by Majid Maqbool
The street is the home of our stones. Streets can be occupied, but stones are free for us to pick up, and angrily fling in the air — in protest. From the hands of the oppressed, once pelted, the stones deliver a message to the oppressor: while you kill with no remorse on my soil, and stage false encounters with all your advanced weapons, I’m not going to keep quiet. I will not let you kill us without offering resistance. I have these stones on my streets. I exist in these stones. If your occupation is in bullets, our resistance is in these rough-edged, homegrown stones.
We, who come out protesting on the streets, are not an ignorant, frustrated and unemployed lot — as the occupier likes to frame us, and the whole world seems to simplistically believe. Far from it! We are the ones who refuse to keep quiet in tyrannical times. We are the ones who shape the songs of resistance, as we practice them in our streets. It takes much courage and conviction to come out on the streets, and protest against the heavily militarized state forces. The sentiment of freedom confronts the idea of occupation. In every stone that’s pelted, there’s a promise to bring down the structures of occupation, bit by bit, crack by crack. We know in our hearts and minds that this ugly structure of occupation — built on deceit over the years — is bound to crumble one day under the force of our stones. It is this hope that keeps the resistance alive.
These stones unite individual whispers of our pain into a collective force of resistance. The flame of resistance is kept alive by these little stones that our curfewed streets offer in abundance. These stones ridicule the idea of occupation. In the hands of the oppressed, these stones have the potential to rattle the shaky structure of oppression. Illegitimate rule, enforced against the will of people, does not, cannot last. Held together by force, it is bound to perish.
We, who are protesting on the streets, know our streets well. We have grown up on these streets; so did our ancestors. We have seen the blood of our loved ones spilled on these streets. We have walked together on these streets, shouldered coffins of our loved ones. We are witness to army firings upon funeral processions. Processions for those killed by state troops in street protests, are only followed by more funerals. We are witness to the brute force used by the occupier to crush our spirit. We are witness to bullets fired in retaliation of mere stones. We have seen this tyranny played out with impunity on our streets. But our streets also give us the stones to resist.
We know when and where to pick them up, and hurl them in protest. We understand the sentiment of freedom that brings us out on the streets. A collective cry for freedom goes up in the air with each stone. A stone is hurled to reclaim a life of dignity snatched away in occupation. In the stones that take off from our hands, there is freedom’s terrible thirst. There’s wisdom, too. When a stone is picked from the street and hurled into an angry arc by the oppressed, it ceases to be a mere stone. It acquires a collective strength; it becomes the weapon of the oppressed. It conveys a collective statement of our resistance. Every stone pelted on the street may or may not hit the state troopers — the most visible representation of occupation on the streets — but it registers the resistance of the oppressed. There’s purpose in the flight of stones hurled by the oppressed. It conveys a message to the oppressor: we refuse to be oppressed, to be ruled by you, against our will.
The pelting of these stones is not without consequences: mass arrests of young boys, torture, months of custody, family harassment, even bullets for stones pelted on streets. We live with these consequences. And we die with these consequences. People know they can be shot for pelting stones. Or for nothing at all. We’re ready to pay the price. Knowing all this, we still come out on the streets to protest. In the hands of the occupied, stones have a message for the occupier: “We don’t fear you, nor all your weapons. And we will keep resisting, till freedom.”
From their Delhi studios, the Indian electronic media try to delegitimize the protest of unarmed people by labeling us: “rioters,” “agitational terrorists,” “mobsters.” Look at the irony of it all: for stones pelted on the streets, bullets are fired, and then justified by the state in national interest, national security. Stone-pelting is condemned as “agitational terrorism” and brought under the purview of anti-national activities. If unarmed people are “agitational terrorists,” what shall one call the armed troops of world’s “largest democracy” that kills teenagers in Kashmir: security forces?!
Truth has a way of confronting falsehood. Occupation is based on a pile of lies. There’s truth in the resistance of unarmed people on the streets. And truth triumphs in the end. It always does, even if it takes time.
وہ صبح کبھی تو آءے گی۔۔۔ [Wo subha kabhi to aayegee…]
That dawn has to arrive one day…
–From Sahir Ludhianvi’s poem, “Umeed” [Hope]