Almost Gandhian: Kashmir's new, silent rage | india | Hindustan Times
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Almost Gandhian: Kashmir's new, silent rage

india Updated: Nov 18, 2008 02:43 IST
Neelesh Misra
Neelesh Misra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The bullet went right through the forehead. It was 4 p.m., and Shahid-ul Islam was dead.

On Monday, the father of the 21-year-old, now revered as a martyr in the slushy Kashmir village, narrated the events of that August day without bitterness as he stood surrounded by the men who had witnessed his son's death and carried his body.

There were no tears, no raising of the voice.

"My son's martyrdom has filled every person in this village with rage. There is so much oppression. But not a single stone has been lifted," said Ali Mohammed, 49, speaking matter-of-fact with little anger in his voice. "There is a new turn in the movement."

After Kashmir witnessed its biggest public rebellion in two decades this summer, its deep anti-India discontent has taken a dramatic, new, Gandhian turn.

There are no bombs, no rocks, no anti-India abuses, no arson. Militant groups have said they will not disrupt the elections. Protests are peaceful, and many anti-India voters on Monday chose to use the elections – which they have long dismissed as bogus – to express their support for their separatist ambitions.

Mohammed and many in his village boycotted the elections following a call by separatist parties. But some distance from the village at a middle school, first-time voter Jauhar Ahmed, 19, wore a mask around his face and had a dab of indelible ink on his finger.

"Children were killed here. I don't want any other child to die again," he said.

"This has nothing to do with militants, this is the anger of the people," Ahmed said, referring to the symbol of the People's Democratic Party. "I have voted for azaadi (freedom), for the pen and inkpot."

The pen and inkpot is what Shahid-ul Islam mostly had to do with as he studied in the final year of his B.A. course at a college in Ganderbal town. Examinations were coming up.

He had little interest in politics, like an overwhelming number of youth who screamed anti-India slogans this summer. He had applied for a job in the police. He wasn't selected.

"When he saw the processions, the deaths, he got emotional," said Mohammed, his father.

Shahid-ul Islam didn't say anything to his father that afternoon before he left home. At 3:20 p.m., he left home and forty minutes later, he was dead.

"He wanted to study further. But there was no college anywhere around here," the father said.

That is another new strand of rebellion: Perhaps for the first time, issues of governance – often swept under the carpet and disregarded by citizens, are being raised as well.

Stone-cutter Meraj-ud-din, 25, took to this job because he had no money to study further and could not find any other job.

"The college is 35 kilometres away in Srinagar. I didn't have the money to pay for the daily bus fare. So I quit studies and became a stone cutter," he said, standing near the Sadarkote middle school.

"And here I am -- I am boycotting the elections," he said.