THE death toll in Kashmir, in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has now gone up to 23. The 21-year-old Wani, who became the poster boy of militancy against the Indian state, was killed in an encounter on Friday. This was followed by a massive outpouring of anger and clashes between protesters and authorities, leading to nearly two dozen deaths.
Not all of these deaths have been of protesters. A shocking incident near Sangam saw a mob heaving a police vehicle into the Jhelum, drowning its driver. Others have set fire to police stations. But the state is also concerned about its own actions: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she would look into complaints about the use of excessive force.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured Mufti that the Centre will provide any support that is necessary. Meanwhile, Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu had a less useful statement to make: “We are really surprised that some people are trying to support so-called protestors who are sympathising with the terrorist… how can any Indian have sympathy for such people?”
This is a very problematic statement. Lakhs of people came out to attend Wani at his funeral over the weekend, and the protests over the last few days cannot be passed off as simply being Pakistan-funded incidents.
There is clearly a section of the Indian citizenry (even if they don’t see themselves that way) unhappy enough with the state that the killing of militants turns into a cause for sympathy. If Naidu is simply making a political statement to wind up the rest of the country and turn it against Kashmir, that’s a dangerous move. What would be worse, though, if he was being sincere: Does the Indian government really not understand the Kashmiri sympathy for Wani?
The article first appeared HERE
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