A Fidayeen attack on the eve of the new year has once again underscored the grim security scenario unfolding in Kashmir. Despite killing around 2020 militants in 2017, the militancy seems to have grown only deadlier in Kashmir. A new factor added to the situation is that now Kashmiri militants are a part of the fidayeen attack. Two Kashmiris among three were part of the fidayeen who stormed the CRPF camp at Lethpora, one of them even making video exhorting jihad before launching the attack. This should be a matter of deep concern for the state and central government. As Lethpora attack underlines, far from dealing a setback to it, the killings of the last year seem to have only strengthened it. This is one of the major takeaways from the troubled situation of the last year. The beginning of 2017 is no different from the beginning of 2018.
However, unlike 2016, there was no major unrest in Kashmir in 2017 but the year was no less violent. In fact on militancy front, the year was the most violent in the past seven years. Around 353 persons including 56 civilians, 215 militants and 78 security personnel were killed in various militancy related incidents. As against this, around 375 people were killed in 2010 which included 55 civilians, 242 militants and 78 security men.
But if we include the recurrent short bouts of the political turmoil, then 2017 was even more violent than the 2010. The Valley kept teetering on the brink of the mass unrest but stayed just short of tipping into one.
There have been some apparent positives too. According to J&K Director General of Police S P Vaid there has been 90 percent drop in stone-pelting in the valley this year as compared to the last year. But the comparison hardly holds considering 2016 had witnessed the outbreak of an extended revolt following the killing of the charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Everyday thousands of people would hit the roads to protest and throw the stones. Valley, as a result, was shut and curfewed for close to six months.
But at the turn of the year, there is little that has changed on the militancy front. If in January last, security forces were up against 300 militants, they are up against a more or less similar number this year too. What is more, if in 2016, security forces were fighting just two militant organizations Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-i-Toiba now they fighting six of them. The Valley has witnessed surfacing of the outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Al Qaeda, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen. That is, if we discount ISIS claim of having set its foot in Kashmir.
Will 2018 be any different? Unlikely. More militants may have been killed this year but more youth have taken to militancy, complemented by infiltration from across the border. People continue to disrupt the encounter sites to rescue the trapped militants. And thousands continue to participate in the militant funerals. And whenever there are protests over some grievance or atrocity, the stones continue to be thrown. This situation once again underlines the futility of a military approach to Kashmir problem. There is no way out of a comprehensive political initiative geared to address the factors underpinning the turmoil in the state.
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