Srinagar: The flux security situation in the Kashmir Valley since the killing of the charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Wani, has taken a turn for the worse with a major fidayeen attack on the Indian Army brigade headquarters in the Uri sector of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The attack which took place on Sunday morning has resulted in the killing of the 18 soldiers and left many others critically injured.
Even though the Uri-type of attacks has happened in the past, Sunday’s attack adds to the woes of the already embattled security establishment in Kashmir. It also poses new challenges to the security forces battling the newly reinvigorated local militancy since Wani’s killing. If media reports are to be believed, militancy is gaining ground in the villages of south Kashmir with new local recruits. A report from the last week suggested that there have been 80 youth missing from these areas, who are believed to have joined the militants.
Locals attribute this surging number of local recruits to the prevailing situation in the Valley where for the first time people from the rural areas have come out on roads and streets chanting anti-India slogans in the aftermath of Wani’s killing. Many of these protests have involved local youth attacking the police parties and police stations in south Kashmir, with some snatching weapons from the cops. In a private conversation with the Firstpost, a policeman from south Kashmir said that those youth involved in the weapons snatching, realised that they are left with only two choices, either surrender before the authorities or become a militant.
“Apprehending that their future is imperiled in any case, most of them have preferred to join the militant ranks, rather than facing the punishment from the authorities,” he said. This could be one of the reasons why so many youth have turned militants, after Wani’s killing.
Moreover, even after two months, the situation in many villages of south Kashmir presents no clear picture with virtually nil presence of the government, paramilitary and state police, and only occasional patrols by the army. As a result, there seems no semblance of normalcy in these areas with protesters continuing to block the roads, lock government offices and take out processions on a daily basis. The continuing absence of the security forces is possibly making the ground more fertile for militancy in these areas.
A sympathetic attitude of the locals from last few years is becoming more intense towards the militants or the mujahideens. But their changing attitude towards the local militants allegedly due to repression faced by them from the security forces and violence is also seen as a catalyst for the local militancy.
In the last few years, a trend has been seen where people in south Kashmir would take out processions to give safe passage to the militants trapped in the encounters with the security forces and an ever burgeoning number flocked to attend the funerals of the killed militants.
Kashmiris also attribute the rise in local militancy to the anger among the people.
“Firstly, people were unhappy with the ‘unholy’ PDP-BJP alliance and now the security men are using excessive force against the youth, which could be the major reason for the rise in militancy,” Bashir Ahmad, a local from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district told Firstpost.
He believes that people in rural areas had put their faith on the PDP and voted for it in the assembly elections.
“Now they feel betrayed due to PDP’s joining hands with the BJP,” Ahmad said. Not only people, but even the members of the PDP have shown anger with their party’s leadership. Citing the ongoing bloodshed in Kashmir valley, the PDP MP from Srinagar Tariq Hamid Karra recently resigned from Lok Sabha and the party membership.
Some others look at the problem in a different manner saying that it has nothing to do with any party’s ideology.
“Kashmir problem will go on like this. People will carry on protesting and engaging in violence until India stops suppressing the Kashmiri youth,” Ishaq Beg told Firstpost. “They are using excessive force and violent measures to tackle the Kashmir problem, which is the main cause for the youth to take up arms against India,” he said.
Sunday’s Uri attack and the spate of earlier militant attacks on the security forces, coupled with the rise in local youth taking up arms, presents a dilemma for the security forces which are keen to bring stability to Kashmir’s security situation. However, more the current spate of protests prolong, the more difficult their job is becoming in bringing back normalcy in Kashmir.
The author is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar. He focuses on the socio-political issues of the Kashmir Valley.