes of an old political order — and the birth pangs of a new one which is still to fully develop.
Instead, young protestors appear to have acted locally in response to media-broadcast calls made by mid-level Islamist leaders like Massrat Alam and Shakeel Bakshi, using everything from mosque public address systems to mobile phone text messaging to prepare for marches through their neighbourhoods. Last year, religious traditionalists began to understand the threat these mobilisations posed to their own influence. Mirwaiz Farooq backed Shah. But leaders of the new Islamism hit back.
Geelani said it was "natural for youth to show anger by pelting stones".
Islamic Students League leader Shakeel Bakshi, in turn, described the protests as "a Kashmiri version of the Palestinian intifada". In an effort to legitimise his position, Bakshi held a seminar where he displayed images purporting to show the eminent Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories.
People like me have been fighting for this all our lives". He only reluctantly backed the jihadist war against the Indian state, which began in , and never appears to have been tempted to join it himself. But ever since , Geelani has succeeded in decisively displacing the major secessionist coalition, the APHC.
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The Islamist leader had been sidelined by realists in his own JeI; the following year, the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led APHC opened negotiations with New Delhi, breaking with its historic rejection of a dialogue that did not include Pakistan. Mirwaiz Farooq understood the writing on the wall. Pro-Islamist scholar Hameeda Nayeem even claimed the scandal pointed "unequivocally towards a policy-based state patronage [of prostitution]". Significantly, the prostitution protests saw the first large scale Islamist mob violence that went unchecked by the state.
Mobs also attacked the homes of politicians charged with having used her services. On a recent snow day, we asked some of the Irish dancers and their family members to step outside and try to hit the stoplight with snowballs instead of stones. It's a long arc from the corner to the light, especially with cold fingers. Even with this week's nice packing snow, the snow throwers had a tougher time than the stone throwers.
Only one in the bunch, Katie Easton of Baldwinsville, managed to hit the stoplight with a snowball, and she used to play softball.
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One City of Syracuse driver chuckled as he drove by. Katrina Tulloch writes life and culture stories for Syracuse. Contact her: Email Twitter Facebook. Two Syracuse Italians share what they really think of St.
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