On July 8, Burhan Wani, a commander Of Hizbul Mujahideen, along with two other militants was killed in an encounter with the Indian security forces in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir. This led to violent anti-India protests erupting all over the ten districts of the valley and a curfew was imposed on July 15.
The protesters defied the curfew and came out in large numbers. Such was the magnitude of the protests that it resulted in the longest running curfew in the history of Jammu and Kashmir and it led to over 90 civilian casualties. At least 13000 people were injured, two security personnel died and about 1100 people had eye injuries. The unrest resulted in the injury of over 3300 security personnel as well.
The main reason behind the eruption of massive protests was the killing of Burhan Wani, which by some has been termed as an extra-judicial killing within Kashmir as well as India, but there exists a contrary belief that he was just a trigger. Kashmir was already boiling and it was on the verge of eruption. In the show “Buck Stops Here”, Yashwant Sinha stated that before the Burhan Wani killing, there was a prevalent feeling in the Kashmir Valley that something terrible was about to happen. People were apprehensive about it and this was also confirmed by the authorities he met in Srinagar.
Over the years, more and more people have been joining protests and there has also been a rise in militancy. From an agenda of Azad Kashmir, this generation of protesters is inching towards being Pro-Pakistan. On the ground, one comes across two very clear feelings in the valley. One being the feeling of betrayal and the other being the feeling of being discriminated by the Indian state. People always question the use of pellet guns in Kashmir when they haven’t been used anywhere else in the country. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, excessive militarisation and human rights violation have collectively contributed to a growth in these feelings.
One cannot ignore the role of the media as they have been too liberal with the use of the word ‘terrorist’ and have often ended up terming stone pelters as terrorists. Politics has also played a big role in the alienation of the Kashmiri youth. The Agenda of the alliance between the BJP and the PDP strives for a dialogue with all the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir, but when Mehbooba Mufti invited Hurriyat for dialogue, Mr Rajnath Singh blatantly told the media that this was her own initiative. Somewhere, our leaders lack the courage of discussing Kashmir from the point of view of a Kashmiri and on top of this there have been some MPs and MLAs who have never shied away from openly showing their hate for Kashmir.
Our government has taken the current lull as a success of demonetisation by directly linking it to a fall in militancy and cross-border terrorism. But, it has overlooked the fact that the period of forty days of Chilai Kalan has always experienced this calmness because of the harsh weather conditions and the prevalent peace might be on very thin ice.
Our Prime Minister recently said that the boys who should have been handed with laptops and cricket balls have been handed with stones. But, he is ignorant of the fact that stone is their weapon of choice. They chose these stones over militancy. The writing on the walls of Kashmir is pretty clear, they now see India as an oppressor state that has colonised their land and has been blinding their youth. These protests are no more retaliations against the alleged human right abuses. They are demanding freedom, freedom from India. This Kashmiri struggle for freedom is without any clear leader, agenda and only has a slogan of Azadi, but this lull can give them one leader, a clear agenda and come April, Kashmir might burn more fiercely than ever and both the sides might have to deal with massive casualties.
India needs to take advantage of the situation and start a dialogue process with all the stakeholders of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Sikhs and Kashmiri Pandits, failing which a third party might influence a Kashmiri’s minds more than us and come April when the snow melts there might be a never ending bloodbath.