Kashmir: another violent summer?

Kashmir: another violent summer?

Kashmir is in the grip of an escalating cycle of violence.  Over the past few days, security forces have engaged militants in multiple encounters in Shopian and Anantnag in the Valley. While they were 'successful' in these encounters and were able to eliminate over a dozen militants, there is little reason for satisfaction. The growing number of gunfights confirm a resurgence of militancy in the Valley.  Indeed, the counter-insurgency operations  on Sunday  have been described as the deadliest in a decade.  Even as the security forces were battling militants in Shopian, large crowds of protesters gathered at the encounter sites. It resulted in clashes between police and protesters, which claimed the lives of four civilians and left over 200 people injured, including a dozen who were blinded. Kashmir seems to be staring at another summer of violence. Indeed, the coming months could be bloodier than previous summers as the surge in militancy is being accompanied by a public outpouring of civilian fury.

Intelligence agencies have been drawing attention to the growing number of youth picking up arms against the State. Worryingly, it is local youth that are joining the militancy in large numbers. This has been the trend since the killing of Burhan Wani, a local commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen,  which triggered mass protests. The police's use of rubber bullets to disperse crowds blinded scores of youth and has triggered a tidal wave of mass disaffection with the Indian State.

The Narendra Modi government must take note of the changed reality in Kashmir. If in previous decades, militants were mainly youth from Pakistan or Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, today, it is local Kashmiris who are picking up arms. The government's 'encounter strategy' will only escalate Kashmir's alienation from India. As in the Shopian encounters, civilians are crowding encounter sites as it is their sons that are being cornered and killed by security forces. Sure, the security forces were successful in killing 13 militants  on Sunday,  but they also killed four civilians. Their deaths cannot be dismissed as collateral damage. If the security forces are in Kashmir for the security of the people, then they cannot and should not be killing civilians. Delhi is relying far too heavily on the use of force to deal with the Kashmir problem while completely ignoring political dialogue with the Kashmiri people and their elected representatives. Whatever happened to the interlocutor the Modi government had belatedly appointed?  It is time the government articulated and implemented a strategy towards a political solution to the problem.

 

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