The recent serial killing of ex-militants in Sopore, a town in Kashmir, has caused the residents of the town to panic, leading to the fear of a resurrection of the Ikhwani period. During the 1990s, ex-militants or Ikhwanis, were recruited by the Indian army to hunt down separationists aligned with the ‘pro-freedom’ camp who took up armed struggle for the secession of Kashmir from India. This violent intolerance of a political stance is reminiscent of the infamous McCarthy era in America when a witch-hunt was carried out against communists.
For decades, the beautiful valley of Kashmir has been under the shadow of militancy and violence. On Monday, the 15th of June, Ajaz Ahmad Reshi became the sixth victim in the series of mysterious killings by unidentified gunmen in Sopore. It began when Rafiq Akbar Haji was shot dead on the 25th of May. While Haji was a commerce graduate employed by a BSNL franchisee, Reshi was an ex-militant who turned away from violence since his arrest in 2007. A spontaneous protest was observed following the killing of Reshi when the Sopore town’s people took to the streets. The senseless killing of innocent people led to clashes between demonstrators and government forces elsewhere as well.
In volatile Sopore, considered a hub of militant separatism, the mysterious killings have triggered paranoia and wild conjecture. Police sources claim that the shootings were carried out by rogue militant groups against people owning cell phone tower land and others directly associated with mobile phone operations in Kashmir. “It is the same group that had tried to disrupt telecom operations in and around Sopore areas earlier“, Deputy Inspector General of Police Gareeb Das said. On the other hand, Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani accuses the Indian state and the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir for the killing of innocent lives as he claims, “Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is equal partner with Indian secret agencies in innocent killings”. Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar’s words “You have to neutralize terrorist through terrorist only” are being used by ‘anti-India’ forces as an explanation for the killings. Former political activists are moving out of Sopore as the town is not considered a safe place for them anymore. With the loss of a sense of security among the people, fear reigns in Sopore.
Geelani and other separatist leaders have held joint deliberations and announced a statewide shutdown on the 17th. Rs. 10,00,000 each has been offered as bounty by J&K Police on the heads of two suspected militants. There are many who are looking for opportunities to brew tension in Kashmir, therefore it is of utmost importance to the government that violence is curbed in the valley with better security. As the government is under pressure to bring stability to the Kashmir valley and is even regularly criticized for violence committed by the military, issues mired in mystery like this only worsen the situation. The militants need to be identified as soon as possible before the paranoia escalates any further.