Address the roots of new militancy

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Three militants were killed after a nightlong encounter with security forces at Dadsara village of Tral. Among them Ishaq Ahmad Parray, also known as Newton, who had secured around 97 percent marks in matric. As with all militant funerals, thousands attended the burial and shouted the slogans in favour of Azadi. In fact, even before the gunfight started, people had started assembling around the encounter site to help militants flee. The scene has been repeated numerous times in South Kashmir over the past two years. Scores of youth, many in their teens, have joined militancy in parts of South Kashmir. And many have died within months of joining. According to police figures, around 100 militants died in encounters in 2015.  South Kashmir has emerged as new militant hub as against North Kashmir.  For the first time in many years, local militants are outnumbering foreigners. And the trend is only strengthening by the day.

At one level, the emergence of South as the new militant stronghold is puzzling. This is an area which is far away from the Line of Control. So crossing LoC for arms training and returning, as was the case in the nineties, is no longer a feasible course of action.  And given the strengthened fencing of LoC, it is also difficult to send across arms for the new recruits. But despite these issues, youth in South have chosen the path of militancy and died by scores in the process.

A glimpse into how the recourse to gun is capturing the imagination of the youth in Valley is provided by the scores of pages on Facebook dedicated to the glorification of the militancy. A dozen pages have been set up in the name of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, 22 year old Hizb commander from South Kashmir town of Tral. Pages like We Love Burhan, Burhan College, Tral, the Land of Martyrs etc put up the latest pictures and videos of Wani in his forest hideout.

In some photographs, Burhan emerges from a lush hilly backdrop or a thick-hanging orchard, dressed in full battle fatigues with a Kalashankov loosely slung over his shoulders. In others, he is in the company of his armed colleagues staring at the camera with a faint smile playing on his lips. The videos show the group posing with their weapons and engaged in easygoing banter.

The posts attract hundreds of instant likes and long comment threads praising the spirit and the courage of these fresh recruits. Most of the online discourse is centred on Burhan. People praise his alleged role in the revival of the militancy in Kashmir since he took up the gun in 2010 following an alleged beating he received at the hands of the security personnel at a roadside security camp. This fawning admiration has constructed a cult around him.

This scenario is disturbing and is borne out of the hopelessness that pervades Kashmir. Twenty six years after the militancy broke out to press for the resolution of Kashmir, nothing has changed for the better on the ground.  In fact, far from any headway towards a political solution, situation has moved in reverse direction. The debate on Kashmir has moved from the resolution of the issue towards the state’s complete merger in India and the consequent withdrawal of the remaining constitutional safeguards. This has created a suffocating, status quo environment which is making militancy attractive again, as the only way to force a rethink on the state. And this is something New Delhi needs to take on board if it wants to see a durable peace in the state.

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