‘The Generation of Rage in Kashmir’ review: Fear and tragedy: Understanding why Kashmir’s stone-pelters are angry

The Hindu

‘The Generation of Rage in Kashmir’ review: Fear and tragedy

Kallol Bhattacherjee

AUGUST 11, 2018 22:24 IST

Understanding why Kashmir’s stone-pelters are angry

Parachute journalism is often blamed for inflicting injustice to lingering conflicts of the world. This criticism sticks particularly in case of Kashmir, where pressure and intimidation against the media from state agencies and pro-azadi elements, adds to the difficulties to write ethnographic accounts of the problems of the valley.

Often the only account is that of the day’s developments — which means a roster of ‘terrorists’ and ‘soldiers’ killed. At times, outrage pours forth when ‘officers’ are victims. The casualty of such a narrative are the thousand heartbreaking details that disappear as the bipolar narrative takes root. David Devadas in The Generation of Rage in Kashmir has done a great work by bringing those thousand heartbreaks of Kashmir’s young generation to readers.

With the eye to detail that is hallmark of ethnographic research, the author has brought out the pain and white fear that emerged in the heart of teenaged Kashmiris when elders urged them to switch off lights and go to bed fearing the midnight knock. Thousands of such midnight knocks reverberated all over Kashmir during the 1990s when terrorism and insurgency blended into the ‘disturbances’. No one paid attention to the long-term impact of those moments of fear. Yet as the mainstream media in India wondered about the roots of rage in contemporary Kashmiri youth, the impact of the past became clear.

The previous generation of Kashmir had witnessed the political complexity of India as well as the softer pull of the State’s pluralist culture.

But as the 21st century matured into its teens, the rage of modern Kashmir had to be explained. The heart of the stone-pelter in 2016 in the aftermath of the slaying of Burhan Wani was full of rage that he had picked up as a child growing up in the 1990s. Devadas should get the credit for laying out the reasons that mobilised thousands by the Facebook posts of Burhan Wani and subsequently, those who protested against his slaying with intense passion.

Devadas has produced a detailed study of Kashmir’s social and government institutions and how they morphed over the last decades and how they failed as the generation of rage grew up. The study looks at family structure, social and urban movements, and State-population interaction. What emerges in Devadas’ narrative is valuable insight into the reasons that drive the young men in the stone-pelting crowd.

Devadas has not written a non-fiction nor has he fictionalised the hard hitting facts like how people adjusted social practices of picnics and weddings to the worsening security scenario. Instead, he has generously showered attention on the masses who were often left out by the media and the essayists.

The Generation of Rage in Kashmir; David Devadas, Oxford University Press, ₹495.