Srinagar: A large number of local youngsters joined the militant ranks in Kashmir during 2016, the highest number since 2013, posing a major challenge to Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition that completes nine months in office next week. Most of the militants joined the ranks in four south Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian.
Observers say that the year 2016 has left behind a trail of memories the people and rulers would not forget easily. This was the most tumultuous year that saw multiple changes in guard followed by a complete breakdown of law and order. On the year-end, even as the rulers feel content that they quelled a massive public uprising that erupted on July 8 following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and his two comrades, the campaign left a huge impact on the ground situation and is difficult to offset in a short span.
The year began on an ominous note when Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed breathed his last in a New Delhi hospital on January 7. His daughter Mehbooba Mufti refused to take over immediately. The refusal triggered a constitutional crisis and Governor’s rule was imposed in the state. Initially it appeared that the Governor NN Vohra’s takeover would be temporary but Mehbooa added elements to her refusal and linked it with Center’s ill-treatment to her father during his month rule. She demanded guarantees from the alliance partner before taking over the reins of the PDP-BJP alliance. However, no guarantees were provided except the promise to follow the Agenda of Alliance, a document that the two parties framed as a roadmap before forging an alliance. Mehbooba, after a meeting with Prime Minister Narenda Modi in New Delhi, finally agreed to step into her father’s shoes and took oath on April 4.
Mehbooba was barely two weeks in office when four civilians including a woman were killed in north Kashmir’s Handwara town after a soldier allegedly molested a local schoolgirl, a charge refuted by the army. The incident triggered widespread anger and began the negative image building of the new CM.
In June, first budget session of the state legislature was held in Srinagar under Mehbooba’s rule. The opposition parties tried to bully the government over the human rights issues and lack of development but the government withstood the tirade because the opposition parties—National Conference and the Congress—had not left an unblemished track record when they were in power. Mehbooba and her colleagues vowed to pursue the path of development to bring the embattled state out of the morass.
However, that was not to be. On July 8, a game changing event took place when security forces shot dead Burhan Wani, the most popular militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit who had used social media to the hilt to create a niche for himself. Tens of thousands of people came out on streets to protest against the killing. More than 200,000 people took part in his funeral prayers at Tral in south Kashmir. This began a tumultuous phase in the recent history of Kashmir when security forces used “excessive force” to quell the uprising. By the end of October, at least 96 civilians were killed and over 15000 persons injured in action by security forces. The shocking part of the anti-uprising campaign was the unbridled use of pellet guns that ruptured the eyes of hundreds of people. At Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar, more than 120 youth were operated upon after being hit by pellets in their eyes. Some of them like 14-year-old Insha Manzoor lost their vision permanently. Thousands of security personnel also got injured during stone-pelting incidents, officials say.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Valley thrice but to no avail. He even led a 27-member parliamentary delegation but it did not cut ice. The separatists who spearheaded a continued shutdown for 133 days, refused to involve in talks. They issued protest calendars every week and crippled the normal life for months together.