- From stone pelting to armed struggle
The figures reveal the facts. 13 militants, three soldiers and four civilians were killed in Shopian on Sunday. Had these been well-trained and well-armed jihadis the statistics might have shown 13 soldiers killed against three militants. Those killed as terrorists were in fact young Kashmiri boys who continue to declare on social media with regularity that they had decided to take up arms for achieving freedom and they take death in their stride. The civilians who were killed came from villages around where hundreds of men, women and teenagers had poured forth spontaneously to help the besieged militants escape from the army, police and CRPF personnel. This indicates a strong bond between the new generation of militants and the local population.
The recent protests against Indian atrocities in Kashmir had started in 2015 and peaked after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016. The BJP government unleashed its ruthless law enforcement agencies against the peaceful protesters. Hundreds of young men were arrested, jailed and tortured. The use of pellet guns to disperse protesters led to scores losing eyesight. There were strong condemnations world wide by the human rights organisations and international media which the Indian government preferred to ignore. The BJP administration also failed to listen to sane voices like that of Yashwant Sinha who called for talks both with the Kashmiris and Pakistan. In October the Modi government appointed Dineshwar Sharma as New Delhi’s interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir. Sharma was assigned the task of holding talks with all stakeholders to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio. The move turned out to be a damp squib.
Shopian is in South Kashmir which had not participated in protest movements prior to the 2015 upsurge. Nor had the rural population in the occupied Valley, which is highly politicised now. As things stand the desire for freedom combined with support for militancy has spread all over Jammu and Kashmir. There is no way to resolve the conflict except through talks between the Indian government on the one hand and Kashmiris and Pakistan on the other.