No Moss Gatherer
- Stone-pelting, is it un-Islamic?, that's the topic for a seminar in Srinagar held by the separatists.
- Opinion sharply divided. Moderates against it but hardliners say stone- throwing isn't haraam.
- Stone-pelting a frequently resorted to form of protest. Widely used in last year's Amarnath agitation.
For over a month now, a bizarre debate has taxed the brains of Kashmiri separatists. The vexing issue: whether stone-pelting has religious sanction. It got so serious a seminar was called to debate the issue last week. Both hardliners and moderates were liberally quoting the scriptures to justify their stand vis-a-vis Islam.
The influential Jamiat Ahlihadith president Maulana Showkat Shah, known for his links to moderate Hurriyat leaders like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, has emerged as a most vocal opponent. "How can we declare lawful what our revered Prophet has declared unlawful," Shah says quoting Sahih Bukhari, the most authentic book on Islam after the Quran. "Prophet Mohammed forbade the throwing of stones and said, 'It neither hunts a game nor kills an enemy but only damages the eye or teeth'. I will take my words back and tender an apology if anybody proves otherwise." Earlier, it was Srinagar police commissioner Afadul Mujtaba, who at a news conference on January 29 cited a Hadith which decrees stone-pelting as "illegal, immoral, and against the teachings of Islam".
Stones have been the Kashmiri youth's weapon of choice since before militancy erupted in the state in 1989. They often expressed their anger by hurling stones at the police, sparking off ugly clashes. Nine people died in one such incident in old Srinagar in 1988 after police opened fire on a group demanding the withdrawal of an electricity tariff hike. The reputation for 'volatile' pelting is such the Maisuma area here is referred to in local dailies as the "Gaza strip of Kashmir".
Since last year's Amarnath shrine land agitation, stone-pelting has become a routine affair in Srinagar, particularly on Fridays, injuring hundreds and prompting people like Maulana Showkat and Mirwaiz Umer to come out against it. They have however received stinging rebuffs from hardliners like Syed Ali Geelani and militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen who say the stones will vanish once Indian troops leave Kashmir.
In fact, Inayatullah Andrabi, brother of Dukhtaran-e-Millat chairperson Asiya Andrabi, issued a 1,900-word statement from his exile in London, asking Maulana Showkat to apologise for quoting the Prophet "out of context". Andrabi declared: "Let us note that what the Prophet has said in the Hadith was basically regarding the ineffectiveness of a small stone to deliver the desired result when it comes to hunting or taking on an enemy. It says that 'a small stone would not produce the desired result, it would only harm the person or animal'."
That the issue has split Kashmiris was evident when separatist leader Shakeel Bakshi of the Islamic Students League organised a group discussion, "Haath main hain pathar har ek ke (There is a stone in everyone's hand)", in a Srinagar hotel with pictures of the Palestinian writer Edward Said throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers hanging on the walls. Bakshi, who dug up the pitch during an India-West Indies cricket match in Srinagar in 1984, called the opponents "government collaborators".
The trivial debate has, meanwhile, infuriated many Kashmiris who question the separatists' claims of 'representing the people'. A columnist in the popular local daily Greater Kashmir wrote, "Medieval thinkers would drain all their energy discussing whether eating the flesh of a donkey is lawful or forbidden... we are debating a proposition equally queer: should we throw stones or not?"
Meanwhile, CM Omar Abdullah has approached the British High Commission in Delhi for advice on crowd control. Sources say British police trainers will soon land in Srinagar to train local cops on unarmed crowd management.