Stone pelting began in J&K in 2008 and over the past decade, the strategy is refined and embedded in J&K together with increasing radicalization and means of easy livelihood – popular among youth. A media report highlights the details (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-4362020/Kashmiri-stone-pelters-admit-paid-film.html) summarized as under:
• Stone-pelters earn Rs 5000 to Rs 7000 per month and clothes, even shoes sometimes.
• Additional money of up to Rs 700 is given to make petrol bomb or Molotov cocktail. A youth admitted to making 50-60 bombs implying he earned Rs 35,000 to Rs 52,000 just from these.
• Daily income could be Rs 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 or even Rs 5,000 for “organizing” organizing shutdowns and stone-throwing demonstrations. For an accomplice it is Rs 700 a day on weekdays and up to Rs 1,000 on holy Fridays.
• Young children are also recruited as pelters. If the child has a good physique, he will be paid around Rs 7,000 – Rs 7,500 but if the child recruit is weak, he would get around Rs 5,500 to Rs 6,000..
• For children up to 12 years, the minimum payment for stone-pelting is fixed at Rs 4,000, per month.
• The masterminds use the Internet and social media to organize stone-pelting across various locations in J&K. Instructions regarding potential targets, are circulated on group-messaging services beforehand. Instructions are issued on WhatsApp groups. There are clear directives whom to attack and where.
The stone-pelters cannot be expected to reveal identities of the masterminds and financiers to any reporter or media for fear of being lynched and killed. The fact remains that the stone-pelting operation has transformed into an elaborate real time operation through which marauding mobs can be mobilized at the chosen place and time. Individual identities of individual points-men may be known to the stone-pelters, maybe pseudo names or aliases, but behind the whole operation apparently is a conglomerate from across and within our borders. No doubt Pakistan’s ISI and its piggybank protégés of LeT, JeM, HuM etc are part of the operation, but there obviously are ‘recruited’ and self-styled leaders in J&K who dance to cross-border music to run the terror industry. The role of the PDP and NC in keeping militancy alive too is apparent.
For that matter what is the political will of the Centre and Government of J&K to finish off militancy? Considering the manner in which internet, social media, WhatsApp groups etc are being monitored and individuals acted against for posts related to elections, why is it that intelligence agencies at the Centre and State level are unable to identify the masterminds and financiers of stone-pelting, and act against them in exemplary fashion? The de-radicalization program is anyway half-hearted without fully integrating the education system with rest of India and without replacing the Wahabi clerics who have systematically replaced the ones believing in Sufi culture. Are the intelligence agencies in league with radicals, even infiltrated or is it that their reports are ignored by the political masters? In an environment where the CBI top hierarchy is under investigation for corruption and a senior R&AW officer posted in Dubai is under surveillance (as per the grapevine to clear a former Union Minister from an inquiry), anything is possible. After all, why is a pig like Yasin Malik who publicly boasted in an interview on BBC to Tim Sebastian that he had killed four IAF personnel, not hanged?
The Israeli penal code treats stone throwing as a felony, with a maximum penalty of up to 20 years, depending on the circumstances and intentions: a maximum of 10 years for stoning cars, regardless of intent to endanger passengers, and 20 years for throwing stones at people, without proof of intent to cause bodily harm. In our case, stone-pelters are released en bloc after brief detention, at times like Mehbooba Muft did as Chief Minister to stop panchayat elections being held. We have had Army soldiers and CRPF jawans killed on account of stone-pelting but without a murmur from the nation. Forget the presstitutes and the so called human rights activists on ISI doles but what about the mai baap of defence forces, the Defence Minister, the Home Minister, the NSA and for that matter the NSA and the Prime Minister himself.
The irony is that the Defence Minister who holds press conference on opening of military cantonments and by her own admission will fly to all parts of the country to defend the Rafael deal, doesn’t make any statement on stone-pelting casualties, not even when a soldier is killed because of stone-pelting. On the contrary, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharamn consented to then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for filing an FIR against Major Aditya when his troops were forced to open fire (Aditya was not even present on the site) when a mob of 200-300 stone-pelters attacked an army convoy, set fire to four army vehicles, mob tried to lynch a JCO hit on the head and tried snatch his weapon. The Army was forced to open fire in which two stone-pelters were killed. Mehbooba told the J&K assembly on January 29, 2018 that she had consulted Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman before filing the FIR. Is Sitharaman shamed who did not even respond to a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament questioning her on the issue? Why would J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik announce that he would consider stone-pelting cognizable offence?
The bottom-line is that blood of the soldiers is too cheap to be bothered about. Government, MHA and Defence Minister have nothing to say about the convoluted reporting in the recent incident of stone-pelting mobs that forced the Army to open fire on a marauding mob of stole-pelters in Pulwama, J&K on December 15, 2018. A veteran Colonel has vent his frustration on social media by posting an invitation to media and human rights organizations to accompany in counter insurgency operations in J&K. He should have invited the politicians also whose sole aim surrounded by layers of security is to count their votes and keep their seats secure and warm. But the question is if the judiciary is worried about pellet gun casualties, what stops the political hierarchy discussing the issue of stone-pelting in Parliament and legislating punishment for stone-pelting? Hasn’t the Supreme Court clarified umpteen times that legislation is the job of Parliament, not of SC? But that is only if the political hierarchy is ‘genuinely’ interested in undue loss of lives of soldiers and ending J&K militancy. Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi listening?