The killing of the Lt Ummer Fayaz Parray, 23, has once again brought into sharp relief the grim situation in Kashmir – one where the already shrunk middle ground is narrowing by the day. Gradually, the nuance in discourse is dying, so is the space for mitigating circumstances for a person from any of the contending ideological persuasion or a professional field falling into the zone of one of the warring parties. And it is not true of one side only, it is true of every side. Both sides have been brutalised by the situation and in this lies the larger tragedy of Kashmir.

Parray was picked up by the militants from the wedding of his cousin on Tuesday evening and shot dead at some distance. His body was recovered from Hermain Chowk in Shopian two hours later. It bore two bullet marks. The family hadn’t informed the Army or the police about the abduction, secure in the knowledge that he would be let off with a warning to give up his job in the Army. They spent the tense two hours expecting his return, only to receive his bullet-riddled body. Parray was on leave to attend the wedding. Only son of Fayaz Ahmad Parray, a fruit merchant, the young Army officer had qualified the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination in 2012 after passing his 12th class in the same year from Jawahar Navodya Vidyaliya in Anantnag. Incidentally, he was also a student of the Army Goodwill School at Pahalgam and of the conservative Salafi High School, Yaripora where he had studied up to 5th class.

His fatal mistake was returning to his home at a time when the situation in Valley is taking a turn for worse. The support for militancy is at an all-time high since the early 1990s. The militant funerals attract thousands of mourners and invariably become a scene of the cathartic anti-India sloganeering. Similarly, whenever there are encounters, people rush to help the militants escape, undeterred by the security cordon.

The killing of Parray frames the grim situation that is fast taking shape as the Army vows retribution for his killing. The Centre has refused to reach out politically until the situation returns to normal. But considering the incremental deterioration in the situation, it is likely to be a long time before even a semblance of calm is restored. If anything, Kashmir looks set to go the nineties’ way. And this time the blame of much of what is happening can be laid at the door of New Delhi. By its thoughtless approach to Kashmir and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s cynical use of the state for mobilisation of support in the rest of the country has fanned a deep sense of otherness in Kashmir, and drifted people decisively away from India’s mainstream. Delhi is seen to harbour sinister designs on Kashmir, pushing people to resist it with all their might as long as they can. There is thus still time for the regime in Delhi to mend its reckless ways before it is too late – that is, if it isn’t already.

This article first appeared on Kashmir Observer.