Hokersar Killings

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HOURS after security forces claimed to have killed three militants near Hokersar on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday, the families of those killed alleged that the slain youth were not militants. The families who protested outside the police control room said the youth had left home just a day before the encounter. Two of the three, according to them, were students who had come to Srinagar for admission in an institution. The development has come as a throwback to the aftermath of the encounter at Amshipora in Shopian three months ago, where also the security forces had claimed to have killed three militants but who later turned out to be innocent labourers when their families protested. However in case of Hokersar encounter, the Army is holding its ground saying the three youth were militants and were planning a big attack along Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Similarly police has said that although the three youth were not listed as militants in police records, they were part of the militancy. So far no probe has been initiated into the incident as demanded by National Conference and the PDP. After the families had cast doubt about the identity of the youth killed in the encounter, the probe was in order.

That said, the killing of three more youth, one of them studying in Class 11 is tragic. Such killings have become a routine affair in the Valley, almost being pursued for their own sake. There’s now no effort to address this hopeless state of affairs. The central government has long given up on a political outreach to the Valley. Under Lieutenant Governor’s rule, the security agencies are in the thick of an all-out operation against militancy. The objective of the campaign is 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 last several years. An average of over 200 militants have been killed every year. It is expected 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 the 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.

What does the near future, therefore, hold for Kashmir? A lingering uncertainty. Security experts hope that should the current uptick in the killings continue, they would have substantially reigned in the militancy in a given time period. But killings have hardly been a deterrent in the Valley. Though local recruitment could be expected to dwindle somewhat, it is unlikely to stop. And for that to happen, Centre will have to reach out.. But is New Delhi even interested in such an approach? It isn’t. Kashmir needs a drastic shift in mindset in New Delhi about Kashmir. One hopes such realization dawns sooner than later.

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