The Big Story: Only brawn, no brain
On Monday, militants killed five police personnel and two bank officials in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. This is the latest attack in Kashmir, where violence has greatly intensified over the past few months.
The current conflict is different. While the 1990s saw militants take on Indian armed forces, 2017 has seen an unprecedented mass mobilisation.
This has involved large crowds hurling stones at the security forces – an activity so widespread that even teenage girls have participated in it. When the security forces battle militants, crowds in Kashmir frequently head towards encounter sites and attempt to disrupt them. On Thursday, crowds went so far as to demand that the bodies of the three militants who had attacked an army camp in Kupwara be handed over to them for burial.
Kashmir’s anger is so intense, the state’s political presence has nearly faded out. The Srinagar bye-poll in April saw a voter turnout of 7% – the lowest ever in the state.
While a complex range of factors have led to this situation, one of them stands out: the Union government’s policy of using only force in Kashmir. Formulated by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, the policy recommends the use of force and force alone to take back the streets from Kashmir’s stone pelters.
It is worth recalling that Kashmir was relatively peaceful in 2014. The Assembly elections that year saw a voter turnout of 66% – higher than the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election turnout of 61%. However, in only two years, mass protests have disrupted life in the Valley. Paramilitary forces responded by using shotguns on crowds. On Friday, the Union government rejected calls to talk to separatists, arguing that they would talk only to political parties – a position laden with irony given that mainstream political parties have all but ceased to exist on the ground.
It is easy to see the political considerations that are driving the Union government. A hardline position will help the Bharatiya Janata Party politically and please it jingoist base. Yet, alienating seven million Kashmiris will be disastrous in the long term, harming not only Kashmir but perverting India’s democratic DNA. Prime Minister Narendra Modi must urgently back up his muscular approach with political tact.
The Big Scroll
- Democracy was India’s trump card against Pakistan in Kashmir. What changed under Modi’s BJP, asks Athar Parvaiz.
- Will the political mainstream in Kashmir be able to regain lost ground (as it has in the past)? Ipsita Chakravarty and Rayan Naqash report from the state.
- Ipsita Chakravarty & Rayan Naqash explain why Kashmir’s students are facing off against the security forces.
- The Supreme Court ruling rejecting immunity to armed forces in “war-like” situations has profound implications, argues Pradip Phanjoubam in the Indian Express.
- Prime Minister Modi’s bad economics will eventually catch up with him, says Mihir Sharma in Bloomberg Quint.
- As the BJP breaches the Muslim vote bank, secular parties are losing their core constituency, explains Sunita Aron in the Hindustan Times.
Ipsita Chakravarty explains why Kashmir’s mainstream political parties have gone underground before the Anantnag bye-election.
“Like in the 1990s, when militancy peaked in the Valley, unidentified gunmen have started knocking on doors. The killing of party workers, common in that frenzied decade, has started again. Videos of party workers renouncing mainstream politics, while a gun peeks into the frame, have gone viral. The more fortunate among party workers have got away with unwelcome visits and threatening posters that went up at mosques or market places.
Senior party leaders have retired to Jammu and Srinagar. Now well-known party workers, especially in Shopian and Pulwama, are following suit. Others lie low, staying close to their homes.”