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Faizan Ahmad is not his real name. He won't give you his name or his face—"no photographs", he says tersely. But he tells you more. Every Friday, this 23-year-old takes out his gear—sports shoes, shin pads and a mask—from his wardrobe and prepares for the battle in his neighbourhood that lasts several hours, sometimes days.
Ahmad is a 'stone-pelter', one of the thousands in Srinagar who appear on the streets, almost out of thin air, masked and armed with stones to pelt at J&K Police and CRPF men guarding the streets.
Last week, the J&K government turned on the heat, slapping the Public Safety Act against stone-pelters and making the act one of 'waging war against the state', a crime punishable with death or life in jail. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah spoke of Pakistani guidance to the pelters and the money and the gang leaders behind these acts.
Ahmad insists he doesn't do this for a living; it's an ideology, he says.
"For me stone-pelting is the only expression of resistance," says Ahmad, a post-graduate from Kashmir University. He passed his exams last year and says is waiting for a job. "The militant movement lost its relevance after 9/11 and the world community doesn't accept armed resistance as a means of struggle anymore. What can we do now? We come out to protest peacefully but are not allowed. Then we vent our anger by pelting stones at the police."
Ahmad, like many of his stone-pelting friends, is from a middle-class family in downtown Srinagar. His father is an employee with the state government and his mother is a homemaker. Two years ago, when the Amarnath land row gripped the Valley, Ahmad, egged on by his friends, picked up a stone and threw it at some security personnel.
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