Last year it was two days after the holy month of Ramadhan that Burhan Wani, the 22-year-old poster boy commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen died during an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir.
In the violent aftermath of his death, young men and women took the fight to the security forces on the streets. Pitched battles engulfed the entire Valley. Wani was obviously a prized catch. His engaging manner had turned him into a legend before his death, as he coasted on personal charisma and social media smarts to become the ‘poster boy’ of a new phase of Kashmiri militancy that is home grown.
Burhan’s death lead to a chaotic situation in Kashmir Valley. People of all hues came out on the streets and the situation turned so volatile mostly in South Kashmir that even after seven months the central and the state governments despite the availability of thousands of para military and police personnel could not manage the parliamentary elections in the South Kashmir constituency.
Another deadly angle that can be linked to Burhan’s killing is the revival of new age militancy in Kashmir. Security agencies claim that around 400 people mostly teenaged boys have taken up guns post Burhan’s killing. This phenomenon is alarming as the young boys have got a clear support from the people thus complicating the issue further.
Now this year as the Valley continues to be on the edge again another Hizbul commander, Sabzaar Bhat was killed in an encounter in South Kashmir’s Tral area.
Sabzaar was a close associate of Burhan Wani and the duo were seen together in many of their social media outings. However, as we write these lines several questions come to mind.
One, is the summer of 2017 going to be a replica of 2016. And two, is the stage being set by the follies committed by various security agencies so that a repeat of 2016 happens.
Last year security forces, including the police failed spectacularly in managing the situation. The fact that so many civilians have been killed or injured, especially by pellets in the eye, with a high percentage having possibly lost vision altogether, suggests that no care has gone into keeping the casualties low.
Faced with an attacking mob, policemen are bound to perceive a sense of siege. But it is imperative that any response should be measured and never grossly disproportionate to the cause of action — forgetting this lesson has time and again led to the fuelling of a further cycle of protests, to attracting more impressionable and aggrieved youngsters to attack symbols of authority and security.
Today’s killing of yet another commander seems a grim reminder that the lessons that should have been learnt have been ignored. Forces have once again resorted to crude ways of crowd control and as a result a death of a civilian has been reported from Tral. Several people have also been reported injured and if the same trend continues, a repeat of 2016 summer unrest is imminent.
The cycle of protests cannot be broken by brute force. Restrain and appeals for calm must be strengthened with a demonstrable capacity for a political conversation. When tens of thousands of people are hitting the streets in mourning for a fallen militant.