Killing of Ajay Pandita, a sarpanch from Lokbowan Halqa in Anantnag district has spotlighted the tragic situation prevailing in Kashmir. Pandita had returned to Kashmir on his own in defiance of the warnings by the members of his community. And that he had won the last year’s panchayat polls could be cited as a testimony to our inclusive culture. But his killing now is a deeply troubling development. At the same time, it has opened our eyes to the gravity of the prevailing situation in the Valley. As it is, there has been a renewed spike in the violence since April. Around ninety people have died that includes around 56 militants and 24 security forces personnel. Nine militants were killed on Sunday and Monday in Shopian.
The fresh killings have once again put into sharp relief the extraordinary situation that Kashmir has been facing over the past ten months now. And as the continuous violence underlines, there seems no end to it. An estimated 283 people died in 2019. In 1918, 452 people had died which was the largest number since the revival of the militancy in 2015. If the recent spike in violence is anything to go by, the situation has taken on a fraught dimension. The local recruitment into militancy has shown signs of picking up again. In addition, there has also been new infiltration to supplement the local recruitment. But New Delhi remains indifferent to the situation, so does the national media which, as always, plies a distorted picture of the ongoing situation. More so, the television channels. They give such a simplified and stereotyped representation of the situation. This only complicates rather than aids the understanding of the situation.
Security forces have once again launched a campaign to eliminate insurgency by attempting to kill all the militants within a specific timeframe. Viewed from that perspective, the security agencies have been exceptionally successful over the past some years. The understanding in the security establishment seems to be that the killings of the militants at this rate could drastically reduce their number. This, in turn, is expected to alter the political dynamics in Valley and usher in peace. But the deeper factors underpinning the current state of affairs will linger on and can be expected to create conditions for yet another phase of violence and unrest. This has been the case over the past three decades. The militancy has gone through its crests and troughs but never been wiped out. And same has been the case with the public unrests. The future, as the killing of Pandita underlines, looks grim in Kashmir. And things are unlikely to look up unless New Delhi fundamentally changes its approach to the situation and moves away from a security-centric approach to empathy and engagement.
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