Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kashmir stone throwers risk bullets

Anuj Chopra, Foreign Correspondent, The National, July 4, 2010

Protesters throw stones at soldiers in Srinagar. Scenes like this are increasingly common in Kashmir. Dar Yasin / AP

CHINKIPORA, INDIA // Covering their faces with green scarves, a dozen protesters blocked an arterial road leading up to this village in north Kashmir with large boulders.

Policemen in riot gear assembled on the other side. Amid slogans of “Azaadi, Azaadi”, or freedom, the crowd soon began aiming rocks at the policemen, who hit back with tear gas shells. After a lull, the rattle of gunfire rang in the air.

Scenes like this one in March are now increasingly common in Kashmir. Until some years ago, stray incidents of stone pelting were limited to Srinagar’s Jamia mosque, usually occurring for brief spells after Friday prayers. But in recent months, kann’e jang – stone pelting – has emerged as a potent form of resistance, especially among Kashmiri youth, spreading to the restive valley’s towns and villages.

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