Twenty two year old R Thirumani killing by stone pelters in my opinion is the first recorded death by stone pelters of Kashmir that has since become a national news. Millions of stones have been hurled at our army men, police and innocent people including children. It is a mystery and a miracle why after thirty years of continuous stone pelting on a weekly, daily and sometimes hourly basis, the first death is now being reported. This calls for an introspection on part of every intellectual. To me this could mean only two things. Either the stone pelters are extremely poor marksmen or suffer from malnutrition that their stones leave their hands but don’t reach their targets, the heads of the people. Or their targets, the people have been so agile that they have been able to see the stones in time and avoid them, time after time and escape death.
The stones are meant to kill.
The picture of Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, the Hon’ble Chief Minister, consoling the father of the murdered young man (Yes, I say he was murdered) looks like a picture of compassion and pity. Suddenly she seems to have discovered that stones thrown by stone pelters have killed a young man and for a change he is not from army or police. All these years when stones were hurled, she never thought of this possibility. No one from Kashmir did. Not Mr. Abdullah or even the Geelanis. No wonder that only recently she forgave hundreds of stone pelters and gave them amnesty believing their hearts have reformed. Way off the mark I presume. Her silent partner in the government also didn’t think of objecting to her decision. After all stone pelting at Indians is Kashmir youths’ national pastime, an obsession that has been taught to them as sacred and profane by the elders in their family as soon as they are thought to reach manhood.
Ms. Mufti and every leader of her ilk is perhaps worried that this act will blow the lid of image of stone throwers which has been cultivated over the years. The reason is not hard to fathom. The azaadi and jehad in Kashmir is intricately linked to the image of the stone thrower.
Tihar Jail at one time had many a stone pelter. They were known as ‘patharbazz’ group. It was one such of group of six people who I came in contact and who told me where and how they practiced this art. Yes, they see it as an art.
Twenty four year old Parvez (name changed) had told me that when he threw his first stone at the age of nine at the Indian army, his father hugged him and called all the male members of his family and proclaimed him the man of the house. When Parvez said his stone had bloodied the face of an army man the celebration in the home had doubled. Whether they died or not after that or been maimed for life is perhaps not in records and will never be part of a statistic that no one cares about. It is not difficult to pass it as death due to injury.
Friends of Parvez had nodded and shared that they too had gone through this rite of passage with their family.
So, R Thirumani’s tragic death has the possibility to change the status quo in Kashmir and so utmost compassion is being shown by everyone. The death of a young man that the whole of India is talking about, a tourist who symbolizes flow of money to Kashmir is in danger of drying up. Easy money, the only thing almost every Kashmiri living in the valley considers of value apart from azaadi and jihad if dries up, can seriously upset the lazy life they have lead, apart from stone pelting and having looted the properties of Kashmiri Pandits.
Therefore, for the first time we see condemnation of stone pelting. From Ms. Mufti to Mr. Omar Abdullah and yes hold your breath, from even the separatist leaders. For say what would happen if the tourists’ now stop coming out of fear of getting killed or maimed. Last time it happened, it was twenty nine years ago. The average Kashmiri had come to the verge of starvation and every otherwise peace loving Kashmiri had put down their stones and told the gun toting militants to buzz off. One stone hit wrongly at the wrong time to the wrong person can upset the whole apple cart. No pun intended. Some of them must be thanking their stars that it didn’t hit a white skin from Europe. Liberals and human rights groups would find it very hard to criticize it.
So, the reality of stone pelters has to be carefully hidden from the rest of the world. It should never be allowed to break out. Everyone worth his salt who wants azaadi in Kashmir, every Hurriyat guy, even the average peace loving Kashmiri who has cried slogans on death to infidels has agreed that there would be universal condemnation galore in the next few days. The tourists must not be allowed to lose their hope in coming to Kashmir and there would be no stone throwing and no stones in the hand of any youth for a few days. There would be talks arranged on the value of insaniyat, sorry kashmiriyat, till the Indians forget about it and start coming again. The hypocrisy as usual is on the other side who have created the Kashmir problem.
Will a few leftist liberals be roped in for the desired dressing of the salad that is being prepared? It depends on how quickly the Indians and the world forgets this tragedy. So far they have forgotten it really fast and some people would cross their heart that they do so this time too. Some would speak about R Thirumani’s bright life being cut short, a rare tribute to one who did not die in the conventional way of a martyr against the present intolerable regime and for whom the liberals have written massive tributes about and lit candles. Should I even add that they would say that if the Kashmir problem had been solved by India, this young man and every other young man of his age, some killed by Indian army for terrorism wouldn’t have lost their lives. They would urge all parties to give up their differences, the present party in power in particular to find a solution for the lasting peace in Kashmir. And this I shouldn’t mention that they would be careful not to have any condemnation of stone pelters and their philosophy for over thirty years.
Well, why there has been no condemnation of stone pelters or their act in this tragedy made into an imbroglio? The answer is that stones have always been thrown and are meant to kill. Every young man who picks up a stone is doing so to kill an infidel and will suffer no guilt or shame if his stone hits and kills him. Maiming is not enough. It is death and death alone. Why? Why the lethality of stone pelting, its barbaric nature (it is always aimed at someone’s head. Ask any stone pelter) and its use by children never condemned by their elders who witness it?
In the heydays of terrorism in Kashmir in the nineties’ Parvez told me, “My Abbu encouraged me. He would smile every time I told him I threw a stone and it hit a soldier’s head. Once when I told him that I threw a stone and the driver of the truck lost his balance, my Abbu gave me one rupee and hugged me. He never stopped me from throwing stones and after I bloodied a soldier I became a hero in my area.”
“But did you never think that you may kill someone, even at that young age?”
“No, he replied, I learnt from my elders that throwing stones at infidels is a holy act and there is a special place ascribed for them who do so. It has been done, recommended to pick up stones to end injustice in the world. If you read our history, you will know. Stones have been picked up and thrown for punishment, for everything what is considered immoral and oppressive.”
“So how is one supposed to do it, that is throw stones?” I had asked.
“It is not a mechanical thing that you pick up a stone from the ground and throw it. It is a ritual akin to prayer that one aims and targets at the enemy taking the name of God. Then one never misses,” Parvez told me with a smile.
Parvez had shown me two skills. He picked up two small stones and hit one in air and then the other one. The second one hit the first one in mid air and the two fell together. The second was when he made a small pile of stones at a distance and after closing his eyes hit the mound without seeing. “That is the way an average stone thrower develops his art,” he had told me.
“Any enemy, however powerful, can be brought to his knees by stone throwers our Abbus told us. Every Kashmiri knows in their heart of hearts that if azaadi ever comes it will be because of stone pelters.”
“Will you ever stop stone pelting?” I had asked them.
“No, never, it will never stop. It is the identity of six million Kashmiri Muslims,” was his answer.
Looking far away he said, “One day every child will pick up stones in Kashmir and throw them high. That day the sky of Kashmir will turn black and bring azaadi.”
The tragic death of R Thirumani and the grief it has caused has the potential to turn around the sadistic and barbaric practice of stone throwing. I pray that it would change, sooner than later the conscience of every Indian so that more lives are not lost to this practice.