The Big Story: On the precipice
On Saturday, two militants attacked a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pampore in south Kashmir, killing eight personnel and injuring 20. The amount of ammunition they had on them made it clear that the militants had come prepared for a long battle.
This isn’t the only attack in the recent past. In May, three Jammu and Kashmir policemen were killed by militants in Srinagar. It was the first lethal attack in the city in the past three years. In February, militants attacked a CRPF convoy killing three personnel.
These attacks aren't occurring in isolation: public support for militancy in Kashmir is clearly on the rise. The most obvious indication of this are the massive crowds at militants' funerals.
In March, thousands turned up for the funeral of Dawood Ahmad Sheikh, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed in a gunfight with the forces. In November, 2015, the funeral of Abu Qasim, a top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander saw large crowds. Villages even fought to have him buried in their soil. Three districts were shut down for three days to protest his killing.
In contrast, the funeral of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in January saw only perhaps 5,000 people turn out to pay their respects, quite unlike the enormous crowds at militant funerals.
Of course, the situation in the state isn't as intense as it was in the 1990s. There were only 193 terrorism-related fatalities in 2014 and 174 in 2015 – a small fraction of the 2,000 per year average during the 1990s. But this number is counter-balanced by the intense – and very public – outpouring of support for militants.
Many Kashmir watchers trace the origin of this round of disillusionment back to the hanging of Afzal Guru in 2013 after what many Kashmirs feel was flawed trial. The inability of the People’s Democratic Party to hold the Kashmiri imagination is also a factor. Its alliance with the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has not gone down well with many Kashmiris.
Kashmir now stands at an inflection point. Even though violence hasn’t gone up substantially, support for militancy clearly has. India needs to stem the slide.
The Big Scroll
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