Why Kashmiris fear summer of 2018 is about to get bloodier

The inauguration of Asia's largest tulip garden a week ago in Srinagar had rekindled hopes for revival of tourism and other business activities.

 |  4-minute read |   02-04-2018
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A week after Asia's largest tulip garden in Srinagar was thrown open to visitors, 20 people, including 13 militants, were killed in Kashmir on April 1, pushing the restive region further towards the abyss.

With a colourful mass of over 1.3 million tulips blowing in the spring breeze, the inauguration of the garden overlooking the famous Dal (Lake), had rekindled hopes for revival of tourism and other business activities, after two years of uneasy situation. That the tulip bloom coincided with the hosting of the 64th Annual Convention Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), held in Srinagar after 30 years, had added to the hopes for a fruitful summer this time around.

kashmiris-body_040218063643.jpgA Kashmiri woman grieves at the funeral of a suspected militant. (Credit: Reuters photo)

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had asked security forces to temporarily suspend all anti-militancy operations till the three-day tourism conclave comes to an end on March 30. Impressed with the “feel of security in spring-happy Kashmir”, the TAAI resolved to promote 2018 as "Visit Kashmir Year".

However, on April 1, when the delegates were headed to the Srinagar International Airport for departure, the Valley witnessed one of the deadliest counter-insurgency operations in the past decade.

In a series of joint operations, the police and the Army killed 12 militants during two separate encounters in the apple town of Shopian while another was killed in adjoining Anantnag. Three Army jawans also lost their lives.

On the other hand, four civilians were killed, over 200 others injured, and around a dozen blinded in action by government forces, pushing Kashmir to fresh wave of protests and uncertainty, a reminder of the 2016 unrest.

The government, on the other hand, banked on its traditional firefighting measures like imposing restrictions including curfew, suspension of internet services and shutting down of educational institutions. But then, how would temporary halt on encounters bring peace and prosperity? Does the three-day pretention of peace in front of TAAI delegates not amount to cheating by the CM herself?

If halt on encounters is an argument to pretend peace, why not end them permanently for real peace.

Also, if killing of local Kashmiri militants is helping resolve the Kashmir issue? Had it been so, Kashmir would have been peaceful since July 8, 2016, when the poster boy of new-age militancy, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, was killed. On the contrary, the situation continues to be uneasy since amid revival of militancy despite killing of 218 militants in 2017 alone.

While the use of military might has failed to show desired results, not to mention the fact that killing of local militants has pushed more Kashmiri youths to pick up arms, New Delhi needs to do a rethink on its Kashmir policy.

Even though the appointment of former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor was expected to improve the situation, killings continue to alienate the Kashmiris further. If the interlocutor is supposed to talk to the people for a solution, how would silencing the voice of youths (even before the talks begin) help?

No civilised country is expected to wage a war against its own people just because the youths feel alienated and pick up arms. There’s a need for ceasefire for a result-oriented dialogue. It's not just the people of Kashmir, but many prominent voices across the country hold similar opinion.

Last year, Shailendra Mishra, a young J&K cadre IPS from Mumbai while speaking at a function of Brahman Mahasammelan in his hometown, called the killing of Kashmiri militants as “our collective failure”.

"Please do not rejoice at the killing of militants. These killings are a symbol of our defeat, our collective failure. What were the circumstances that led to the death of Burhan Wani? Waseem Malla (Wani’s associate, killed in encounter last year) was an Indian citizen — he was born in Shopian (in south Kashmir) and (was) a student of BA second year. So what happened that he picked up the gun and denied his Indian identity, and began to hate every institution of India…?” Shailendra had asked, causing a stir.

No matter how picturesque Kashmir and its tulip garden may look, the bloodied ground will continue to bear the marks of a people scarred.

Also read: In Kashmir, history repeats itself - first as pellets, and then as 'talks'

Writer

Majid Hyderi Majid Hyderi @majidhyderi

The writer is a journalist based in Kashmir.

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