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Kashmir intifada? New view of India, Pakistan territory dispute.

Street violence gripping Kashmir is becoming known as the Kashmir intifada, in a nod to the earlier uprisings of Palestinian stone-throwing youths against Israeli forces.

By Staff Writer / July 13, 2010

A Kashmiri gunman stands alert during a meeting organized by Kashmiri militant groups in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, on Tuesday, July 13. The top political official in Pakistani-held Kashmir has promised to fight India for control of the disputed territory.

Roshan Mughal/AP

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New Delhi

Indian analysts are starting to refer to the street violence gripping Kashmir as the “Kashmir intifada,” a nod to the earlier uprisings of Palestinian stone-throwing youth against Israeli forces.

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Tensions remain high in the Kashmir Valley, with the main city of Srinagar shut down today – a historical holiday known as Martyr’s Day – due to strikes and a reimposed curfew.

The use of the phrase intifada, which means uprising, highlights how the unrest in Kashmir has been led by rock-throwing boys, not the trained militants or political factions of the elder generation. It was that generation's earlier efforts that failed to end India's military presence in the disputed region along the Pakistan and Indian border where many Kashmiris simply want independence.

The root cause of boys throwing stones

Intifada also harks back to the cycle of violence unleashed in the Palestinian territories. The same dynamic has emerged in Kashmir this year: boys throw stones at security forces, those forces fire back and kill youths, protests start anew, more rocks are thrown, and more protesters are killed. In the past month alone, at least 15 people have died in the clashes.

“What we are witnessing in certain areas of Jammu & Kashmir is the beginning of an intifada,” writes B. Raman, former head of counterterrorism for India¹s intelligence service, in India¹s Outlook Magazine.

“The root cause is the growing perception among some sections of the youth that the security forces have been insensitive in performing their counter-insurgency duties and have been adopting objectionable methods … and using disproportionate force against the people.”

The language has also been picked up by some of the Kashmiri separatist leaders, says Yusuf Jameel, a journalist based in Srinagar for the Asian Age newspaper. It reflects the changed nature of the current unrest – which he says started in 2008 – from the bloody insurgency of the 1990s.

Today's opposition in Kashmir

“The difference is that, in the ’90s, you had people out in the streets, but at the same time you had militants fighting security forces, attacking them, exploding grenades, and things like that,” says Mr. Jameel. Now, there is virtually no militant activity in the cities, “but on the other hand, you have crowds out on the street chanting slogans like ‘We want freedom’ and ‘India get out.’ ”

The crowds are larger, and from within those crowds emerge the boys who have made rock throwing a pastime, he says. He is open to the notion that the boys are being put up to it by opposition political leaders hoping to regain power. But ultimately, he says, getting a handle on the situation means addressing the longstanding political tensions over who should control the territory.

Crowd and youth control?

Mr. Raman and others argue that now is the wrong time to focus on that discussion. Since the immediate anger has to do with police tactics, the Indian government needs to implement better methods of crowd control, seriously investigate human rights violations, and reach out more to youths.

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