Killings Continue

A big crowd gathered at a house in the Chadbugh neighbourhood to bid farewell to the Special Police Officer  Ishfaq Ahmad Dar and his brother Umar Ahmad shot at by militants in their house on Saturday. While Ishfaq died at home, Umar later died at the hospital.  When the bodies were taken for burial, men and women who had assembled at the house wept.   Women poured flowers on their coffins as they were carried to their final resting place. Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti rightly tweeted that Kashmiris “watch helplessly as young lives are snuffed out”. Death and destruction, the rest of her tweet said,  had become the norm. “Sadly GOI doesn’t seem to care since Kashmiri lives have little value for them,” she added. Top police officers, including Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar, visited the family's home and extended their sympathies.

The killings of the policeman and his brother in central Kashmir are the latest reminder that the militancy has not gone anywhere.  But far from revising its muscular policy and choosing engagement and dialogue to address the lingering issues in the state, centre has chosen to do nothing.  And this attitude has pervaded the country’s institutions, including the media. Some televisions channels continue to portray Kashmiris in bad light.

The TV debates also build a hateful stereotype of Kashmiris in the rest of India and create an anti-Kashmiri sentiment. This media stereotyping of Kashmiris has in turn left some imprint on the central government policy on the state too. The governments don’t want to be perceived to be “appeasing” Kashmiris.  The harsh policy measures to deal with the union territory are welcomed and a constructive engagement is opposed. Over the years, this approach has further alienated Kashmiris, thereby creating a vicious circle. Both New Delhi and Kashmir Valley now deal with the stereotypes of each other than the complex realities as they exist on the ground. But this needs to change. And it is incumbent on the media to present a correct picture of the people of the UT as for the union government to get serious about the situation in the state.

The issue is that the shortage of weapons and ammunition is no dampener for the militants. This is a disturbing turn in the situation. And the new dimension to it is that the militancy has caught the fancy of the youth in Central Kashmir too. And one reason that things are in such a bad shape is that the response to it has so far been exclusively security-centric and geared to usher in peace by killing all militants. The past eight years have once again shown this is unlikely to happen, nor has recruitment stopped.

There's another catch: even if local recruitment stops, the infiltration will ensure that a sufficient number of militants will always be there to carry on the jihad. So killings of militants and surrenders will hardly make any long term redeeming difference. Only resolution of the factors underlying the lingering turmoil will.

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