In the United States, rock-throwing and rock-throwers face criminal charges including second degree murder. In Great Britain, as per a legislation introduced in 1986 stone throwers are sentenced on average to 3.5 years in prison if the criminal justice system can prove that the action took place in a riot. Under Australian law, rock throwers can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. In New Zealand, individuals who throw rocks can serve 14 years. In Israel, stone pelters can face upto 20 years. Several liberal civilized societies consider it an offense….Why ?
Because criminal rock throwing/stone pelting is considered a tactic, a violence, with both a symbolic and military dimension when used against heavily armed troops. Even if stone pelting is projected as a reaction to repressive measures, still it cannot be described as lawful or non-violent warranting both retaliatory reaction and punishable action. Over the past decades, stone throwing has become an organised form of violence and protest in conflicts predominantly involving the muslim community be it Palestine or Kashmir. While stone pelting as a tactical strategy exists in several communities world-wide, its excessive popularity and use as an organised tool to achieve violence and punishment is seen in riot-cultures that are predominatly muslim. The Stoning of the Devil is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Muslim pilgrims fling pebbles at three walls (formerly pillars), called jamarāt, in the city of Mina. As per the muslim tradition when Abraham left Mina and was brought down to al-Aqaba, the Devil appeared to him at Stone-Heap of the Defile. Gabriel (Jibrayil) said to him: “Pelt him!” so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Hence in Islamic societies there seems to be a kind of religious legitimization and cultural practice tolerating stone-pelting of the “evil other”. Although there has been certain claims that stone pelting is unislamic, its use as part of Sharia punishment in Islamic countries neutralizes such deceptive rhetoric. In the desire to appear politically correct, the media completely overlooks the cultural association and practice of stone pelting to certain religions – it remains a poor ostrich attempt.
In India, the media has spared no effort to question the use of pellet guns to counter the stone pelters in Jammu and Kashmir and there is a constant debate almost every other day about the number of people who have been injured due to pellet guns. However there is a selective underplay of the gravity of organized stone-pelting and the figures are shocking, once we thoroughly examine them. While the media re-plays the number of pellet injuries, police and CRPF personnel injuries (last 3 months: killed-1, injured – 2600, police stations damaged- 29) remains hardly highlighted. Of these 2600, 1351 CRPF personnel were exclusively injured in fierce clashes between the law enforcing agencies and the stone-pelting mobs. The country may debate the issue of pellet guns day in and day out, but the fact is that the government has failed to legislate and the media has been soft on the stone pelters who relentlessly go about their business. There are repeated instances of security forces being targeted not just by stone pelters but by terrorists shielded by stone pelters. It is a double whammy for the security forces on ground. They cannot fire back at the terrorists because there is a crowd of stone pelters between the terrorists and the security forces. And within minutes the terrorists melt into the built up area. To make things worse, children and young teenagers are often used as stone pelters in front line to consciously politically engineer “martyrs” and “emotional narratives” in the media.
While it is important to discuss alternatives to pellet-guns , it is also imperative that Indian media and Indians in general recognize the stone-pelting strategy, its cultural background as well as the gravity of its damage on security personnel; and contemplate awareness movements against it together with legislations similar to that of the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel.