As the ongoing violence continues the number of dead and injured mounts
From last almost 50 days, Kashmir valley is on boil. Almost 70 civilians, mostly youth have died so far. As per media reports around 6000 people are injured which includes around 1000, who are severely injured. In addition to it 150 young men and some girls have been blinded due to pellet injuries. New Delhi which is the main stake holder in Kashmir’s political discourse instead of taking some political initiatives continues to blame Pakistan for the present crisis. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh made two successive visits to Srinagar, but his Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat slogan has been a mere lip service. Recently Arun Jaitley who is a senior Minister in Modi Government once again blamed Pakistan for the present crisis in Kashmir. The fact is that Pakistan had other priorities than Kashmir until recently. They only woke up again after witnessing the ongoing mass agitation in this part of Kashmir, plus Nawaz Sharif didn’t want to lose elections in Pakistan Administered Kashmir (AJK) which were held very recently and PML (N) got an absolute majority in these elections and formed the new Govt there as well. By leveling charges against Pakistan for the present crises, Government of India relegates Kashmir to a law and order problem. It is undeniable that Pakistan supports and trains Kashmiri militants. Today, however, the situation is changing. The influence exercised by the local Kashmiri militants is much more than those coming from Pakistan & this is a cause for worry.
Present Agitation is different :
The ongoing anti India protests are quite different from the agitations that took place in 2008 and 2010. The reason behind 2008 agitation was Government’s decision to allot land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) at Baltal Sonamarg. Similarly the 2010 summer agitation started in the aftermath of a fake encounter at Machil Kupwara wherein some young villagers were branded as militants and killed subsequently in an encounter that was staged by Army. But the present agitation was spontaneous and it erupted after a 22 year old commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with Government forces at Kokernag in South Kahmir .
A role model for the youth?
Before his death Burhan’s fan-following was limited to a selected group of young Kashmiri’s but now his popularity has surged. This may be a dangerous trend, but we cannot shy away from these facts. The main reason for this fan-following is that Burhan neither went to Pakistan for arms training nor did he seek active support from across the border for his militant activities. When he was laid to rest an estimated 100,000 people are said to have offered his Namaz e Janazah (funeral prayers). Even a noted Pakistani actor Hamza Ali Abbasi, known for his liberal and secular views, paid tributes to Burhan. Hamza wrote on his Facebook wall:
“Look at this man. He is not an ISI agent, he is not a Mullah inspired Pakistani funded militant. He is Burhan Wani Shaheed. A KASHMIRI who joined the freedom struggle of Kashmir when his brother was killed by Indian Army. If KASHMIR issue is not resolved according to the will of Kashmiris and UN Resolutions, we have another PALESTINE in the making right in our backyard.”
Not an administrative issue
Successive regimes in New Delhi have treated Kashmir as an administrative issue. Whenever people came in huge numbers to vote during past assembly and panchayat elections, Government of India equated these elections with normalcy in Kashmir and as a referendum in its favour. Recently Former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in a TV interview spoke about greater autonomy to J&K. But his own tenure was marked by no progress on that front. Government of India appointed a group of interlocutors aftermath of 2010 summer agitation. The Group had submitted a report to the Home Ministry in March 2012 asking for greater autonomy. For 2 years Congress government sat over the report before its electoral debacle. Decline in the levels of militancy related violence had probably created an illusion of peace in New Delhi , thus making the report somewhat useless for the Govt. Political considerations, i.e. discussing the report might lead to Congress’ defeat in 2014 general elections too played a role. Even Afzal Guru was hanged by Congress Govt in February 2013, they still lost the elections.
The ongoing violence continues adding to the number of dead and injured. Stones thrown at the security forces by the protesters are not sent from across the border. In the absence of political measures, the situation can further deteriorate. Kashmir can become another Syria if not addressed immediately through a meaningful dialogue that addresses political aspirations of people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh including the part of Kashmir under control of Pakistan (AJK) plus Gilgit Baltistan as well.