Minor offence

Starting in mid-June, police sources state that as many as 300 boys have been picked up from different parts of Srinagar for stone-pelting.

If anyone has recently used the traditional description of the Valley of Kashmir as 'heaven on earth', he or she is obviously far removed from reality. Despite the fact that this area has been commonly referred to as India's 'crown', what has transpired since January 2010 has shocked even the locals, long used to violence and impunity. Since the beginning of the year, the Valley has witnessed a targeting of teenagers by security personnel, which has led to the deaths of at least 16 people. Even schoolchildren have been shot dead in the streets during protests. Eleven youths were killed during June alone, with the death toll growing in July. This is indicative of the extent to which the militarisation of the Valley has impacted normal life. Despite the lack of a visible insurgency, the military apparatus continues its vicious streak. Because the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) not equipped to deal with civilians – as stated by no less an authority than E N Rammohan, former inspector-general of Kashmir – the repercussions of the heavy presence of military and paramilitary forces are being felt across the Valley.

On 8 January, 16-year-old Inayat Khan became the first victim of the military crackdown. Khan had just passed his secondary school certificate (SSC) exams with excellent marks, and was on his way to class in Srinagar when he was shot by CRPF personnel. At his funeral, chants of 'Inayat, tere khoon se inquilab ayega!' (Inayat, your blood will bring revolution) reverberated in the air. Little did the mourners know that this was to be the first of many such funerals in the coming months. Yet in one way, the funeral incantations were prescient: the killings have increased the sense of both helplessness and rage felt by much of the local population towards the security forces – seen by many as occupiers. This anger has led more and more onto the streets to demand justice for the dead – demands backed by the commoner's weapon of choice, stones. Protests thus snowballed, with bitter, stone-pelting mobs thronging the roads.

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Himal Southasian