Frisal encounter is a lesson on today’s Kashmir  

Encounter at Frisal, Kulgam had started at 12 on the night of February 13 and by the dawn break two Army personnel and a civilian were killed, while the four militants inside the house continued to hold out. It was then that the villagers rose up in revolt. Not only them, the youth came from the adjacent villages, appearing from behind the nearby hillocks and throwing stones at the security personnel engaged in by now a fierce gunfight with the militants. 

What is more,  the people inched closer by the minute forcing security personnel to turn the direction of their guns towards protesters.  Another civilian identified as 22-year-old Mushtaq Ahmad Itoo of the adjacent Hatigam village was killed, 15 were hit with bullet injuries and several others with pellets, two of them in the eyes.  

The first civilian was Ishfaq Majid Reshi, the son of Abdul Majid Sheikh, the owner of the house where militants were holed. The family claims he was tortured to death by the security personnel as “there was no bullet injury on his body”. According to his brother, Ishfaq had been taken into custody by the Army after they had cordoned off the house. 

The militants were killed in the afternoon and the house was blasted off, leaving no trace of it on the ground. Army soon left the site. An old, half-burnt Chinar with a large hole in its trunk stands there. 

A day later three security personnel were killed during an encounter at North Kashmir Hajin followed soon by the killing of the Major Satish Dhaiya.  This formed the context to the Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s unusually harsh statement against the people trying to disrupt the encounters.  

“We would now tell the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of ISIS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go for them,” the Army Chief told reporters here. “They may survive today but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue”. 

The statement  generated a furore, both at the national level and in Kashmir.  The opposition parties in Kashmir have slammed the Army chief for the statement. According to National Conference, youth rushing towards encounter sites and incidents of stone-pelting on the forces during encounters are worrying and alarming signs of alienation and disenchantment in Kashmir.“Threatening and warning youth who are already anguished and irrational to the sense of caring little for their lives will be of little consequence but would only push them farther from reconciliation,” the party argued. 

However, as things stand, the Army Chief might have got the things entirely wrong. The real issue in Kashmir is not that the people are disrupting the encounters and that they should face consequences. It is the very opposite of it: they are doing so knowing well that they might die in the process but they are willing to die in their desperate bid to save militants. Now how do you deal with this situation? By actually killing the protesters? Or by engaging with them through a genuine political process geared to find a lasting political solution?. General Rawat as Army Chief will better discharge his onerous duty if he counsels the government as to the urgency of a political redress in Kashmir. 

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