Shopian encounter has witnessed the highest toll of militants in years – 13 of them were militants, four civilians and three security personnel. The news about the deaths triggered a spontaneous shutdown across Kashmir Valley. In the seventeen funerals thousands of people have participated. The clashes that followed have left more than 200 people injured, around 40 of them hit by pellets in their eyes. A wave of sadness swept over the Valley as soon as the news about the killings broke on Sunday.
The encounter has once again highlighted the tragic state of affairs prevailing in the Valley. Almost every day youth who have taken up arms are losing their lives so many of them teenagers. But these killings have hardly dampened the growing urge among the Kashmiri youth to join the militancy. And nothing throws this exceptional situation in a sharper relief than the decision of Junaid Ashraf Khan, the son of the top Hurriyat leader Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai to take up arms.
A phenomenon that seemed to have been largely confined to the interiors of the countryside in South Kashmir is now radiating out to the urban centres including Srinagar. The trend is also creeping up the social ladder with the youth which are highly educated and belong to affluent and apparently insulated families also taking the plunge. Sehrais is one such family. Few months ago, Mannan Wani, a PhD student from Aligarh Muslim University who recently joined the Hizbul Mujahideen. Earlier, it were only the militant leaders from Pakistan who are known to send their children to fight in Kashmir.
There are also reports of more local youth from central and North Kashmir joining the militancy. And this, in turn has led to a spike in the killings of the militants in encounters. Kashmiri society has so far been unable to come to terms with the new trend. Though individually many people disapprove of the trend and express their mortification at the seemingly pointless loss of lives of our youth, society and the political class has been reluctant to take a position. And the reasons for it are understandable. For, it is not easy to take such a position, mired as the situation in the state is in a complicated interplay of history, politics and the aspirations of the people. This, in turn, has structured the situation in a way which is not easy to change. The factors at play have lent an inbuilt rationale to the various consequent forms and expressions of our social and political life. For that to happen, the structure of the situation has to change. And this can only happen when the factors and issues underlying this structure are resolved once and for all.
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