Winds of change in Kashmir as ‘stone-pelting’ youth eye police job

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard as a Kashmiri youth, whose face covered with a scarf, waits to submit his documents during a police recruitment rally in Srinagar, January 12. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between Hindu-majority India and predominately Muslim Pakistan, but claimed by both in its entirety. (AP Photo)
Srinagar, January 12 (PTI): Just a few months back youths in Kashmir used to turn out in huge numbers to fight pitched battles with the security forces in the state amidst a renewed period of violence. On Wednesday too hundreds of youths assembled outside a security force camp in Srinagar; but this time the motive was different – to secure a job as constable with the state police. The state has a high unemployment rate and the scene would not have attracted much attention in normal circumstances. But the fact that many of these youths were believed to be involved in clashes with police last summer makes today’s development notable. This time the police held an on-the-spot recruitment drive, which was mainly confined to residents of Khanyar area in the old city, here. Khanyar area includes some highly volatile localities where stone-pelters had engaged police and CRPF in running battles during the five-month-long unrest in the Valley last summer. The youths now want their share in employment in the police department. “I am here because I have nothing to do. I completed my graduation in 2004 and since then I am unemployed,” said 27-year-old Sajad Ahmad Shah. He admitted that creation of employment opportunities could help in containing stone-pelting but said unemployment was not the reason behind such an exercise.
“More employment avenues can stop stone-pelting but why stones are pelted is a different issue,” Shah said. Faisal Ahmad, who did not meet the minimum height standard to appear in the recruitment drive, said he had come because he wanted a secure job. “There is an advantage with it (police), you get a proper pay,” he said, adding “I work as a daily-wager in a furniture workshop and the amount I earn is not enough to sustain my family.” All the youths, who appeared in the recruitment drive, denied to have participated in the stone-pelting but a CRPF jawan on duty at the camp claimed he had identified at least 100 youths who had indulged in stone-pelting in different parts of the city.
“I saw around 100 boys who were stone-pelters and I have seen them (hurling stones) at Nowhatta, Khanyar and near Islamia College,” said constable Raj Kumar, posted in Kashmir for the past six years. Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, SM Sahai, said “if there is a criminal case against anyone, he will not be recruited in the force”. “The exact number of youths who will be recruited will be decided by the response and quality of the people we get.” “There is nothing unusual in the recruitment drive as we carry it out in areas which have no representation in the police department,” the IGP said.