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Far from showing any signs of improvement, the situation in Kashmir is getting worse by the day. Now reports are pouring in of the protests being held in the far corners of the Valley, the places which have never been witness to such events before, even in areas in Jammu. What is more, much like the early nineties, militants are now making intermittent appearances at the protest rallies. On Wednesday, three masked militants surfaced at a rally in South Kashmir’s Arwani village.  and urged people to follow the protest programme of Hurriyat leadership and not resort to arson.
On Tuesday, two unidentified masked militants surfaced at a protest rally in South Kashmir village of Koimoh.  They were clad in the traditional long cloak called pheran, probably to hide their arms.  At a local ground, the protesters were told to stop and sit down. And to their delight, the militants appeared before them and addressed the gathering. They also had a similar message for their charged audience, urging people to remain steadfast and never betray them. And as they were speaking, many among the gathering broke into sobs and raised pro-Burhan and pro-independence slogans.  The people jostled to shake hands with them. Some kissed them in a show of respect and love reminiscent of the nineties. The militants had to make an effort to break free and request people not to follow them on their way back to their hideouts.
Earlier, on Sunday, Lashker commander Abu Dujana surfaced at a massive rally at Kareemabad village of South Kashmir district of Pulwama. A masked Dujana stood in the front row as prayers were offered at the local ‘Martyrs’ Graveyard’. He was flanked by other masked associates. And as the prayers ended, the people fell over each other to catch Dujana’s glimpse, some trying to hold his hand, others kissing him. Later the crowd accompanied him to safety.
It is now clear to everyone that the militants which for a better part of the past fifteen years had run out of public favour are again the heroes in Valley. Their intermittent appearances at the  protests and the overwhelming public support for them has been a  source of fresh concern for the security agencies who are forced  watch the development from the sidelines.
However,  apart from the presence of militants , these protest rallies was significant for  their own sake. Thousands of people from the surrounding areas participate, carrying Pakistani flags and placards with pro-freedom slogans written on them. There is no stopping the procession despite the strict curfew in place. Authorities have no choice but to allow the march as the attempt to stop it would lead to fresh bloodbath.
The protesters put up an exuberant show of support for Azadi movement which evokes the scene in early nineties. So are we back to square one? It appears so. After a brief hiatus which saw the movement transition to peaceful street protests, the militancy is once again becoming the favoured  mode of resistance. And while this is happening, New Delhi seems hardly bothered. In fact, the BJP government at the centre almost looks at the developments in the state with contempt.  Far from initiating any confidence building measure or any engagement with the beleaguered Valley, the central and state governments are resorting to excessive force to tide over the situation.  One can only hope that a better sense prevails and New Delhi realizes that it no longer ignore the need for a political resolution in the state.

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