Finally, the Phd scholar Hizbul Mujahideen militant Mannan Wani has been killed in an encounter in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Another militant killed in the encounter was identified as Ashiq Husain Zargar. The killing of Manan is a telling development in militancy in the Valley. When he joined militancy early this year, he became the highest educated youth to take up arms. He thus was projected as one of the most prominent mascots of the new age militancy. He symbolised the new youthful rage and alienation which drove even the promising youth like him to adopt extreme means to address the situation in the state.

His adoption of militancy had, no doubt, generated a contentious debate in the Valley. Individually, many people disapproved of the trend and expressed their mortification at the seemingly pointless loss of lives of our youth. But the society as a whole has been reluctant to take a position. And the reasons for it are understandable.

For, it is not easy to take such a position, mired as the situation in the state is in a complicated interplay of history, politics and the aspirations of the people. This, in turn, has structured the situation in a way which is not easy to change. The factors at play have lent an inbuilt rationale to the various consequent forms and expressions of our social and political life. And for this to change, the structure of the situation has to change. And this can only happen when the factors and issues underlying the existing situation are resolved once and for all. But that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. So, the situation is likely to continue as it is. And it would continue to be tough to take a black-and-white position over the decisions of the youth like Manan Wani.

Militancy vs militants

Governor Satya Pal Malik wasn’t way off the mark when he recently said that the government’s fight was against militancy and not the militants. And the policy, according to him, was to kill militancy, not the militants. But the truth is that on the ground, the state and central governments have done little to address the situation other than killing the militants. And this, in turn, has only produced more militants. Over the past four years, militancy has only grown from strength to strength. In fact, militancy, which until 2015 was largely confined to South Kashmir, has radiated to central and North Kashmir, as Manan’s example would also underline. This is a sad state of affairs and explains why more things change in Kashmir, more they remain the same.

In fact, New Delhi by resorting to an exclusively security driven approach has only worsened the situation. Let alone dialogue or a political engagement, even the leadership has been largely absent. If a turnaround is to be expected, the government needs to move beyond the use of force as the remedy.

This article first appeared on Kashmir Observer.