Kashmiris pledge not to throw stones – but with a rider


Handwara (Jammu and Kashmir): Shouting pro-freedom slogans, thousands of people in a north Kashmir hamlet Wednesday pledged not to throw stones at security forces as long as the government did not curb peaceful protests and took concrete steps towards solving the over 60-year-old Kashmir issue.

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The public rally was organised by an independent lawmaker, Abdul Rasheed, during the visit of academician Radha Kumar and journalist Dilip Padgoankar — two of the three-member Kashmir interlocutors’ group — to Langate, over 130 km from Srinagar, in the frontier district of Kupwara.

Men and women, mostly youth, who were present at the rally in the premises of a school in Langate, raised their hands pledging to shun stone throwing when the lawmaker asked if they were ready to say no to violence.

But the pledge came with a rider. The security forces should not stop peaceful protesters and the government should take “solid and concrete steps” for resolving the Kashmir issue, Rasheed told IANS.

The organisers had unfurled three flags – red, white and black – on the dais.

“Each flag, I mean the colour of each flag, carries a message,” Rasheed told the visiting interlocutors while speaking at the rally.

“White represents our desire for peace, black is for mourning the thousands of deaths in the last two decades, particularly 112 protesters killed in the summer unrest.

“And the red is to show that we are ready for any sacrifice till our political aspirations are met,” said the lawmaker.

Rasheed asked the participants if they wanted to merge with Pakistan — and there was pin-drop silence. Also, nobody spoke when he asked them if autonomy or self-rule was desirable. But when he asked them if they wanted to be independent, the participants shouted slogans in favour of azadi (freedom).

Some families of the victims of the 20-year-old violence were seated in a pavilion and the interlocutors went to meet them. They interacted with the visiting interlocutors.

Rasheed later told IANS that since people in his constituency have pledged not to resort to violence, the “ball is in Delhi’s court now”.

“The government should now make sure that there will be no human rights violations. Our peaceful demonstrations should not be met with bullets from security forces. On this condition, the people from my constituency have taken an oath not to indulge in stone throwing.”

He said that he urged the interlocutors to ask New Delhi to start a peaceful tripartite dialogue between India, Pakistan and representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who should also include Kashmiri militant leaders.

Radha Kumar, who also spoke at the rally, said the interlocutors have been asked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to interact with people to know the ground situation. “I promise cases of rights violations will be investigated.”