Resolving the Kashmir Unrest


It’s obvious that current tactics aren’t working


Burhan Wani, who was often touted as the new, modern face of Kashmir militancy, was killed in an encounter with the Indian army last Friday. Immensely popular on social media, Wani was the member of Hizbul Mujahideen – the militant wing of Jamat-i-Islami. He was known for his heavy use of social media platforms to incite the local Kashmiris into picking up arms against the Indian security forces.

Wani, who belonged to a wealthy family, was trained locally by Hizb at the age of 15 after his brother was allegedly killed by the Indian army. His death sparked widespread protests in the valley, as the law and order situation deteriorated.

Until now, around 30 Kashmiris have been killed in the violent clashes, as the police and army use tear gas, pellets and sometimes live ammunition to disperse the protestors. Violent mob has destroyed several government properties, setting many of them on fire.

The popular support for a known militant has rolled more than one eye but the question here is, did the government really not see this coming? The sympathy for these new age militants has been evident for quite some time now. Earlier this year, gun battles between militants and Indian army drew youths from the surrounding areas, chanting slogans in favour of the militants.

In a BBC piece, Shujaat Hussain, who is a Srinagar-based journalist, wrote about the growing sympathy and support for the militants. “This renewed sympathy may be a temporary phase but it signals a change of mood on the ground which did not happen overnight,” Hussain wrote.

It has been prompted by a complete breakdown of all government measures that indicated any urge or desire to deal with Kashmir politically, he further added in his report.

People’s Democratic Party, which won the last elections on the prerogative of its anti-BJP stance, actually joined hands with the BJP to form a coalition government. A large section of Kashmiri population feel betrayed over the coalition, prompting it to once again look for the alternative means.

While the situation in Kashmir is getting worse, both India and Pakistan exchanging sharp remarks against. Cashing on the situation, Pakistan condemned the killing of Burhan Wani and Indian response to the protesting Kashmiris. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at UN, Maleeha Lodhi took the matter to the United Nation’s General Assembly. Speaking at a debate on “Human Rights at the Centre of the Global Agenda”, she accused India of violating human rights in Kashmir and suppressing the right to choice of Kashmiri people.

In stern rebuttal, her Indian counterpart, Syed Akbaruddin said, “The attempt came from Pakistan, a country that covets the territory of others; a country that uses terrorism as state policy towards that misguided end; a country that extols the virtues of terrorists and that provides sanctuary to UN-designated terrorists; and a country that masquerades its efforts as support for human rights and self-determination.”

While the governments of both countries continue their rhetoric, it’s the people of Kashmir who bear the brunt. India must realise that while Pakistan endorsing and supporting the Kashmir Jihad is a reality, the latest wave of militancy is less Pakistani and more Kashmiri – for the militants are the local residents, often belonging to the educated and elite class.

In the past decade, Pakistan’s support for Kashmiri militants have decreased drastically due to several factors. With a homegrown breed of terrorists taking on its own armed forces, the powerful military establishment of Pakistan is said to have learned a lesson or two – an assumption not shared by many across the world. However, it is an established fact that the support for Kashmiri militants is not as organised and strong as it was in the 90’s. Why, then, is the militancy coming back to the valley – ever stronger? The answer lies in use of brute force to suppress the dissenting voices, extrajudicial killings of Kashmiri population and very limited accountability.

Simultaneously, Pakistan also need to take solid action to regain the lost trust with India. Jaish-e-Muhammad Chief Masood Azhar, who was taken into “protective custody” after Pathankot attacks, has yet to face any charges. To make the matters worse, members of his organisation were seen collecting funds from Public openly after Eid prayer in Karachi – in the presence of Rangers. Hafiz Saeed, another wanted terrorist is seen at public rallies all over Pakistan. One his most recent speeches was at a government-managed university. This open violation of National Action Plan is a big question mark on the state’s intent to deal with the Kashmir-based groups.

Like Pakistan use excessive force to suppress the Baloch separatists, India do the same in Kashmir. Both countries accuse each other of fanning the rebellion (which to some extent is true), while completely ignoring the actual grievances of Baloch and Kashmiris.

It is about time India give up using excessive force against Kashmiris and listen to their demands patiently, as Pakistan must give up its support for religious militants in Kashmir – the only way forward in the current uncertainty and chaos in Kashmir.