With New Delhi continuing with its muscular policy in Kashmir to bring back “normalcy” and “crush militancy”— as was evident by the statement on ‘zero tolerance’ towards militancy by Home Minister Amit Shah during his maiden visit to the Valley and his claim that the separatists were ‘scared’ -- the ground reality suggests otherwise.
In fact, the figures paint a picture of New Delhi’s utter failure in keeping youngsters away from picking up the gun. If one takes a closer look at what numbers suggest, the policy that has continued for the last five years, does not seem to have ebbed militancy in the Valley.
As per government reports, even as 101 militants have been killed in Kashmir in the first five months of 2019, as many as 50 youngsters have joined militant ranks. With each killing, a picture of a new recruit, mostly a youngster, holding AK-47 appears on the social media sites. This doesn’t end here. These pictures (of new recruits) are shared by thousands of youngsters, reflecting the support the militants seem to be enjoying in Kashmir.
As per recent reports, 191 local youths joined militant ranks in 2018 as compared to 126 in 2017. Of these 191, as many as 139 are from the restive South Kashmir, the highest –59—from Pulwama.
As it emerges, the increase in the number of youngsters joining militancy is directly proportional to the Centre’s failure in handling the Kashmir issue. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Operation All-Out, aimed to end militancy, combined with arbitrary arrests, detentions, custodial torture and banning of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeL) has deteriorated the ground situation. For instance, under the Narendra Modi regime, unprecedented human right violations were seen in the form of custodial killing of a civilian, Rizwan Pandit, to a civilian tied to an army jeep as a form of human shield, to the 20-month-old pellet victim.
While New Delhi, time and again, has blamed Pakistan for fuelling insurgency in Kashmir, the increase in civilian killings have added in equal measure to the miseries of Kashmiris.
The Central government’s plan to replace pellet guns, which have blinded thousands of Kashmiris, with sound cannons is also being seen by the local people as a new tactic to mask the reality in Kashmir.
A resident of Srinagar, requesting anonymity, said, “This is to show that the New Delhi and BJP have softened their stance on Kashmir. Sound cannon seems more dangerous, as these have the potential to rupture the ear drums. We are very scared. Don’t know what will happen in the immediate future.”
In the past four years, the Modi government’s strategy has been to conceal human right violations and choking dissenting voices in the Valley by cracking down on journalists, separatists, activists and protestors, it is widely felt.
While the Centre has been resorting to stringent measures, the ground situation does not tell the story that the BJP-led government wants to narrate. And if the tone of Amit Shah is to be taken into the consideration, the Centre’s policy is going to be the same for some more years to come.