If Kashmiri youth are not to throw stones, how else could they express their angst? Vehicles of social change like theatre, films and other art forms are missing in the Valley or dying.

Kashmir has no film industry. Producers risk their own monies to make films. "The government has been deaf to our pleas for financial assistance and infrastructural support," says film-maker Ayash Arif.

Closed cinema halls further kill films. Long ago, Bollywood blockbusters wowed vast audiences in Srinagar's ten halls. "Cinema-going was a very Kashmiri habit," says a government retiree, Ghulam Hassan, who saw every Rajesh Khanna film. Now he can't remember last going to the movies.

Former Regal Cinema ticket blacker Mohammad Amin misses those days with pain. "I was king," he says. "I was happy. I got no time to eat and did not return home before 2 am."

Today, Amin sells second-hand clothes on a cart. "I have everything in life," he says. "But something is missing. We live in fear. Often I get lost in the memories of olden days. The rest is gone."

Cinemas closed with the insurgency. Halls were bombed, occupied by security forces, or simply abandoned. Kashmiri youth have no sense of a cinema hall. "I've never been to one in Kashmir," says Mohsin, a political science student.

In 1996, the National Conference government revived movie-going. Broadway Cinema opened with Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Kareeb in the presence of then chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah. Regal and Neelam followed suit.

But Regal closed after a post-show grenade attack killed two people. A militant strike in the neighbourhood of Broadway forced detention of viewers for the entire night, destroying business. Neelam is open but screens old films.

"Fear and old films have killed Kashmir's cinema culture," says school-teacher Shazia Khan. Film-maker Arshad Mushtaq would "love to watch Lion of the Desert or The Battle of Algiers at a Srinagar hall but that won't be allowed". He is sure Kashmiri films will establish one day but meanwhile considers mainstream Indian cinema to be "propaganda" and constituting an "insult to Kashmir".

But near-absence of Kashmiri cinema and cinema halls is only part of the story. There is general denial of the arts to youth, be it painting, music, singing or acting. Neither institutions nor exhibition spaces exist for them. Talent faces a brick wall. "There is no institution for arts," says Mir Imran, a Delhi-trained music composer. "Our talent rots without grooming and opportunities."

What survives is courtesy individual efforts. Band Pather, whose folk theatrical social, cultural and political satires were a hit for decades in rural Kashmir when there was no radio or TV, struggles today. The group trains boys of seven to keep traditions going, but no government support is forcing performers to take other professions.

Sufi music is also dying. Few Sufi artistes remain. Mohammad Yaqoob has trained nearly sixty girls since 1996 in Sufi music. "The girls are enthusiastic," he says. "All of them are talented. But they had to quit without opportunities."

There is a view that the government is indifferent to local arts as a matter of policy. Local language cinema, for example, could exacerbate separatist feelings. Right or wrong, the more thoughtful Kashmiris believe this.

In counter, it could be argued that there is the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages to ensure "the renaissance, development and preservation of the rich cultural heritage" of the state. But in substance, it does little.

And J and K does not have its own information and broadcasting ministry. Delhi controls it.