New Militancy: Ominous Signs

Much more frequently than in recent years, newspapers in Kashmir are carrying stories of militancy related violence. The front-pages invariably have news about encounters, shoot-outs, gun snatchings etc. Sometimes even lead stories are devoted to prolonged fierce gun-battles leading to the loss of lives. At one level, this resurgence of violent news comes as a chilling echo to the nineties when violence was the staple of the media coverage about Kashmir. Significantly, most of this new violence is indigenous and engendered by the factors that are essentially local. And there are facts to prove it.  Now for the first time in a decade, local militants have outnumbered foreigners. Out of 142 active militants in Valley, 88 are locals and the rest are from Pakistan or Pakistan Administered Kashmir. A police estimate says around 35 local youth have joined militant ranks this year.  In 2014, according to an Army assessment around 70 local youth joined the militancy, the highest in the past some years, with most of them joining Lashker-i-Taiba. Similarly, sixty three militants, 61 security forces personnel and 15 civilians were killed in militancy-related incidents in Kashmir in 2013. This shows a trend which shouldn’t be ignored. A renewed fascination with the gun among a section of youth is one of the most troubling features of Kashmir today. And both the state and the central government have chosen to either play it down or traced it to factors like unemployment or religious radicalization. This is disingenuous. Yes, there is certainly unemployment. And, for sure, a certain section of the population has radicalized. And also, many youth which have joined militant ranks have done so following some personal harassment by the security personnel. But what persuades them to become militants transcends it all. 

The hurtful personal experiences, the intermittent incidents of security excesses and the perceived injustices by the state government and New Delhi are disproportionately magnified by the prevailing political context, the history of the past seventy years and the collective aspirations, creating conditions for an impulsive resort to gun. So from the gun snatchings in South Kashmir, the regular stone throwing in downtown Srinagar, raising of ISIS flags to the mysterious killings in Sopore, the thread and the theme running through all these incidents is identical: the longstanding political question of Kashmir. What is happening in Kashmir now can hardly be hived off from what happened in the state over the past quarter of a century. The reasons for this are a complex set of factors ranging from the accumulated fallout of the separatist campaign, its massive humanitarian fallout in the form of thousands of the victims, widows and orphans, the prevailing separatist and mainstream politics that doesn’t adequately speak to the swathe of grievances and aspirations of the people and, of course, the general lack of the employment and the opportunity. And these factors can’t be addressed in isolation from one another. New Delhi, if it is genuinely interested in bringing peace to Valley has to direct its efforts to addressing the larger Kashmir issue. There is no short-cut and adhoc solution to Kashmir.

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