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Kashmir protests: Chief minister summoned to capital after 'Bloody Sunday'

Kashmir protests yesterday, dubbed Bloody Sunday, brought the civilian death toll to 33. Kashmir leader Omar Abdullah was summoned to New Dehli to discuss how to regain control, but he wields little influence with the young protesters.

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The youth also teach each other by posting articles and homemade videos of police clashes on Facebook. The videos include cellphone footage of police attacks or pictures found on the Internet set to music. Since most Kashmiris are not online, a few will download the clips and spread them through cellphones.

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They hope these videos might get Indian and international attention for Kashmir, something they feel they lost when they gave up armed resistance. “The big advantage for armed struggle was that Kashmir was not in cold storage,” says Ubaid, a 21-year-old rock thrower who, like all young protesters who spoke to the Monitor, refused to be named for fear of reprisals from security forces.

The stone throwers say that their actions are spontaneous, not organized, and that there are no leaders. Two stone throwers, Shabir and a PhD student, say that they pay attention to the separatist leaders of the All Parties Huriyat Conference, but the connection with them is indirect.

Separatist leader: 'It's difficult to control anybody'

One of the Huriyat leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, warns that the influence people like him have on the youth will fade if New Delhi does not get serious about putting forth proposals to settle the dispute.

“Right now, to be honest enough, it’s difficult to control anybody,” Mr. Farooq told the Monitor late last month. “But I’m sure given the situation, if all of us come together, I’m sure we can give it a direction.”

Not every youth is throwing stones, he points out. Those that are, he says, “I believe that you can talk to them, you can reach out to them – provided you have the right means to do that. And I don’t think they are going to listen to this politics of elections and incentives.”

The political parties in Kashmir that are allowed to contest elections are both in favor of autonomy but not separation from India. In another recent Monitor interview, Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the state’s opposition political party, said it's important to help the young protesters get a sense of what's realistic in the current context.

“The young people at this time are totally against the system, against the Army," said Mr. Mufti. "But at some point in time we need to talk with them and give them a sense of what is impossible and what is possible because you cannot lead them on.”

Protesters want separation from India, nothing less

But anything short of separation from India sounds like the talk of discredited politicians, say the stone throwers. “We have nothing to do with the present government. We are just trying to achieve our ultimate goal,” says Ubaid.

That ultimate goal is the right to choose independence or – increasingly less popular – union with Pakistan. And, says Mahfooz, a young man already shot three times during protests, “I am prepared to die for this. For Kashmir, and for my brothers, and my sisters, and my mothers.”

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