Amarnath Yatra attack shows system has failed Kashmir, its youth: Situation is the worst in nearly a decade

Monday's attack on pilgrims of the Amarnath yatra is one more indicator of just how badly the situation in Kashmir has deteriorated. This did not snap out of the blue the moment militant commander Burhan Wani was killed a year ago. The process has progressed over the last nine years.

It is easy to lose sight of the dimensions of the current threat to national security. Youth rage is very real. So is radicalisation, in both political and religious terms, among militants and teenagers. Pakistan's involvement has increased. The Jamaat-e-Islami took the lead last year. And China plays a major role.

China's role is particularly challenging. There were few buyers for this idea earlier, but at least since the CPEC project came to the forefront at the same time as Burhan was killed, it should be crystal clear to even an ostrich.

Gradual emergence

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Those who raise questions about which shadowy hand might be behind Monday's attack on Amarnath pilgrims, tend to miss the wood for the trees. For, even if shadowy hands did manipulate it, one cannot deny the other ground realities such as, radical ideas and increased militancy.

The most significant event that highlighted the trend towards radicalisation was the militant commander Zakir Musa's public threat to slit the throats and string up any Hurriyat or other 'leader' who called the Kashmir issue a 'political' one. He did that in a recording that was made public on 12 May.

Musa reiterated a trend that has been evident for some time. The trend was visible even in Burhan's recordings. He rejected Pakistani, Kashmiri and any other kind of nationalism, and democracy too. In another recording, he asked women to stay veiled, not lob stones.

Questions have also been raised about whether Musa, too, was being manipulated by shadowy intelligence hands. Even if someone shadowy were egging him on, Musa would not know that shadowy agents were among his advisors. The point is that he believes what he says.

The far more important point is that, since that recording went public, Musa's fan following among Kashmiri teenagers has risen to the extent that he now has rock star status. Until he made those radical remarks, many teenagers thought of him as an angry young man with a dubious past. He was feared, not generally loved. Now, he is adored.

My point is that, even if some part of the government is behind any of this, they are shooting the government and the future of the country in the foot, by promoting a trend that has already gone way out of hand without any assistance from them.

New generation

The government deserves censure for failing to engage with Kashmiri youth when they still could have. Last winter was their last window of opportunity. It is now shut tight.

It is easy to miss the fact that those who were on the streets in 2008, when mass demonstrations took place across Kashmir, were generally not among those who took to the streets in 2016. Those who manned barricades and imposed shutdowns in the four months after Burhan was killed were typically teenagers, or those in their pre-teens.

Many of the latter were infants in 2008.

It is even more perilous to miss the change in the chief issues of the three major youth uprisings of the past decade. The 2008 uprising was mainly about a perceived threat to identity in light of land transfer to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board. The 2010 uprising was essentially a ringing demand for the rule of law: it protested the killing of those who had nothing to do with militancy.
The 2016 uprising was specifically to protest the killing of an acknowledged militant, Burhan.

It represented a rejection of the system, lock, stock and barrel. At least subliminally in the minds of most teenagers, this rejection was not about a particular nation state. They have come to reject democracy and nationalism altogether.

Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 12:06 PM

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