While the home ministry is indeed capable of propaganda, and while disturbing indications about police excesses, even if unconfirmed, continue to seep out every now and then, what also needs to be acknowlegded and factored into every discussion is that there are many who are definitely interested in keeping the pot in Kashmir boiling. Take the much-talked about phenomenon of young stone-pelters, which an e-mail from a friend brought up today in response to yesterday's post. While some of the protests would indeed be spontaneous -- and clearly are -- it cannot be denied that the concerted campaign of stone-pelting is being conducted with great care and planning, he argued. And then, as if on cue, in an otherwise sympathetic and insightful account by Samar Halarnkar in the Hindustan Times, I came across the following which once again underlines what has indeed been reported before:
Many young stone-throwers on the frontlines do not appear like Islamic radicals. They dress well, like music, cellphones and girlfriends are often discussed. Do they do what they do because they believe or does, as the police often allege, money play a part?
“We earned Rs 200 to Rs 300 as daily wage labourers,” says one of a group of masked young stone throwers. “Now we get between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500.” Who pays them? “The separatists,” one offers. In a quiet, two-room home with open drains outside, 20-year-old street icon, Owais Ahmed ‘Mandela’, freely admits to receiving money. Where does it come from? He shrugs.
This also squares with what has been reported by other credible journalists, for example here is Rahul Pandita in Open magazine:
The police slots the Valley’s stone throwers into two groups. One, the money leaders. These are men who are in touch with separatist groups and are given money to keep the Valley astir. And two, the money seekers. These are unemployed youngsters either in need of cash or easily talked into throwing stones for fun or adventurism. “We have even come across proper lists of stone throwers, a proper cadre list prepared by a senior separatist leader,” says a senior police officer serving in one such war zone.
“The separatists have realised that defeating the State militarily is not possible,” he adds, “So they have developed this alternative.” So, while stone pelting keeps the agitation going, assuring it adequate TV publicity, it also draws the desired funds from sources across the Line of Control (LoC). All in all, it gives an impression that Kashmir is still a ‘disputed territory’, and that the ‘cause’ has not been given up, even if the once-stated goal of ‘azaadi’ has turned hazy in its implications in recent years.
Or take this February report from rediff much before things went totally went out of control:
Stone pelting in Kashmir valley appears to be fast turning into a lucrative 'business' for some unemployed youths offering this 'service' for a price.
Several youths are also operating 'stone pelting' cartels funded by separatist organisations and some political parties, sources say, adding that business worth lakhs of rupees is usually generated through this activity.
Details in this regard came out during extensive interrogation of a stone pelter arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police over a period of last three days.