There was a time when, in winters, life used to come to a standstill in Kashmir, but now it’s a routine. The reports of two militants being trapped in a house in the village of North Kashmir’s Handwara left everyone at standstill. Reports began to pour in by the early hours of Thursday morning and by afternoon, sources confirmed that the two militants have been gunned down in the encounter. Further, it was confirmed that one of the slain militants was scholar-turned militant commander Mannan Wani and the other one was the son of a senior Hurriyat leader.
Thousands of people flocked to Kupwara to attend the funeral procession as soon as they got to know of it. In order to keep the law and order in control, internet services were also snapped in North Kashmir. People had their sympathies with him as Mannan Wani was an accomplished scholar who turned to militancy only this year, leaving behind his academic career. Having won an award for best paper presentation at an international conference on water ecology and society, Wani was a bright scholar pursuing PhD in geology from a central university. He could have had an illustrious career but he left it all behind. More than his gun, it was his words that the security establishment found to be threatening. They were worried he might emerge out as a rebellious leader attracting more and more youths.
The youths had their sympathies with him for his writing was creating an impact amongst them.
Also, the recent encounter of Mannan Wani has sparked the debate of what is driving these young men in Kashmir to pick up the guns and leave their pen behind. In one of his articles, Manan had written “When the occupier is uncivilised, its collective conscience is blood-thirsty, its morality is deceit, its mindset is hegemonic and it thinks through the barrel of gun, the response cannot be a surrender in the guise of ‘peace talks’. The ongoing tension between the state and people and the fight for self determination made him succumb to militancy. One of the very famous quotes of Mandela goes like “it is the oppressor who defines the nature of struggle”. Kashmir has seen decades of violence and aggression but reports suggest that after the death of Burhan Wani in 2016, the local militancy in Kashmir saw a huge surge with the youths of Kashmir hailing him as hero. In May this year, Muhammad Rafi, an assistant professor in the central university of Kashmir was gunned down in an encounter within 40 hours of him joining the militant outfit. It’s a concern for everyone as we see more and more students and educated youths who can be an asset to the society turn towards militancy.
As per some ground research, it has come up that one local Kashmiri boy is picking up arms every third day. The ongoing turmoil has affected the youth in particular. Having experienced violence at the first hand, their future remains grim and uncertain. From choking of political spaces, pellet guns, torturing political dissent to forced disappearances the dogma of daily life has left a deep scar on the life of these youths. Violation of human rights has become the norm for them. Also, everyday violence and killings in the state has left these youths depressed and cringing for atonement.
When students turn to this, it says a lot about the sad state of affairs and political violence that impact their course of everyday life and explains what it feels like to be born in a conflict zone. The gravity of the situation is that fathers are compelled to shoulder the coffins of their young sons, women pay the price by being doubly marginalized; hardships befall them through every sphere. All this breeds the anger and to vent out their anger and pressure they turn to resistance and this resistance takes the form of extremism and militancy. The failure of state to curb the ongoing instances of violence can be cited as one major reason, and the other being radicalized Islamic extremism. The pre-militancy phase can be categorized by people’s issues with development, their angst towards the society and community, which is further emboldened by the isolation and secrecy of a militants’ life.
When 20-year-old Rouf Ahmad Khanday gave into militancy, his sole motive was to die as a martyr. There is another narrative to the question of giving into such radical thought – that the youths are misinterpreting the words of Quran and giving into extremism which is further linked to Islamic terrorism. The problem aggravates with the hostility of army and political violence. The decades old trauma compels the youths to turn towards resistance and violence hence their career largely remains at stake. Failure of politics and the absence of meaningful interventions by the mainstream political parties too adds to the problem. There is a dire need to check the growing militancy among the youth in order to curb the violence and resistance, and also in order to bring back the situation to normalcy again.