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Kashmir protests: Intifada comes to Kashmir

Kashmir protests in India have a way of turning violent, but hundreds of boys and young men have taken to throwing rocks as a solution to showing their frustration with India.

By Staff writer / August 4, 2010

Masked Kashmiri protesters with stones gathered at an anti-India protest in Srinigar, India, on July 28. Violent protests have resulted in at least 19 civilian deaths since June 11.

Fayaz Kabli/Reuters

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Srinagar, India

Since witnessing the beating of two men in the street last month by paramilitaries, one young Kashmiri, at work on a science doctorate, has joined the ranks of a new rock-throwing youth uprising.

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"I felt proud that I did not remain silent like our elders," he says.

This summer, hundreds of "rock pelters" ages 6 to 30 have clashed with security forces across Indian-controlled Kashmir.

These young men are determined to be the generation that wins self-determination for Kashmiris.

Heavy-handed police tactics have turned youths into rock throwers and devoted adherents of a once-fading Kashmiri separatist movement.

What they're fighting for

After more than 60 years of separatist conflict in the disputed region of Kashmir, where India, Pakistan, China, and the Muslim-majority people of Kashmir wrestle for control, it's clear to these youths that guns aren't the way. Instead, they have turned to rocks and nonviolent protests in an effort to send a message to India that Kashmiris are serious about autonomy.

"We know what India did in the '90s. We had an armed struggle going on in Kashmir. That was quite unproductive for us," says the doctoral student. "Why is there stone throwing all around Kashmir? We have no other way. We cannot hold any demonstrations."

Police say they must stop rallies before they turn into rock-pelting mobs, while the rock pelters say they throw stones because they cannot rally and, when they do, innocents are killed by the police.

Kasmir Valley in lockdown

For the past two months, the Kashmir Valley has been in lockdown after this cycle of violence left some 46 dead. Among them: a 9-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl. Over the weekend, the protests and police response grew more intense. Despite the announced dispatch of more paramilitary police to the Valley, and warnings to residents that they would be shot on sight if they defied curfews, tens of thousands of Kashmiris have taken to the streets.

Parts of Srinagar feel like a prison, with shops shuttered, residents peering out of windows, and groups of security forces clustered on street corners. Residents who do venture out mostly go solo, so as not to attract attention. The two men beaten in the street after curfew, says the doctoral student, had special passes. But paramilitaries forced them back indoors.

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