The “Bloody Sunday” which resulted in the death of 20 persons (militants, soldiers and civilians) and injuries to over 150 persons including pellet injuries in the eyes to over 40 persons has been the worst episode of all round violence in recent times. According to the estimates given by the State Police there are no more than 200 militants in Kashmir at present. Most of these are said to be local boys some even in their early teens. It is also alleged that these boys have been driven to the extremes of militancy due to the continued harassment by the Police and the Security Agencies. In fact, even in earlier times allegedly the harassment of these teens had driven them to desperation and reportedly this had become a lucrative business for the security agencies. In nineties of the last century, the killing of a militant was very lucrative for the Army and the Police who would get huge amounts of reward money for such actions. In fact, a number of fake encounters were because ofthe booty which the killers of the militants would get. Kishalay Bhattacharjee in his book, “Blood on My hands” has given detailed account of the confessions of some Army Officers on the subject of fake encounters.
During last 70 years or so Kashmir has seen many conflicts and upheavals. The very first one was in 1947 at the time of the partition of the sub-continent when Kashmir got sucked into the vortex of the sub-continental mayhem and got split into two parts with a bloody ceasefire line dividing these! The next was the Indo-Pak war of 1965 which caused lot of destruction. Kashmir suffered because of a proxy war being raged in the valley. Then we had the upheaval of 1990 which was most damaging for the local people. This upheaval according to official figures resulted in the death of over 50,000 people. Thousands were injured and maimed. All these upheavals could be called proxy wars between two perennially antagonistic neighbours built round local discontent. The moot point is that there has always been local discontent because of the unsolved basic political problem of Kashmir. This has been the starting point and the nucleus of all uprisings.Having failed to make their point known through peaceful expression which has always been suppressed, the youth after being driven to a wall, have been going for militancy.
In countering such violent activities which may be taken to be the last resort of Kashmiri militants, the security forces are trying to kill a flea with a sledge hammer causing extensive collateral damage. It must be the only place in the world where armed militants are being helped by hordes of unarmed civilians to escape when surrounded by security forces. They are being provided more and more popular support with every action of the counter insurgency forces. This shows the extent of alienation of the local people because of the actions of the security forces. Apparently, it looks very odd. Just 200 or so mostly juvenile, ill equipped and not well-trained militants against the third largest army of the world almost half of which is in Kashmir! It is truly turning into the biblical story of the small David fighting the mighty Goliath!
Goliath of Gath (one of the five city-states of the Philistines) was the large biblical warrior defeated by the young David in the Book of Samuel. The phrase “David and Goliath” or (David versus Goliath) has taken on a more popular meaning, denoting an underdog situation, a contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much bigger, stronger adversary. Like David the local kids are also using stonesand sometimes even with sling shots! Had there been a single Goliath, may be the ace Kashmiri stone pelters would have taken an accurate sling shot to knock him out. But they are facing huge army of Goliaths, the third largest in the world! However, this virtually a symbolic fight between David and Goliath is not going to solve the problem. Kashmir’s two generations have already been consumed by the conflict and the third generation is being at present slowly decimated. Kashmir can no longer afford this suicidal loss of these budding youth, most of them in their teens. On the part of the security forces, this all out search and destroy operation is not going to end militancy. On the contrary it is alienating the entire population beyond redemption. A well-known columnist in a recent article has put the solution very succinctly, “A breakthrough in Kashmir will come out not from a body count but through dialogue whether it is within Kashmir or with Pakistan. This is a reality New Delhi has to face up to.” The sooner it is done, the better it will be for all stakeholders!
The author is an I.A.S. (Retired) & Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir and can be reached at [email protected]