As situation in Kashmir keeps deteriorating, we seem to have forgotten it

Once again, we seem to have forgotten Kashmir. I won’t use the word ignored because that implies a deliberate decision to disregard developments in the state. The truth is we appear to be simply unconcerned about what’s happening. It’s as if it doesn’t matter.

Yet in almost all respects the situation is deteriorating. First, internally. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society estimates that 472 people have died in encounters and clashes in the initial 10 months of this year. This, I presume, includes their figure for casualties from terrorist incidents. That compares to 379 deaths for the whole of 2017. This is a 24 per cent increase and suggests that a civilian and a security force personnel lost their lives every second day. In October alone there were 59 deaths, the worst month since July 2016 when Burhan Wani was killed and 62 people died in clashes.

When you look at the break-up of the deaths, no doubt militant causalities are increasing but so too are those of civilians and security personnel. Between 2016 and 2017 the former went up by 28 per cent and the latter by 32 per cent. Those are very substantial increases.

The situation on the border is no different. Government figures revealed in Parliament show that ceasefire violations almost doubled from 2016 to 2017 and so far in 2018 the figure is already 62 per cent higher than last year’s total. According to the defence minister, from 881 in 2017 the figure by August of this year had shot up to 1,432. 

You get the same story when you look at the statistics of infiltration. Kiren Rijiju has reported that between 2016 and 2017 instances of infiltration attempts increased by 10 per cent. This year, according to the Chinar Corps Commander, three/four infiltration attempts are foiled daily whilst nearly 100 terrorists have entered the state. 

The only area where the situation has improved is in terms of incidents of stone pelting. After a peak in 2016 they have fallen steadily. However, for the first time in a decade, an army soldier was killed by stone pelters last month. That was an ominous development.

In contrast to the improvement in stone pelting, the number of state policemen losing their lives to militant firing has doubled. At least 40 have died this year compared to 20 in 2017. Some of them were victims of sniper attacks, a new and worrying innovation in the Valley’s jihadi tactics that has taken the authorities by surprise. Meanwhile the army believes that 140 local Kashmiris have joined militancy in the first 10 months of this year, the highest militant recruitment in a decade.

So, clearly, the tough posture adopted by the Modi government has not worked. With each month the violence and killings are escalating whilst the number taking up militancy is increasing. The more the security forces go on the offensive the more worrisome the problem seems to become. 

Beyond these sorry statistics is the impact of it all on the Kashmiri people who, after all, we look upon as fellow citizens and claim to respect and love. Has the government asked itself what this is doing to their morale and to the way they view their status as Indian citizens? Certainly the turnout figures in the Valley for the recent urban local body elections show that commitment to democratic voting is at an all-time low. The figure not only suggests that a preponderant majority heeded the boycott call but perhaps also feel there’s no point in voting.

This raises the question do we realise we’re pushing the Kashmiri people further and further away? They believe they have a legitimate history of decades of grievance – and I, for one, agree with them – but rather than resolve and ameliorate the hurt of the past we’re adding fresh injury to previous insults. In other words, we’re making things worse.

The truly depressing bit is with elections just five months away I cannot see the government accepting its error and changing track. The present tough stance is likely to continue unmitigatedly and the situation will correspondingly deteriorate. The dark night that’s fallen on Kashmir is not going to loosen its grip anytime soon.

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