What's wrong with Kashmiri youth

Riots in IndiaThe anger of the youth of Kashmir

"Indian dogs, go home," shout the teenagers in the front row. You are walking down a steep, narrow street. The mood is whipped up. "You dog" is a bad swear word in Muslim countries. At first there are only a few hundred demonstrators, then there are more and more. Maybe two or three thousand.

"Azadi!"

They call for freedom. The angry crowd gathers outside the United Nations Office in Srinagar after Friday prayers on July 29th. Srinagar is almost 1,800 meters above sea level and in the hot summer months it is the capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, to which the Indian part of Kashmir belongs. It is the only Indian state with a Muslim majority.

Most of the demonstrators are young and male, and many are still children. There does not seem to be a leader. A student with a three-day beard and a Messi jersey, who refuses to give his name, emerges from the crowd.

"The Kashmiris have always claimed their right to freedom. The Indians are here and fly their flag wherever they want, but they can never fly their flag in our hearts."

Then everything goes very quickly. The 50 or so Kashmiri police officers standing in front of the UN office with helmets and protective shields are getting nervous. They fire tear gas and deafening stun grenades into the crowd without warning.

The eyes water, the lungs burn, the ears hurt. The demonstrators run away, many fall. A few minutes later, stones are falling from narrow streets in the neighborhood. The Kashmiri police are reinforced by India's central paramilitary police and are pursuing them. After a little over half an hour, it's all over. Until next time.

Symbol of the anger of the young generation

Burhan Wani's family has raised a large banner. (Deutschlandradio / Sandra Petersmann)

Such hunting scenes have been part of everyday life in the Indian part of Kashmir since July 8th. That day, security forces shot and killed Burhan Wani - a 22-year-old fighter on whom the Indian authorities had put a heavy bounty. Burhan Wani was the commander of a pro-Pakistani separatist group on terror lists in India, the US and the EU. His funeral was a mass event. For many young people, the killed Burhan Wani was a hero, explains the Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari.

"Burhan symbolizes the anger of the younger generation. There could have been other triggers, but it was Burhan. He has fought for his place in society primarily through his many appearances on social networks such as Facebook. He has many young people attracted. We are sitting on a volcano here in Kashmir. It only takes a spark to make it erupt. Burhan was such a spark. "

"Rising Kashmir", the newspaper that Shujhaat Bukhari runs as editor-in-chief, was not allowed to appear for days during the initial phase of the bloody unrest. In addition to a strict curfew, the authorities also imposed a ban on information. They blocked the internet and blocked the cellular networks. But the violence in the streets continued. Day after day. Week after week. Police officers, paramilitaries and soldiers against youth protesters. Dead and injured.

"It is an essential feature of this political unrest that the Kashmiri people openly rally behind an armed fighter. There is hardly any support for this in the rest of the world. The majority reject violence as a political means. But here in Kashmir, the people leave again openly to support violence. Young educated people join the armed struggle, the number of fighters in hiding is increasing again. In my 26 years as a journalist I have never seen so much anger in the population. "

Another bloody chapter

The violence that broke out after Burhan Wani's death adds another bloody chapter to the tragic history of Kashmir. The Himalayan region has been divided since 1947. At that time the British colonial empire fell apart.

The Principality of Kashmir was also thrown into the bloody wake of disintegration. Secular, predominantly Hindu India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan emerged from the sinking British India. The two states are hostile to each other to this day and claim Kashmir entirely for themselves. There are regular exchanges of fire along the armistice line, which divides Kashmir into a Pakistani and an Indian part.

A UN Security Council resolution of April 21, 1948 recommends letting the Kashmiri people decide for themselves whether they want to belong to India or Pakistan. The resolution does not speak of independence. The two nuclear powers India and Pakistan have waged three of their four wars for Kashmir to date. China has also absorbed a small part. Today, Kashmir is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world. India alone has around 600,000 soldiers and paramilitaries stationed in its part.

Carrot and stick strategy

The separatists boycott the Indian state and do not take part in elections. Some are fighting for independence, others for joining Pakistan. Their leaders come from traditionally powerful Kashmiri families. They live in magnificent villas in Srinagar - closely controlled by the Indian state. India pursues a carrot and stick strategy: sometimes the separatists receive financial support, sometimes they are in jail.

When the youth intifada broke out after Burhan Wani's death, the separatists called on the population to go on a general strike and paralyzed public life.

There are no cars or people on the street in front of the paramilitary police headquarters in Srinagar. Street dogs lie lazily in the sun in the middle of the road. At the headquarters, Commander Rajesh welcomes Yadav in an immaculately ironed uniform. Yadav sits behind a huge desk and keeps drumming his index finger on the tabletop to emphasize his words.

"The demonstrators dream of something that will never happen. They demand the unreasonable. All over the world there are peaceful forms of protest. Why are stones always thrown in Kashmir? These stone throwers only attack the security forces, not their elected representatives. Why aren't they demonstrating in front of their elected political representatives? "

The spokesman for the paramilitary central police defends the use of pellets fired with pump guns. These weapons are not in use in any other Indian state. Yadav reports of dead and injured colleagues, of burning tires and Molotov cocktails, of the attacking mob who abuse children as protective shields.

"Our boys are on duty for the government. And when they are attacked on the job, they defend themselves. We hold back as much as possible. But there is a limit to everything.

We are not using illegal weapons here, but rather means that are approved by the government for these situations. We use the least harmful weapons. "

Women at the funeral of a Kashmiri boy. (dpa / picture alliance / Farooq Khan)

Silent civil society

"Where is civil society? Where are the educated? The teachers, lawyers, professors? Why is there this great vacuum? Why are they hiding in their homes? Where are the elders? Where are the religious leaders? Why is no one stopping these youth? Why do the parents let their boys out on the street? "

The house in the southern Kaschmirtal, in the small, picturesque village of Tral, is surrounded by a brick wall. The Wani family had a large banner stretched over the artistically forged iron gate that is set into the wall. It says: "Burhan Wani - the pride of the nation". What is meant is the Kashmiri nation. Burhan can be seen on the left and right of the banner: a handsome young man in camouflage uniform, the Kalashnikov casually in hand. His mother Mahimana smiles when she talks about her dead son.

The father of the murdered fighter Burhan Wani. (Deutschlandradio / Sandra Petersmann)

He was a nice, funny boy, always dressed in fashion. Burhan Wani's mother doesn't look like a broken woman. She serves Kashmiri salty tea and hard pastries. When asked if she ever tried to stop her son when he went into the armed underground when he was 15, she is amazed.

"Why should I have stopped him? I fed him with my milk. We gave him a good Islamic education and raised Burhan to be a good Muslim. The rest is God's will. My son has chosen God's way."

Burhan is the second son that Mahimana and her husband lost. Soldiers had previously shot Burhan's older brother Khalid. He too was a terrorist for the Indian state because he supplied his brother in hiding with supplies. The parents say that Burhan went into hiding after soldiers mistreated him on the street. The cemetery is a short walk from the Wanis house. Father Mohammed Muzaffar Wani stands proudly in front of the grave of his sons.

"I feel good. The two brothers meet here, that makes me happy. I thank God."

The desire for an Islamic Kashmir

The family comes from the middle class and is quite wealthy. Father Wani is a deeply religious man who wants Islamic Kashmir. For him, secular India is the land of the Hindus. But he works for the state, which he rejects. Father Wani teaches math. He is the school director and runs a state secondary school for around 300 children. His dead sons Burhan and Khalid were very good students and enthusiastic cricketers, he reports. Today their tombstones say that they died a martyr. The southern Kashmir Valley around the hometown of the Wanis mourns the most fatalities. Here children and young people have set up roadblocks and attacked civilians.

"The Koran says that he who dies in the name of God is a martyr. The population is fighting back. She slept a long time. But since Burhan's death she has awakened and stood up."

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution guarantees Kashmir a special autonomous status. But since the armed uprising against the Indian state began in 1989, the area has turned into a military zone. At that time, armed separatists drove several hundred thousand Kashmiri Hindus from their homeland. Since then, the army and police have had great powers. The young Kashmiri journalist Sumaiya Yousuf regularly reports on human rights violations.

"India is deploying its troops here on a large scale. These troops are being abused. The political elite in India just don't understand what is happening here. India is losing the battle for hearts and minds."

Sumaiya is a child of the 90s. She grew up with the massive Indian military presence. She criticizes the paralysis of politics.

"My heart is bleeding. The Kashmir problem has been unsolved for decades. India's Cold War with Pakistan goes on and on. The border in Kashmir will not open. Kashmir is a goal and a sacrifice. We are a divided people within a divided." Region."

Pakistan supports the separatists in the Indian part of Kashmir. The government in Islamabad has declared Burhan Wani a martyr. India blames Pakistan for the Islamist terror in Kashmir. Several extremist groups operate in the Pakistani part. There are training camps that prepare fighters for attacks. In the past, the commandos infiltrated regularly from the Pakistani to the Indian part.

Today, young Kashmiris in the Indian part are increasingly taking up arms directly - without going via Pakistan. 70 years after the partition of Kashmir, a political solution is not in sight. The rest of the world is busy with other theaters of war.

The sun is high in the sky. The muezzin of a mosque on the shores of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar calls for midday prayer. The Dal Lake with its picturesque mountain backdrop is actually a magnet for tourists. But the Kashmiri Intifada has frightened the tourists. The houseboats are orphaned. There is a yawning emptiness. On a small island in the lake, two young men sit with books under a tree in the shade.

One of the two struggles for words. He's scared and doesn't want to say his name. Tears well up in his eyes. He is a student and wants to become a computer engineer. His university is closed. The academic year is lost because of the unrest.

"We feel locked up. Like in a cage! Everyone wants to be able to live freely. India uses our land without wanting us humans. India wants to protect its borders and prevent people from infiltrating Pakistan or China from invading. That is why they want Kashmir .

I would like to say to the Indian government: at least give us the chance to move freely. Whenever I leave the house, I have to pass armed men. We feel threatened. "

The young Kashmiri longs for a completely normal life. He wants to enjoy his life. He does not throw stones and yet is crushed by the violence.