A week in Kashmir: the news stand
Just as a comparison, the population of the Kashmir Valley is about the same as that of Scotland ... the circulation of the best regarded Scottish daily, the Scotsman, is a touch over 20,000.
Kashmir's newspapers have been bullied and shot at by both sides through almost thirty years of insurgency. Last year, all papers were closed down for a few days as Indian security forces grappled with the mass protests following the killing of Burhan Wani, an immensely popular armed separatist leader. A former BBC colleague described those protests as an 'uprising'. At other times, threats and acts of violence by armed militant groups has also sought to sway what the papers print, and what they leave out.
By and large, Kashmir's press has been one of the few areas of public life to emerge with credit from the years of turmoil. The papers give voice to Kashmiri sentiment, and allow debate about both political and social issues, in a way that conventional politics has not proved able to do. That's quite an achievement.
While I have been here, the papers have been preoccupied by an incident earlier in the week that says a lot about attitudes in Kashmir. Indian security forces got word that one or more armed separatists were hiding in a village not far from Srinagar. They placed a cordon around the location. Local youngsters started throwing stones at the troops in an attempt to break the cordon to give the militants a chance to escape. Three local boys were shot dead; a militant was also killed.
Young Kashmiris throwing stones at Indian troops and police is nothing new. Stone throwing not simply out of anger but to frustrate Indian security forces in an armed 'encounter' - in local parlance - against armed separatists is something new.
In the words of an elderly Kashmiri woman who has no great sympathy for armed separatism: in the 1990s young Kashmiris were angry and afraid - now they are angry and fearless. The Indian government, which so clearly gained the upper hand against the militants in military terms, needs to consider how to address Kashmiri grievances before this new assertiveness takes a more violent turn.
Leave a Reply.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!