Militancy in the Kashmir valley has steeply risen since 2016.
Throughout 2016, a feeling of apprehension was palpable in the valley. People believed that something bad was just waiting to happen. Unfortunately, that something really happened.
Although a large section of our society still considers the killing of Burhan Wani to be the main reason behind the violent protests, I believe that this incident only triggered a long-impending violence in Kashmir. After all, it is a well-recorded fact that many people in war-zones are not scared of violent deaths and instead, retaliate in desperate situations.
In my opinion, there are mainly two reasons behind this:
1. The failure of the Indian state to treat the Kashmir issue as a political one
2. Judging militancy to be an issue of greater concern, while ignoring the intent of and causes behind the Kashmiris rising in violent protest and pelting stones
The current government generally considers the stone-pelters in Kashmir as young people, who have been ‘radicalised and brainwashed’ into believing that India is an oppressor state, which has robbed them of their basic rights.
But, is this a correct notion? After all, who are these stone pelters? They are Kashmiris who have had to deal with armed special forces personnel constantly surveilling them and even beating them up. They have also been subject to numerous instances of human rights abuses under the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, which is believed to be a ‘lawless law‘ by many in the state.
The stones have become their weapon of choice (and not militancy, guns or bombs). The stones show the shared intent, common sentiments and strong determination of the masses in Kashmir to strive for their freedom. However, the stones also reflect their helplessness, which is a result of being deprived of their right of self-determination.
The stone-pelters should be an issue of greater concern to the government than gun-wielding militants who periodically attack and disappear. The stones they wield symbolise their ideals and are also the means to achieve them. The government needs to remember that ideas and ideals have always been more potent than weapons like guns and swords.
Moreover, these Kashmiri protesters have gained a ‘nothing-to-lose-but-our-freedom’ attitude. In this context, is it not apparent that with each protester we blind or kill, their resolve and die-hard nature to attain their goals of freedom and self-determination gets further strengthened?
The agenda for alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reads as follows: “The coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders, which will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilections. This dialogue will seek to build a broad based consensus on resolution of all outstanding issues of J&K.”
However, when Mehbooba Mufti invited the Hurriyat for talks, Rajnath Singh’s response was lukewarm at most. I personally feel the biggest casualty in this dialogue process was Burhan Wani. When he gave a call for the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley, the Indian state should have started a dialogue process immediately.
Indeed, we did kill a terrorist, but did we also not lose a potential asset? Without an active dialogue process, more youths may follow the path of Burhan Wani, which may lead to further unrest.
The excessive use of force over the past few years has led to a rise in civilian and military casualties. On February 13 and February 14, 2017, eight terrorists were killed but six members of the special forces also got killed, while 12 were injured. In the Budgam encounter, 63 special forces personnel got hurt and three civilians were killed. In the case of a planned encounter, these number of casualties turn out to be even higher.
The Kashmir issue cannot be solved only by shows of military might. India’s failure to counter the insurgency through dialogues raises serious questions about the state’s intentions.
From the outset, the conflict has been a political issue, which has always demanded a political solution. At times when civilian and army casualties increase, a political solution becomes necessary and imminent. However, the current government has, till now, only baulked at the prospect of dialogues, and has also sabotaged Mehbooba Mufti’s efforts to hold one.
In this context, one wonders if this government is implicit in this rise of insurgency in Kashmir (if not trying to aid it). After all, with the increasing polarisation in India, who, apart from the ruling part, will gain the most from soldier sacrifices in Kashmir?