Not fixing our own responsibilities and yet quick to blame Pakistan and even local Kashmiris for the bloody mess that the beautiful valley is in today, prevents us from taking a closer look at our own failures in solving the Kashmir issue for seven decades.
We are not even asking the all important question, where is the state government? Why did the central government, after having an uneasy alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) suddenly sever ties with it, in June last year, in effect putting an end to an elected government. Not even allowing PDP to form an alliance with Omar Abdullah’s Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. In effect, controlling the state through its governor, despite being a minority partner in the alliance.
BJP suddenly after four years, that PDP has a soft stance towards terrorists, using that as an excuse to break free? The governor yesterday was quick to blame PDP for some provocative tweets, after claiming that there was quiet in the valley for a while. The truth is that news from the valley was curbed to give it an aura of peace, while all the while it was smoldering inside, resulting in attack on Feb 14th, 2019.
Clearly our muscular policy in the sensitive state is only killing militants, not militancy itself which is attracting more and more younger, highly educated Kashmiris into their fold. Feb 14th attack with impunity on CRPF jawans, by a Pulwama local boy Adil, not some hardened terrorist, comes as no surprise, since Pulwana has been on the boil for a long time. It has especially been bad since Dec 2018, when seven civilians were killed and fifty injured near a gunfight site in Pulwama, when Indian troops fired at them for retrieving the body of a militant.
Before that, according to local reports, at least 50 people were killed in the Sept 2018, including 28 rebels, 14 civilians and eight Indian security personnel. (read Hindustan Times report)
The Pulwama region was severely rocked when 22 year old Burhani Wani, of the Hizbul Mujahideen was shot dead in July 2016 in a joint operation by Jammu and Kashmir police and the Indian security forces, followed by unrest in the valley for almost six months. In the unrest that followed 96 people died, 15,000 civilians injured and 4000 security personnel injured as well. Omar Abdullah had rightly predicted after the death of Wani there will be more recruits than when he was alive.
The worst part of the unrest was the use of the dastardly pellet guns, on unsuspecting civilians, including babies and young children, who were not even part of the protests, causing international outrage forcing the Indian security forces to back off. In the seven months, after the killing of Wani, 6000 people were injured by the pellet guns, 782 suffered eye injuries,, which has left them partially or fully blind. Among the victims was 18 month old Hiba Nasir, who could lose her eyesight completely.
Most of the victims are still carrying the pellets in the body, even in their brain and eyes, because they are far too many to remove and too dangerous to remove. Pellet guns used mostly for hunting not for crowd control, disperses 500 tiny pellets in different directions, causing maximum damage and severe pain. Continued violence over the decades has already left the valley depressed with many families having lost at-least one family member if not more, in the terror attacks.
Following the inhuman attacks by security forces, 128 youth had joined the terror groups in 2017 and the numbers were expected to be much higher in 2018. In 2015, the figure stood at 66. But by July 2016, after the death of Wani, 88 more youths had joined the terror groups. More and more young boys join the armed resistance against the Indian rule, with some reports saying at least 250 youth have turned rebels since the summer of 2016, after Wani’s death.
After his encounter, an army soldier too had joined the terror groups, followed by another army commando from Shopain, who joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in April 2018.
The draconian Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in force in Kashmir since the mid-1990s, has probably caused more damage than gain, in destroying peace in the valley. For the last 25 years, the armed forces have been operating in the Himalayan region without any fear of prosecution, as the law grants complete immunity to them. Gross violation by security personnel, under AFSPA, is very much a reality for locals, how much ever the government denies it.
In 2015, the Army had claimed that there were only 170-180 active militants including about 40 new recruits, in entire Jammu and Kashmir and yet there are 600,000 soldiers in the valley to fight this handful of “on the run” militants. The heavy militarized atmosphere there, is causing the deep wounds to fester which needs immediate attention.
As a result of this, more civilians than actual terrorists are being killed by the hundreds. According to a home ministry report released in April 2018, civilian deaths in Jammu and Kashmir rose by a staggering 167% in 2017-18 compared to 2015, underpinning the high price paid by the state while battling a surge in insurgency in recent years. (read complete story)
Indian security forces had stated that they killed 242 militants in 2018. In addition, 101 civilians and 82 security officials too died, making the death toll the highest in more than a decade. There is growing allegations by human rights activists and groups over what they say is excessive use of force by security personnel while dealing with civilian protests in the troubled Valley.
The army and state police deny the charges and claim that most of the civilian deaths were due to their interference during counter-insurgency operations.
The year 2017 witnessed an increase in incidents of terrorist violence and causalities of civilians as compared to the last year. This in turn is resulting in more and more young boys being attracted to terror outfits, who are seen as their saviors. In the first three months of 2018 alone, 50 highly educated Kashmiri youth fled their homes and joined the terror groups. Thirty helpless families simply reported their sons missing.
At the last count, 250 battle hardened ultras in North and South Kashmir were identified, who are constantly on the look out for new recruits
On October 4, Ehtisham was assaulted in clashes between two groups of students at Sharda University, where he was a first-year student of bachelors in Medical Imaging Technology (BMIT). He was beaten so severely that blood oozed out from his nostrils and mouth, according to eyewitnesses. Ehtisham, is a resident of Srinagar’s Khanyar area and who was reported missing since 28 October 28, 2018, and has reportedly joined Islamic State inspired militant group in Kashmir.
So strange then that we have been holding on to Kashmir, after a Hindu king ruling the Muslim dominated state chose to join India, after partition, creating a long term enemy in Pakistan, around which our defence strategy is designed. It is sad how we will invest billons over the years, in holding on the state, but wont invest a very small percentage of it in restoring the trust of its people, treating them as enemy, to be shot at will.
Only a government with good intentions, with consistent peace talks, not focused on electoral gains, can bring some semblance of peace in the valley. Unfortunately neither BJP, nor Congress fit the bill as of now.
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