Kashmir: Why are young people protesting?

Al Jazeera visits Srinagar to find out why Indian-administered Kashmir is witnessing its worst violence in years.

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    Kashmir: Why are young people protesting?
    At least 30 people have been killed in recent violence and hundreds more were injured [EPA]

    Indian-administered Kashmir is witnessing some of its most violent protests.

    More than 30 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in clashes with security forces in the past week following the killing of popular rebel leader Burhan Wani, 22.

    After Wani's death, young people, who constitute the largest chunk of Kashmir's population, have taken to throwing stones in protest on the streets and using social media to tell their stories. 

    Demonstrations continue despite heavy a security presence and a shutdown of mobile Internet and phone services.

    Al Jazeera went to the streets of Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, to meet some of those involved.

    Sameer Ahmad Bhat, 23, cricket player
    We are forced to hurl stones at them. They incite us. I will continue to throw stones at them until they stop inflicting such atrocities on us.
    Sameer Ahmad Bhat [Al Jazeera]

    The youth is really frustrated. Today, if I am with someone, I don't even know if that person will be alive or be martyred tomorrow at the hands of the security forces. Why do they fire at us? Elsewhere in the country, protesters are dispersed with water cannons. Why are bullets and pellets used in Kashmir?

    In the past few days, lots of boys have lost their eyes because the security forces are using pellets on them. Hundreds are in the hospital with serious injuries.

    That is why I say we are forced to hurl stones at security forces. 

    Farzana Sayed, 26, journalist
    I am doing a story on people injured in clashes with the security forces. But it's been hard to go the hospitals with the prevailing situation. I have had to do a lot of my interviews over the phone, and I am filing my stories on text message. There is no other way to do things right now.
    Farzana Sayed [Al Jazeera]

    People's core issues are not being resolved.

    We're always waiting for an opportunity to participate in a debate about Kashmir, but we don't get to debate in more peaceful times, which is the basic reason this is happening. Because you [Indian officials] don't address the core issues at the time you are supposed to.

    Successive governments have failed in their attempts to engage the youth. Maybe they don't give a damn about what happens to the common person. They debate the problems of the stone throwers, only when there is agitation.

    Aaqib Hussain, 25, doctor
    I commute 30 kilometres every day to get to government hospitals … Sometimes my car and ambulance get  smashed on the way. But as a doctor, I try and reach patients. 
    Aaqib Hussain [Al Jazeera]

    What we are seeing in Kashmir now isn't anger … It would be wrong to call it anger. We are fighting a political war. This is people's aspiration to a right of self-determination. And it gets manifested from time to time.

    When the armed struggle for self-determination was dipping, Burhan Wani came as a new hope. In him, our generation had a new armed guerilla icon. Our movement has entered a new phase. Support for an armed struggle has grown. The youth is getting attracted to guns again.

    Essar Batool, 28, activist
    It is that gaze that just follows you around. Passing lewd remarks, catcalling ... It has happened to almost every one of us. 
    Essar Batool [Al Jazeera]

    People say: "What is the difference? Haven't you ever been molested or assaulted by a civilian?" Yes, but the thing is, you know - a soldier has a gun.

    Burhan challenged the whole narrative of a Pakistan-sponsored insurgency, because he was a Kashmiri, he never crossed the border, he picked up arms here and he never went for training to Pakistan.

    Everyone thought of him as a son. When he was killed, that really angered everyone, young and old.

    Salman Sagar, 36, politician
    This is not just about Burhan Wani's killing. That is one of the major issues, but at the same time there are a number of other issues. For instance, the mandate of the people was betrayed by the present regime.
    Salman Sagar [Al Jazeera]

    The government has failed miserably. This is the first time in decades we have seen such a high number of deaths and injuries.

    The youth are trying to find a political solution. Even educated young people are opting for freedom slogans. Burhan Wani belonged to a very educated family.

    Just to find a solution, young people are picking up guns. They probably feel that is the only solution now. The situation in Kashmir looks like it is back to the 1990s (when violence was at its peak).

    Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, 28, writer and activist
    The dignity of the youth has been crushed by state institutions and police brutalities. Their demands, whether political, economic, educational or cultural, have been sidelined.
    Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad [Al Jazeera]

    There is no mechanism to redress the issues of the youth by the state or its institutions.

    So they have taken to guns to fight the state for their right to self-determination. As pacifists, we are trying to teach our youth that they can address these issues through peaceful means.

    We are using social media to generate awareness about the Kashmir conflict because it's one of the forgotten conflicts in the world.


    Follow Neha Tara Mehta on Twitter: @nehataramehta

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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