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11th February '2010
David versus Goliath!

For over a year now there are continuous battles with “Stones” going on between the young teenagers and the security forces which have assumed alarming proportions. More than 1700 security personnel have been hurt in these battles. About 7 teenagers were killed and dozens have been injured. Hundreds of vehicles have been damaged. Both sides seem to be adamant. Neither the security forces are budging from their stand of not allowing any peaceful protests nor are the teenagers relenting from their stand of throwing stones against tear gas shells and bullets. The teenagers seem to have been inspired by the biblical story of David and Goliath. It would be interesting to quote a summary of the story as related in the Bible.

“The Philistine army had gathered for war against Israel. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley. A Philistine giant measuring over nine feet tall and wearing full armour came out each day for forty days, mocking and challenging the Israelites to fight. His name was Goliath. Saul, the King of Israel, and the whole army were terrified of Goliath.

One day David, the youngest son of Jesse, was sent to the battle lines by his father to bring back news of his brothers. David was probably just a young teenager at the time. While there, David heard Goliath shouting his daily defiance and he saw the great fear stirred within the men of Israel. David responded, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of God?"

So David volunteered to fight Goliath. It took some persuasion, but King Saul finally agreed to let David fight against the giant. Dressed in his simple tunic, carrying his shepherd's staff, slingshot and a pouch full of stones, David approached Goliath. The giant cursed at him, hurling threats and insults.

David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied ... today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air ... and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel ... it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

As Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at Goliath's head. Finding a hole in the armour, the stone sank into the giant's forehead and he fell face down on the ground. David then took Goliath's sword, killed him, and then cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. So the Israelites pursued, chasing and killing them and plundering their camp.”

The stone pelting episode has been dominating the media. A large number of articles have been written against as well as for it. Some people have resented it as unnecessary nuisance for the common man. Others have supported it as the only means of protest available to the teenagers. Many allegations too have been levelled against the perpetrators of stone pelting. It has been called “Agitational Terrorism”. It has also been alleged that the stone pelters are being paid and in one case it was alleged that a neighbouring country is motivating and paying them. However, very few attempts have been made to fully analyse the basis for this stone pelting wave. There is definitely some truth in the fact that the teenagers are motivated by the Palestinian Intifada as they have named the area worst affected by this episode in Srinagar as Gaza Patti. Again they seem to have taken a cue from the Biblical story of physically week David against the gigantic Goliath. The whole episode appears to be a battle of wits. The authorities in Delhi seem to be scared of a mass peaceful upsurge for “Azadi”. They become very uncomfortable when over a million people march on the streets of Srinagar asking for freedom. These days thanks to information technology the entire episode gets beamed instantly throughout the world. Millions of Kashmiris sitting on the streets of Srinagar and other towns for “Azadi” as they did for the recovery of holy relic in 1963 is an Indian nightmare. How can you deal with such massive crowds of peaceful protestors taking over streets for days on end? There would be no alternative than to repeat Tinaman Square as was done in early nineties in the start of the agitation for “Azadi”. This is precisely the reason for maintaining such a heavy presence of security forces with bunkers and check gates in all the civilian areas even after militancy is virtually over!

The teenagers on their part knowing that the authorities are scared of peaceful mass demonstrations continue to come out on any pretext to turn these manifestations into marches for “Azadi”. The authorities come out with either “Undeclared Curfew” or ruthlessly suppress the attempts for taking out marches. The result is the “Stone War” which seems to have already become an addiction with the teenagers. It is an unbreakable vicious circle. As long as the teenagers believe that like the biblical David they can topple the Indian Goliath by stones and slingshots, they will not stop. Similarly, as long as the authorities think that they can suppress the aspirations of the people by shear use of brute force, the duels won’t end! The only way out is a dialogue between the two sides. On the government side the people who really matter and control the forces and on the public side, the prominent members of the civil society and the teenagers born in the fire of last two decades of turmoil. The leaders on both sides who are there merely by proxy, even if left out won’t matter! They have already shown their irrelevance on a number of occasions when instead of leading they have themselves been led. Will the good sense prevail and meaningful dialogues identify the road map to the ultimate peaceful solution of Kashmir, only time will show. However, an attempt has to be made genuinely and honestly by the concerned parties. Otherwise there would be no end to the impasse and the duel between David and Goliath will continue endlessly!

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