THE year so far has been a bloody one for India-held Kashmir as some 120 people have been killed in various violent incidents since January. Sunday also witnessed a spate of violence in the troubled region as five armed men — a university professor who taught sociology among them — were killed by Indian troops, while five protesters died when security forces opened fire on them. It is simply not acceptable for any state’s security apparatus to open fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters. There are less lethal ways to control crowds, but it is doubtful that India believes in these, preferring, instead, to unleash maximum brutality upon the Kashmiris. Meanwhile, a university teacher’s joining a group of armed fighters indicates the depth of Kashmiris’ disillusionment with Delhi’s suffocating rule in the region. While earlier, perhaps, a narrower segment of society was seen taking up arms against the Indian state due to the regime’s militarised handling of Kashmiri dissent, a wider cross section of society — intellectuals, students etc — now appear willing to fight as they have lost faith in any political process aimed at securing their rights. The decision-makers in Delhi, who have placed nearly half a million troops in the held region, need to reflect on their failed policies. Moreover, under Narendra Modi’s rule, there have been moves to roll back the autonomous position Kashmir has in the Indian constitution. Couple this with the acts of extremists — such as the recent brutal rape and murder of a young Muslim girl — and the roots of Kashmiri rage can easily be traced.
Instead of using more violence to quell protests and fuelling a cycle of further bloodshed, both the administration in Srinagar and those who call the shots in Delhi need to revisit their approach. The militarised response to Kashmiri unrest has been an abject failure, and if such state-sponsored brutality continues the whole region may be engulfed by a renewed wave of protests with Kashmiris doing all they can to secure freedom. India must deal with Kashmir with respect, and respond to the legitimate grievances of the held region’s people. However, considering the right-wing clique that currently holds power in Delhi, and its counterparts in Kashmir, this is difficult to expect. The Hindutva brigade should realise that force has failed to dampen the Kashmiri spirit for over three decades, therefore, a new approach is required.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2018