An injured student at the SMHS hospital, after a bus carrying 35 schoolchildren was attacked by stone-pelters in Shopian district, North Kashmir on May 2(Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times)
An injured student at the SMHS hospital, after a bus carrying 35 schoolchildren was attacked by stone-pelters in Shopian district, North Kashmir on May 2(Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times)

Amnesty to stone-pelters sends out a wrong message

The actions of Kashmir’s politicians seem to have emboldened those who want to spread terror
By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON MAY 07, 2018 12:37 PM IST

There are some benefits and disadvantages of working in a newsroom. The advantage is that you get news earlier than others. The disadvantage: The sensibilities of journalists are also affected earlier than many others. As soon as a news alert about an attack on 35 children in South Kashmir’s Shopian by stone-pelters appeared on my smartphone, I was besieged with grief and anger. Who can bear to see the fearful faces of children, their eyes reflecting the panic and dread of broken windows and glass shards strewn on the seats of their school bus, the first thing in the morning?

The perpetrators who shot down 132 children at a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2017 were terrorists. Despite this nobody expected them to resort to this disgusting act. The people pelting stones in Kashmir were not merchants of terror. They were young people from the same region. They were expected to take care of their neighbourhoods and the people who stay there. Why did they not hesitate before unleashing terror on innocent children from their neighbourhood?

The statements made by the children and the bus driver are heart-rending. The stone-pelters first surrounded the bus and asked the driver to turn back. With folded hands, the driver requested them to let the children reach the school. They were from the same neighbourhood, please let them pass he reasoned. Enraged, the young men began pelting the bus with stones from all four directions. The children were pointed at and targeted, they later said.

The Valley’s atmosphere has been vitiated so much that those advocating peace and social harmony through the poems of Lal Ded (a 14th century Kashmiri mystic poetess also known as Lalleshwari) and the lyrics of Sufi saints will have to stop those destroying the region’s social harmony or face annihilation. Let me make it clear. The people of Kashmir face greater danger from these snakes in their backyard than security personnel from the Centre.

This is the situation after the state’s chief minister Mehbooba Mufti recently granted general amnesty to those booked for pelting stones in 2008. The killers of Peshawar were proclaimed terrorists who knew they would be taken out by the authorities sooner or later. But the ones in Shopian, who have scarred the children and their family members for life, know that the government will grant them the umbrella of amnesty sooner or later. That is why they are aggressive and display no remorse.

While providing amnesty to stone-pelters, it should have been borne in mind that they are products of agencies encouraged by Pakistan. It is easier to indoctrinate those accused of pelting stones into terror. The reason? Trying to evade the police, these impressionable youngsters easily fall prey to ‘handlers.’ In the name of providing them safety, they brainwash them and within a short time they are seen brandishing weapons on social media. At one time both Burhan Wani and the recently killed Samir Tiger used to be stone-pelters.

The time has come when the government in Jammu and Kashmir should impress upon its young people that the winds of change are sweeping the entire world. When political activisim in the entire world is increasingly adopting peaceful methods, what is the use of luring Kashmiris with the pipedreams of of what such a violelnt struggle can produce?

A combination of separatism, terrorism and political misdeeds has already made the day-to-day life of people in the Valley difficult. After the Shopian incident, the people of Kashmir will have to think hard: Those who can pelt stones at their children and pull young people out of their homes to shoot them cannot be their protectors or their saviours.

If this sentiment gains momentum, the terrorists will keep losing sympathy and fall by the wayside. Fortunately, there are indications that this is beginning to happen.

The manner in which many youngsters in the Valley have shunned violence and returned to mainstream has kindled some hope. It was local informers who helped the Army target Burhan Wani and Samir Tiger. If the government in Srinagar makes an honest attempt to disclose the immoral actions of the terrorists to the common people, this sentiment can become even stronger.

What is happening is to the contrary. If Mehbooba Mufti talks about a dialogue with Pakistan, Omar Abdullah begins to see a yearning for freedom in the actions of those pelting stones. All this emboldens those who want to spread terror. This tendency has to be curbed.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan

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