On Sunday, security forces engaged in an exchange of fire that eventually left five militants dead Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district. As the gunfight began, residents of Badigam village took to streets and began to clash with the forces in an attempt to help the trapped militants escape. This left five civilians dead.
Though the state government and the national media often choose to look at the developments like these in terms of the violation of the law and the consequent rightful punishment, the truth is that this legalistic view of the situation is simplistic and explains only an insignificant part of the reality. When a massive number of people turn out to protest and put their lives on the line to save the lives of the trapped militants, it tells you about the depth of alienation and anger in the Valley. It tells you about the intensity of the sentiment in Kashmir. So, explaining this runaway situation in terms of the law and order and justifying the response to it as warranted might may help as an argument but it does little to address and ameliorate the ongoing extraordinary state of affairs.
The fresh wave of anger is also a telling comment on the four-year long iron-fist policy that has been singularly dictated by a pointless ambition of the dispensation in New Delhi to kill its way through the problem in Kashmir. As the killings underline, this has only ended up doing the reverse. A blend of anger, despair and frustration marks the response in Kashmir to the killings of the civilian protesters during yet another encounter. The growing trend of massive militant funerals and the encounter has triggered mobilisations, leading to avoidable loss of lives that has left Kashmir teetering on the brink of a fresh chaos. To a large section of youth in Kashmir, it doesn’t matter now what anyone is saying. Whether it is Army chief General Bipin Rawat who warns them to desist from disrupting encounter sites or Geelani, they won’t listen. The issue is much more complex. The issue is not that the youth run to rescue trapped militants, the issue is what drives them. The issue is the social and political conditions in which this is happening. But none of that is being addressed. State has been taking the easiest way out, kill and blind.
And if the governments in the state and at the Centre still think that this situation can be addressed by doubling down on the use of force, one can only pity their delusion. For, it will only mean more of the killings and blindings of the people, more violence, and more recourse of the local youth to the ranks of militancy. And yes, more alienation from New Delhi.
This article first appeared on Kashmir Observer.