'J&K Stone-throwers An Illiterate, Frustrated Lot'19 January 2011
Times of India
New Delhi: J&K CM Omar Abdullah on Wednesday rubbished the perception that stone-throwers on Srinagar streets last summer were well-to-do, educated youth, saying a government survey had proved they were jobless men from poor and mostly illiterate families. 'We took a sample size - about 200-odd - of those injured and looked at their backgrounds,' he said. He said about 70% of them had uneducated mothers. 'About 60% or more were from families where both father and the mother were uneducated,' he said at an interaction with reporters at The Times of India office. Omar said most protesters hadn't reached high school. 'This meant that an overwhelming majority (of protesters) came from families with no support system. Then they had no real hope for the future themselves.' The protesters were frustrated because of their hard lives, he said. 'They had a difficult life and also saw no future for themselves. There are no opportunities for children with such educational backgrounds,' he said. 'If I came from a family where my parents didn't know any better and were uneducated, would you blame me for being part of the mob?' he asked. He said there might have been some educated youth involved as well with some economic opportunities as an incentive. The stone-throwers weren't driven by alienation alone and the unrest had no correlation to militancy, he said. 'In spite of the four-month agitation, militancy figures vis-a-vis 2009 are roughly the same. There is a marginal increase or decrease in some categories that we access, but there is no spurt in militancy,' he said. 'The frustration led to protests, but protests haven't led to militancy.' The CM said the government has launched measures to address alienation and that the rehabilitation package for Kashmiri youth stranded in PoK is one of them. He said the government has received around 150 applications from the kin of youth stranded across the LoC. 'We are processing the applications and would see how to bring them back,' he said. He said it would be a challenging task. 'There would be a lot of resistance from the other side to it.' He said the package would also address the grievance that all the disappeared people - around 10,000 - vanished in the security forces custody. 'Many of them may actually be living across the LoC and their return would address the grievance,' he said. Omar said his government was keen on holding Panchayat elections, which would encourage the youngsters to come forward and participate in the democratic process.