Views from Srinagar
Bilal Bashir Bhat
EXCESSIVE military presence in public spaces, a rigid approach adopted by the ruling power in India and, most importantly, the grave human rights violations in the aftermath of the death of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani have increased home-grown militancy and radicalization among the Kashmiri population.
Educated youth having picked up arms to fight for a cause, lack genuine training and are these days giving a tough time to the highly equipped government forces. Although, the situation exhibits that the current situation in Kashmir is similar to an armed struggle, it can never be compared to the insurgency of the 90s. The popular local support, the seed sown by Burhan Wani and the unrest after his death have motivated the educated youth towards militancy.
They feel that the government of India does not care about their pain and suffering due to the lingering Kashmir issue. In such circumstances, declaring militancy because of lack of economic opportunities and frustration due to high unemployment is contradictory to their demands.
Before the 2016 unrest, the Indian army under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) used to cordon off the whole area or village for an encounter with armed militants. After Burhan Wani’s killing, the whole scenario has changed. Now, the local populace come out on the streets during search operations and start throwing stones to help the militants escape. Many civilians have lost their lives and a large number of people have been injured. With such obstructions the army has, on several occasions, called off the search operations.
Recently, armed personnel of the 55 Rashtriya Rifles (a Special Operation Group of Jammu & Kashmir Police from Pulwama and Newa) cordoned off Urivan village after a tip-off that two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants were hiding there.
When the government forces started a combing operation, the local population attacked the army and SOG personnel with stones, thus, forcing the men in uniforms to vacate the site.
The armed forces in Kashmir are now taking stern steps to deal with the people who help militants. They have been directed to use only rifles and drop their batons. This direction has come after General Bipin Rawat issued warnings of harsh action against those who help militants escape.
The army has also tried the use of soft measures like using smoke cover to prevent locals from obstructing operations but this has not yielded much result, forcing them to consider using harsher methods. The state government has now decided to impose strict restrictions within a radius of three km from the site of any counter-insurgency operation in Kashmir.
On the other hand, students in the Valley’s educational institutes, including those at Kashmir University, are now openly cautioning the government to end oppression and suppression of the people of Kashmir otherwise they will be left with no choice but to pick up guns. Recently, despite the ban on students’ politics, there was a protest march inside the campus of Kashmir University expressing solidarity with the families of militants and civilians killed in an encounter in Kulgam South Kashmir. Shouting pro-azadi (freedom) and anti-India slogans, the protesting students carried banners reading, “End Occupation, Free Kashmir”.
Nowadays, informers have become a new headache for the army units in Kashmir. Twice in the past fortnight, the army’s local informers in the Valley double-crossed them and gave a red herring to the units involved in operations, leading them into the militants’ trap.
Undoubtedly, there is much support to the militants in Kashmir by the local people, but the fact is that youngsters mostly get killed within a period of a month or two after joining militancy. Every encounter ends on a bitter note. Sometimes, civilians also fall to the bullets from the forces. Militant, innocent, policeman or even army at the end of the day, is made up by humans who lose their precious lives. To end the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir, the ruling party has to shun its stubbornness and initiate a process by taking concrete and honest steps for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
—Courtesy: Only Kashmir
[This article is penned by Bilal Bashir Bhat; [email protected]].