INSTEAD of seeking a political solution to the rising discontent in India-held Kashmir, the BJP-led government in New Delhi is applying its usual heavy-handed tactics to suppress popular unrest in the region. Ahead of young Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s second death anniversary, being observed today, the Indian state had started clamping down on parts of the held territory to prevent public observance of the day. The killing of Wani galvanised anti-India feeling in IHK as thousands took to the streets, only to face the wrath of Delhi’s military enforcers. However, despite the brutality that they have had to face, the Kashmiris’ spirit of resistance and their quest for rights have not been dampened. Along with public curbs on the observance of Burhan Wani’s anniversary, leading Kashmiri leaders, including Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Ali Shah Geelani, have been detained by Indian forces.
While cracking down on Kashmiri demonstrators is an old tactic used by India, the powers that be in New Delhi have also imposed governor’s rule in IHK by sending a shaky coalition in the state of the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party packing last month. While the coalition — never a promising union — formed in 2014 did not achieve much, imposing New Delhi’s direct rule means that India will only tighten its grip and intensify its militaristic response to Kashmiri resistance. However, this violent response has only drawn more recruits to the movement as members of the educated middle class are also willing to take up arms against New Delhi. The reasons for this are apparent. According to a UN report released last month, in the aftermath of Wani’s 2016 killing, “Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries”. While India has expectedly dismissed this criticism, it must realise that the brutal tactics it uses in IHK are being witnessed the world over, and pushing the Kashmiris towards militancy. New Delhi’s humiliation of the Kashmiri people — tying a demonstrator to a military jeep, crushing a man to death with a vehicle — has only further alienated the people of the region. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response to the unrest may be motivated by politics — he wants to appear ‘strong’ on militancy going into an election year — it will only exacerbate the situation. The sooner India realises that the solution to the Kashmir issue lies in dialogue and political accommodation, the better it is.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2018