On July 8th, 2016, in Kokernag, police personnel along with the Rashtriya Rifles gunned down the poster boy of Hizb resistance after a tip-off. The killing of Burhan Wani set off the chain of events that led to Shopian in 2018. It comes as no surprise the post-2016, youth have been swayed towards militancy. Wani was given a hero's funeral and inspired the youth of the valleys to take up arms. Many political analysts consider it a fault on the part of the government. But, the ruling government does not seem to mind.
The Indian Army and the Special forces have been involved in manhunts and clean-up operations, killing hundreds of militants in the past few years. The anti-India sentiment in the valley has been gathering strength and the military operations only seem to aggravate it. From 14-year-old boys to MBA graduates, there are worrying figures of youth joining the Hizbul Mujahideen and the LeT.
Insurgency on the rise
In the quiet region of Dragan and Kachedoora of Shopian region, police gunned down about 13 militants in one of the biggest counter-terrorism operations in the valley in years. Most of the youth and three of them related, the militants refused to the pleas of their families to come back to life. This has not been an isolated instance though. Most of the youth who've joined the "tehreek" are aged 16-25 and a considerable lot are graduates. Though some site that unemployment drives them to militancy, the life in the valley tells a different story. Constant unrest and involvement of special forces render the common people as collateral damage.
Express Photo By Shuaib Masoodi/Indian Express
The Shopian killings involved civilian casualty and the mass that turned in the protest were sprayed with pellet guns. The militants use the locals as human shields and the military bombings in supposed hideouts cause damage to life and property of civilians. The youth who join militancy are not happy with their lives infested with fear and oppression. Official figures point out to 280 youth, but there could be a lot more who wield guns. The youth blame the government for their misery, while the government blames anti-national radicalism.
Militancy in Kashmir has been met with counter-military operations for long and it is not proving helpful. Pakistani media and fringe parties seem to take full advantage and glorify militancy and pan military action. And, sometimes rightly so. The youth who join the militant movements consider "fidayeen" better than a life in the region. Of course, some return back to normal life, like Majid Irshad Khan, who became a footballer after surrendering to the J&K police. But, the valley does seem to inspire more Gaaysuls and Ishfaqs, who was killed in the Shopian region.
Maybe it's time for the J&K and the Center to look for diplomatic solutions. Kashmir valley is distraught with fake currency, illegal trade, and drugs. And, it doesn't help to use guns on youth who blame the government for it.