Shopian Encounter

TWO militants including Jaish commander Sajad Afghani were killed and five houses were gutted in the three day encounter at Rawalpora in Shopian. The firefight which also witnessed protests and stone pelting by the people trying to help militants escape left behind a trail of destruction. The videos and the pictures of the smoky rubble of the buildings went viral on social media reminding people across India of the grim nature of the situation in Kashmir. Afghani had been active in the area for close to three years and his killing is seen by the security agencies as a big jolt to the militancy in the Valley. At the same time, the encounter and the devastation wrought by it reveals that the normalcy in the Valley is still a long way off, more so in South Kashmir where the militancy stays strong even five years after the killing of Burhan Wani, who had revived it in 2014-15.

Last year’s recruitment gives no cause for confidence. According to the data, over 170 local youth picked up arms last year. They have more or less replenished the killings of 225 militants in 2020, which is the largest number of such killings in the preceding decade. What’s more, most of these killings were of the local youth. And if we go by the estimate of the security agencies, the number of militants this year remains more or less the same as last year or as their average number over the last five years.

The existing troubled situation is likely to continue unchanged. And Burhan still looms large in the Valley as some kind of an inspiration for the new militants who continue to join the ranks of Hizbul Mujahideen and the other outfits. But centre still feels the runaway situation can be reigned in by an iron fist approach which has now been extended to separatist political leaders.

As the situation of the past three decades testifies, the killings of the militants have neither deterred more youth from joining the militancy, nor ushered Kashmir back to peace. And nor, if this long duration is any guide, will it in future. A slain militant commander continues to be succeeded by another. The militancy and the state’s response to it goes on. True, the state tackles the unfolding violence institutionally, so will not tire of it, but this unrelenting state of affairs is taking a massive toll on the people of the state, our new and the future generation. The most rational and effective response to the lingering turmoil is to address the factors which keep it going. But this is something that is and has been last on the minds of the ruling leadership of the country. One can only hope that the things change for the better in future on this score.

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