TWELVE militants including a 14-year old Faisal Gulzar were killed in 72 hours in different encounters across South Kashmir. Gulzar reportedly had joined militancy just three days ago. As tragic as these killings are, there is no guarantee that these will deter youth from picking up gun, some of them as young as Gulzar. This has been the story of the last three decades and is likely to be the story going forward. Last year, over 220 militants were killed, most of them from South Kashmir, but this hardly made any difference to the total number of active militants in the Valley. Fresh recruitment simultaneously replenishes the ranks depleted by killings.
There’s thus little hope of peace in near to medium future. This hasn’t happened over thirty years. And nor, if this long duration is any guide, will it in future. The militancy and the state’s response to it will go on. True, the state tackles the unfolding violence institutionally, so will not tire of it, but this unrelenting state of affairs is taking a disastrous toll on the people of the union territory, 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 this country.
There is little hope for the future. As the lingering nature of the situation underlines, even the harshest use of the force has done little to address the turmoil in the former state. Looking at the continuing trend of the public mobilizations during encounters and militant killings from a security-only perspective is to miss the wood for the trees. The point is how can you threaten with tough action a people who march to the encounter sites, conscious of the consequences they might have to face as a result. This is hardly going to deter them. The twelve killings attracted public protests by the people living in the adjacent villages. This too at a time when administration has long given up even the pretence of a soft approach towards the ongoing situation. If anything is going to make a redeeming difference, it is an empathetic understanding of the anger and sentiment sweeping the Valley and a meaningful political engagement to address it. Much like what the union government is currently doing with Pakistan. A peace process that leads to some kind of an understanding between the two neighbours on Kashmir will be game-changing for the situation in the union territory.
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