With two back to back attacks on security forces, Kashmir’s security situation is spiraling into a new cycle of violence. Even as the news of Kulgam ambush came to light on 1 May, in which four policemen and two bank employees were killed by militants in Pumbai village, reports began to pour in of the dastardly attack by the Pakistani special forces and militants on an Indian Army post on the LoC in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district in Jammu, which resulted in killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers.
The attacks in Kulgam and Krishna Ghati represent the two major incidents since last year’s attack on the Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri in north Kashmir.
Naturally, these attacks have shaken Kashmir’s political and security establishment and threaten to push Kashmir on the edge of another spell of unrest and major violence as the summer approaches. The locals that this reporter talked to had very little to say about the attack in Poonch, but offered different viewpoints on the situation in Kashmir. This is in stark contrast to last year, when post-Uri attack and India’s surgical strike, there were widespread fears of an India-Pakistan war.
The deadly ambush in Kulgam comes at a time when security forces have been engaging with the protesting mobs of locals during the anti-militancy operations and battling student protests, which have caused significant civilian casualties. The skirmishes between the security forces and the protestors follow last year’s pattern when after the killing of militant commander, Burhan Wani, security forces had engaged in pitched battles against the protesting youth, which claimed lives of more than 100 people.
Many believe that the recent attacks are a result of the excessive force being used by the security forces against the locals. The anger is directed especially towards the use of pellet guns which have destroyed the lives of many civilians.
Saqib Ahmad, has a masters degree in journalism, told Firstpost, “The recent attack in Kulgam and similar attacks is mostly due to oppression. If we look at the 2008 and 2010 unrest, the violence had not been this intense. People thought that India is not agreeing to anything which has caused resurgence of militancy. It is unfortunate that innocent people are getting killed, but if we look at the history, violence has always been countered by violence only.”
Many believe that youth are being targetted in Kashmir, which is probably why people are feeling alienated from India. In one such incident, a few days back, a Std 9 student who had left a coaching centre in Baramulla, north Kashmir, was first questioned and then frisked by the deployed army men. “The student was spared only after one of our teachers intervened,” Abdul Majeed, a teacher from Baramulla told Firstpost. Majeed believes that Kashmiris are being viewed with suspicion, which affects their minds and that’s the reason for hatred for mainstream politics and India.
The fallout of the security forces’ hardening attitude towards the locals has led to the spike in local militancy. As per media reports, since last year’s unrest, 88 local youth have joined the militant ranks. Many attribute this to the growing anger among the youth as "India is not ready to listen to them (Kashmiris)."
Syed Tajamul Imran, president, All J&K Students Union told Firstpost, “There is anger among youth, they have been killed, they have been arrested and even tortured and even when minor things happen, they get angry. Same thing happened when forces entered the college in Pulwama.” Syed was referring to the police crackdown in a college in Pulwama, which was widely condemned by the locals and sparked a wave of student protests, some of them led by girls.
Yasmeen Khan, a journalist from south Kashmir’s Pulwama told Firstpost, “Last year’s anti-India protest was spontaneous and people had participated in lesser numbers. But now it appears that there is a wave of protest. Every Kashmiri is aware of the situation. Girls have never been part of the protests, but now they are also taking part in it.”
Some students expressed skepticism about the current situation. “All the brutal killings have given a boost to the current situation. The anger in our youth is fanned whenever there is a spark. Students have no fear in coming out on the streets and this surely is an outcome of whatever happened after Wani's death. Also, the number of people supporting the cause has increased,” said Farzana Nisar, a student from Srinagar.
Yasir Rather, a student from Anantnag said, “There will be another agitation even worse than the current one as people have lost faith in politics. The mainstream politicians are perceived as caretakers of the Indian rule, who hardly care about Kashmiris. Instead of showing any sympathy or giving justice to the victim's families, they are offering money. Naturally, people have given up hope in getting justice. What would you expect from our next generation now? They will either join ranks, or continue to throw stones more fearlessly and in an innovative way.”
The student protests make the situation further precarious while the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government is trying to pacify the students and locals. But if the voter turnout in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-polls and the violence on 9 April is any indication, it is clear that her administration is simply unable to cope with the situation.
Commenting on the government’s handling of the situation, Majeed said, “PDP has always stressed upon talking to all stakeholders including the Hurriyat. Before the 2014 Assembly election, they had campaigned to block the doors for the BJP and on both counts they have failed, so the anger is obvious.”
And many feel that the situation will only worsen in the immediate future.
A businessman from south Kashmir, who talked to Firstpost on the condition of anonymity said, “Kashmiris feel that their voices are not being entertained. Congress dodged the people of Kashmir for too long. But I think the present government is far better. It is more straightforward, even though their approach has brought Kashmir to the brink of hopelessness.”
Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches law at the Central University of Kashmir, told Firstpost, “Situation is drifting out of government’s hands. It hasn’t fulfilled many demands, so there is a rise in militancy.” He added, “Unlike the past, priorities for livelihood like tourism and other things have taken a backseat, while Kashmir’s political status has become the foremost concern”.
Nazal-Ul-Islam, a college lecturer in Anantnag told Firstpost, “As a history teacher, I can say that post-Burhan Wani death, protests was a mass movement against the killing, but now it is going towards a civil war. Killings can’t be seen as a progress in freedom movement. No killing can be justified, but these may lead to a major civil war like Syria and Iraq.”
Abdul Basit, a lawyer from south Kashmir said, “In last year’s unrest, civilians were involved but that has changed. In addition to protests and stone pelting, militants are getting involved. They are not only threatening violence but executing attacks on the ground as well. Intense mass protests may not be seen on ground, but sympathetic public attitude towards the militants is evident”.
The deadly combination of popular unrest and the surge in local militancy signifies that the political and security establishment of Kashmir will have to be on its toes to thwart any potentially explosive incident. Any slip up has the potential to push the region in a security abyss.
Updated Date: May 03, 2017 14:52 PM