One man was killed and scores others injured in police action against the protests that erupted following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat in an encounter with government forces. The deteriorating situation bears the hallmarks of the last years unrest following his predecessor Burhan Wanis killing: the same anger, same fearlessness and the same spontaneity. The grief over Bhats death is not just limited to the areas around his native place but has involved the entire Valley. Within minutes of the news of Bhats death, the protests broke out across the Valley. Adding a new dimension to the protests was the participation of the college students. However, unlike last year, the security response has been more professional. Mercifully, only one civilian has died so far unlike the last year when around thirty protesters were killed in the first two days of Burhans killing. The killings showed a callous disregard for the civilian life in Kashmir. In fact, it were these killings which had inflamed the situation, triggering more protests and more killings. Now after Sabzars killing, Kashmir is on the brink of one more extended unrest. That is, if the government doesnt exercise restraint in the face of the widespread mourning and the protests across the Valley.
The fresh protests and their fearlessness have come as a reminder that far from being over, the turmoil that followed Burhan death is on a pause and may resume soon unless the government ends its security-driven approach to the situation. Sabzars killing yet again killing underlines that the things have only moved to the next level. In recent years, the groundswell of euphoric support for the militancy was reflected in the ever-growing participation in the militant funerals.
If anything, the spontaneity of the protests has once again brought home the reality of Kashmir. The fresh protests and their fearlessness have come as a reminder that far from being over, the turmoil that followed Burhan death is on a pause and may resume soon unless the government ends its security-driven approach to the situation. Sabzars killing yet again killing underlines that the things have only moved to the next level. In recent years, the groundswell of euphoric support for the militancy was reflected in the ever-growing participation in the militant funerals. Young speakers would pledge to carry forward the struggle. For sometime, this mass support was exhibited in the posts and comment threads on the social media, a trend inspired by Burhan himself. That is before the security agencies started patrolling the web, restricting the quantity of the daily pro-Azadi online discourse. But now people dont wait for funerals to express their support but prefer rather to act directly in ever larger numbers to save the trapped militants. People come out in large numbers and are willing to die in their attempts to rescue militants. And the security forces are inclined to kill, sorely unprepared to take the necessary measures to prevent people from reaching the encounter sites.
Sabzars killing and its still unfolding fallout are a reminder to New Delhi and the world where the support and sympathy of the people lie. Far from acting as a deterrent, such high profile killings only persuade more youth to take up the gun. More than 100 youth joined militancy following Burhans killing. Sabzars killing is likely to only strengthen this trend. To make a redeeming difference, the Government of India will have to think beyond the excessive use of force and address the fundamental issues underpinning the lingering turmoil in the state. And state government can help by ensuring that the police and paramilitary forces act with professionalism in dealing with the large crowds.
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