Hellhole Kashmir

THE life of 18-year-old Rafiya Nazir from Hazratbal was snuffed out along with that of an elderly man in a grenade attack at Amira Kadal on Sunday. Rafiya had just passed her 12th class examination with 93 percent marks and her father Nazir Ahmad Tinda dreamed of her becoming a doctor. Tragically, this was not to be. Rafiya was snatched away by the long-running violence in the Valley which has so far claimed thousands of lives and reduced them to mere statistics. She was in Lal Chowk shopping with her mother and sister when a grenade exploded close to them, killing a 79 year old man on the spot and injuring 33 others. Rafiya’s mother and sister also sustained splinter injuries.

Unfortunately, the killings like these in Kashmir even struggle to become news in a world riven by unprecedented violence. On March 5, 61 worshippers were killed and over 100 wounded when a blast ripped through a mosque in Pakistan’s Peshawar. And nobody would pay attention to Kashmir at a time when a full-scale war is ongoing in Ukraine with Russia on one side and the entire west led by the US on the other. And which, if no urgent measures are taken to defuse the crisis,  is threatening to escalate into a third world war.

As for condemnations of the killings in Kashmir, it has become a ritual now  And by Kashmir standards, if we start condemning all deaths, it will become a full-time job for any person or an organization. For then we have to do it everyday, twice a day with all the killings happening around us. The condemnations will also be selective, depending on which side of the ideological divide you are on. The issue, however, is not the condemnation, the issue is what do we do about the situation that leads to everyday killings. But nobody will talk about that.

Such a muddled situation makes opinions and positions in Kashmir an inherently fraught affair. And hypocritical too. The union government is not helping the matters by refusing to engage Kashmiris politically. The last several years have witnessed an exclusively security-centric approach towards Kashmir. The objective has been 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 two years. 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 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 has never been wiped out. And same has been the case with the public unrest.  The future looks uncertain 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 one of empathy and engagement. And until that happens Rafiyas will continue to die a day in and day out.

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