One more research scholar-turned-militant, Sabzar Ahmad Sofi, and the militant Asif Shergojri were consumed in the unmitigated violence in Kashmir, days after a PhD scholar Manan Wani died in a gun-battle in northern Kupwara district. Kashmir is once again in deep mourning. A fourth successive shutdown was observed on Hurriyat call.
Sofi had joined militancy soon after the killing of popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in 2016. In a predictable turn of events, thousands of people attended the funeral of the militants at Naina, Sangam. As usual, a massive funeral prayer was held to accommodate an unbroken stream of mourners from the near and far villages. What is more, a group of militants led by Hizbul Mujahideen top commander Zeenat-ul-Islam also appeared to offer gun salutes.
The killing once again casts a renewed spotlight on the trend of more and more local youth joining militancy. As the recent gunfights in Srinagar city underline, a phenomenon that seemed to have been largely confined to the interiors of the countryside in South Kashmir is now radiating out to the urban centres including Srinagar. The trend is also creeping up the social ladder with the youth which are highly educated and belong to affluent and apparently insulated families also taking the plunge.
There is thus a determined bid by the militants to organise themselves, with local youth spearheading this revival. There are around 300 militants in Valley. And this effectively means 300 triggers for a mass unrest. That is if the numbers killed are not replenished and no more youth take up the gun. Right from tracking down of the militants through the ensuing encounter to the funeral of the slain militants, there remains a constant threat of the situation spinning out of control. This guarantees a perpetual state of turmoil and uncertainty in Kashmir.
The security prognostication for the winter ahead is thus grim. The situation looks set to be drastically different if the governments – both in the state and at the Centre – remain oblivious to how a large section of youth continues to be alienated. The large sections of national media uncritically term the phenomenon as terrorism and thus pre-empt the need for a process to address the factors that underpin this trouble. They also create a public opinion in the country which is deeply hostile to Kashmir. Tragically enough, the situation in Kashmir has become a cannon fodder for the political parties to consolidate their vote bank. And with elections around the corner in five states to be followed by the general election next year, the situation in Kashmir is unlikely to attract any policy attention. Meanwhile, things look set to get only worse in the state. The least we can hope for the BJP-ruled Centre is to insulate the situation in Kashmir from its electoral politics.
This article first appeared on the Kashmir Observer.