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Pakistan

Why is Jammu and Kashmir witnessing a rise in indigenous militancy?

By Arooj Naveed

The events from the past seven days – since the Indian intrusion in Pakistan and Pakistan’s response of downing two Indian planes – have brought the Kashmir issue back in the global limelight. As Indian writer Arundhati Roy rightly pointed out, “By attacking Pakistan, Indian PM Modi has ‘internationalised’ the Kashmir issue”.

However, ask yourselves! Are we heading towards the promises made to the Kashmiri people? We are not even close! 70 years on and Kashmir remains an unresolved issue.

Blame game (post-Pulwama), new conditions for talks on Kashmir, evolving economic and political developments in the region, birth of and bans on non-state actors…Kashmir still bleeds.

‘Between the Great Divide’ as Anum Zakria rightly titles her latest book, Kashmir is becoming a land which is ready to nurture militancy and insurgency.

It’s consequences; continued heated confrontations between India and Pakistan, recurring attacks like that of Pulwama, international community ‘for’ and ‘against’ these states, beefed up nuclear competition, neglect for non-security issues and a continued environment of hostility, instability and uncertainty.

Between the two countries – India and Pakistan – the suppressed voice of Kashmiris is continuing to be neglected. This neglect has also resulted in incidents such as the Pulwana suicide attack, in which Adil Ahmed, Alias Waqas, was involved.

Belonging from Lethipora, a village from Indian occupied Kashmir, Adil, aged 20, would hit a car packed with explosives into a convoy and on 14th February, 2019, Pulwama would happen. A school boy till 2016, today he is labelled as a ‘suicide bomber.’ Three years ago, he had hinged to an Indian military group. Troops stopped, beat and harassed him on his way back to school. Ever since then, he wanted to align himself with Kashmiri independence fighters. All these incidents are now well documented and reported by the Indian media.

Three years on, the global media was packed with headlines such as… ‘Pulwama incident: UNSC rebuffs India’s bid to implicate Pakistan,’ ‘ Ban on Jud,’ ‘Turkey rejects Indian accusations against Pakistan about Pulwama Incident,’  and ‘ IOK governor calls for calm amid deployment of thousands of Indian troops ahead of 35-A hearing,’.

Two facts, however, were missed. These facts were summed up by parents of Adil; “anger” and “no dialogue”. Adil’s mother, Fahmeeda, said, “Beaten by Indian troops, there was anger in him against the Indian troops.” Referring to the argument over India-held Kashmir, Ghulam Hassan Dar, Adil’s father, said, “They should have resolved the issue through dialogue. It is they who are responsible for driving these youths into militancy.” Militancy in Kashmir seems to to be “reborn”.

Where are we heading towards post-Pulwama? Below are some observations.

Condemned by 48 nations from around the world, India was given an extended support after the Pulwama attack. The US resolved to strengthen coordination and cooperation with India. France called on every state to take effective measures for combating, funding and prevention of cross-border terrorist networks.

The President of Bhutan expressed shock and sadness over the attack, which resulted in the death of over 40 people. Afghanistan stressed on the need for cooperation among countries to fight against ‘this common enemy.’ The underlying message was clear; War is not an option; states need to fight against terrorist networks. On the other hand, China ‘hoped’ that the ‘regional countries will cooperate to cope with the threat of terrorism and jointly uphold regional peace and stability’.

So much so, even Pakistani PM Imran Khan offered to cooperate on the matter if India had any evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the incident. With that, the ball was in India’s court. However, PM Modi had other ideas on his mind.

Rather than providing any evidence and accepting PM Khan’s offer, Modi instead, for domestic political consumption, opted for a theatrical intrusion in Pakistan. Not only was the operation botched, as proven by satellite imagery, but it also brought the South Asian region on the brink of a Nuclear War.

In midst of all this, the Kashmir issue, the core of all tensions between India and Pakistan, was ignored again!

The Pulwama attack was one of the deadliest attacks in the region. The bombing is likely to mark ‘a turning point in Indian-controlled Kashmir.’ Since 1989, in this part of the land, insurgency against the Indian rule has seen its ups and downs.

Although, militancy is still far from its peak, it has gradually drawn local recruits. Critics have decried that escalating violence has come due to India’s heavy-handed tactics of alienating the young Kashmiris. Also, Kashmiris living in other regions of India have reportedly been threatened and harassed.

David Devadas, an author focusing on Kashmir, in this regard states, “This generation of Kashmir youth has seen violence and instability from the time they were born.” Elaborating further the author argues how social media is showcasing constant images of Muslims globally threatened and oppressed.

Factors like these, together with personal experiences, has harvested radicalization both religiously and politically. This sentiment is heightened in Kashmir Valley’s southern region, which is militancy’s hotbed. The danger that the current situation poses is that young Kashmiris are now susceptible to joining militant groups. The tough approach taken by Modi in Kashmir is to be hardened further, which according to Hilal Mir, will spark a ‘new cycle of killings and reprisals.’

New trends of youth joining militancy would provide ‘militancy a local character.’ With development of locally dominated militancy, Jammu and Kashmir will ultimately see a gradual decline in development and an increase in loss of lives.

Pakistan and India, two out of three key players for resolving the Kashmir issue, need to be very careful to these developments. With each passing day, the intensity of “anger” among Kashmiris and the need for “dialogue” in increasing, and these two factors, if not looked into, would devastate the future prospects of peace in South Asia.

The writer is an author, blogger and research assistant and can be contacted at aroojreflection@hotmail.com

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