After the abrogation of Article 370 last year and the bifurcation of the Jammu and Kashmir state into two Union Territories, peace has finally returned to the valley and life is getting back to as one normally knows it.
Sitting peacefully and looking at the dark blue sky, Mohammed Yousuf says all the protests and stone-pelting incidents that we used to see every day no longer takes place after the nullification of Article 370 in August last year.
The youth here has become prudent. The game that few people played with the youth of Kashmir has stopped. Today’s youth is focused on their studies.
Stone pelting refers to assault by throwing stones, by a section of Kashmiri youth on security forces, deployed for crowd control. The deadly attacks had become a routine form of protest in the streets of Srinagar. In 2016 itself, there were 2,653 incidents of stone-throwing.
In 2017, a probe by the National Investigating Agency of India revealed that Pakistan routed money into the Kashmir Valley to be paid to stone-pelters. Young men were paid Rs 500 each for throwing stones on Army and other defense forces.
“As Pakistan has failed four times in direct wars, so they are investing in such means, whether its hawala money or fake money through these leaders who claim to be the representatives of Kashmiris. But in actual they are traitors using Kashmiri people. The young boys are given Rs 500 to pelt stones,” said Nirmal Singh, the former deputy chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, after August 5 last year, Kashmir has starting treading towards a new path, said Altaf Thakur, a Sarpanch from Pulwama.
“Kashmir which was affected by terrorism will now emerge as a model in the near future. In the past, protest calendars were distributed among the locals for organizing strikes. Now, they know that there is transparency in the system and accountability. It is among the big positive changes in the region,” he explained.
In October 2018, an army soldier was killed after sustaining head injuries during stone-pelting in Anantnag. Hundreds of army men and civilians were injured as stone-throwing went violent over the years. However, priorities are changing now – its tools over stones.
“Since I was born, I have been witnessing protests and strikes. There was no strike call after the abrogation of Article 370. We have witnessed no incidents of stone-pelting. The change is in front of us. Now everybody is living in peace. Now people are placing other demands for development and industries. Now the people of Jammu and Kashmir want the investment in the region,” says Tariq Bhat, a local journalist.
In January this year, Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that since the law and order situation improved in Jammu and Kashmir since Article 370 was scrapped last year.
“If you look at the incidents before August 5 and after August 5, the numbers itself will show that the situation has improved. The incidents of violence, be it stone-pelting, terrorist-related violence, all have seen a sharp decline. There is no doubt about this,” General Naravane had said on the occasion of Army Day.