Militancy on the rise again in J&K

The three-day encounter between security forces and militants in Pampore near Srinagar is the latest in a series of encounters in Kashmir. It was also the most serious, as it was a long and tough battle which resulted in the death of six security personnel and two militants and injuries to many. While it started with an attack on a CRPF bus, it developed into a gun battle between militants who took refuge in a building and the security forces which surrounded it. A number of other encounters have also taken place in the recent past, including those in Anantnag, Kupwara, Bandipora and elsewhere. More recently, two civilians were killed in firing by security forces in disputed circumstances relating to an encounter in Pulwama. There are clear signs that incidents of conflict, confrontation and violence are increasing in Kashmir.

The increase in the number of incidents is not just a seasonal occurrence. The onset of summer Kashmir usually sees a spurt in militant activity because of the increase in infiltration from across the border. Butthere is an increase in violent activity on the part of militants from within the state, especially the youth, and there is more evidence of support to them among the local population. Many of those involved in recent encounters are militants from the state and not from across the border. When the Pampore encounter was taking place, many local residents obstructed traffic, threw stones at government vehicles and sang songs praising the militants. This has happened elsewhere also. Songs glorifying militancy are stored in mobiles and women too sing them. There has also been an increase in the number of people joining the funeral processions of killed militants. There have been signs of a fresh trend of radicalisation of the people, and reports about the presence of Islamic State elements. All this is worrying.

Kashmir has gone through cycles of militancy in the past but it is no comfort to assume that this may be another period of ebbing of protests and anger before they wane. Much of the gains made since the 1990s have been lost in the past two years. Both the previous UPA government and the current Narendra Modi government should share the blame for not building upon the favourable milieu which was available till recently. Sustained and effective political engagement is key to ensuring peace but it did not happen. The formation of a PDP-BJP coalition government offered an opening which was not made use of. Now there is a political vacuum and uncertainty in the state. Unfortunately, there are warnings of the situation further deteriorating.

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