Kashmir Police, Advocates Differ on Leading Boys Away from Crime

Amin Masoodi
160101-IN-stones-620 Kashmiri protesters throw stones at police during clashes in downtown Srinagar, Nov. 20, 2015.

In a bid to prevent boys 16 and younger from throwing stones at security officers, authorities in Kashmir claim counseling is effective, but experts say this effort will not get boys to change their ways.

The boys have grown up in an atmosphere of violence and experience discontent that can be addressed only through a combination of good governance and restoration of peace in the region, one expert says. According to official figures, more than 44,000 people have been killed in Kashmir over the past two decades of insurgency.

Boys between the ages of 10 and 16 say they resort to throwing stones to vent anger against perceived human rights abuses allegedly committed by security forces in the region.

Ishfaq Ahmad 14, (name changed on his request) is one such boy, who takes to streets in protest.

A Class VIII student at a government run school in Srinagar’s downtown area – one of the most sensitive areas in the district, Ahmad says he and his friends often take to the streets to throw stones after Friday prayers.

“Under the facade of maintaining law and order, security men often ransack houses, beat inmates and detain mostly youths and minor boys in camps and police stations,” he told BenarNews.

“Me and my friends protest and throw stones to demonstrate to the world our resentment against security forces,” he said. “The men in uniform target minor boys and youths in particular in the name of maintaining law and order in Srinagar district.”

‘Counseling helps shun wrong path’

North Kashmir Deputy Inspector General Police Gareeb Das says counseling boys involved in protests and throwing stones at officers is working.

“We explain the repercussions of indulging in violence-related acts like throwing stones to these boys. In most of the cases, offenders abandon the wrong path following our advice,” Das told BenarNews.

“Instead of booking these boys on charges of throwing stones, police identify them and guide them to concentrate on making careers. As a result we have very few incidents of stone pelting even in the most-sensitive areas of north Kashmir,” he added.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which responds anti-government protests along with Jammu and Kashmir police, says it shows maximum restraint in dealing with the protesters especially boys.

“Most of these children consider themselves as ‘heroes’ for throwing stones at security men,” CRPF Public Relations Officer Ashish Kumar Jha told BenarNews.

“As part of our civic action program … we advise these boys to abandon violent acts and concentrate on their studies. CRPF uses minimum force especially when boys take to streets and start pelting rocks on our men and vehicles,” he added.

‘Need to address growing discontent’

Participation in protests is a reflection of larger political and socio-economic problem in the region, Noor Mohammad Baba, professor of political science at Kashmir University told BenarNews.

“The authorities may be able to address the growing discontent only if there is good governance on the ground and simultaneously tangible efforts are made for restoration of peace in the region. Initiation of meaningful dialogue between stake holders aimed at resolution of Kashmir conflict can help restore peace in the region and gradually bring back youths to the mainstream,” he added.

Baba said the police department is not the proper agency to counsel boys and authorities should call on experts.

“Due to ongoing insurgency and long-running conflict, Kashmiris are trapped in a very difficult situation with their socio-economic conditions worsening with each passing day,” Baba said, adding elected representatives and not the police force should reach out to boys in particular to address the growing discontent.

Counseling may address the problem partly but not on long-term basis, according to Hilal Ahmad Shah, Urdu teacher at a government school in Baramulla.

“It may motivate a few boys to abandon the unlawful practice. But authorities need to chalk out a strategy to address prevailing atmosphere of despair in the region and bring back such boys into the mainstream,” Shah told BenarNews.


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