Download It’s been almost two months since the current spate of violence erupted in Indian controlled Kashmir over the killing of a youth by Indian security forces.
But the valley still shows no signs of restoration of returning to normal.
The situation has in fact worsened over the last few weeks with Indian security forces security forces killing more protesters.
More than 40 people mostly young children have died so far and the valley continues to remain trapped in a vicious cycle of violence.
Bismillah Geelani has the story.
In Srinagar’s downtown area, hundreds of people march to the local grave yard with the coffin of 19-year old Iqbal Ahmad.
Iqbal was seriously wounded along with four others a few days ago when the security forces opened fire on a group of protesters defying the curfew orders.
Iqbal’s friend Merajuddin says he was shot in the eye.
“We were on the street when the security forces suddenly came and started firing. We ran away but they chased us and when he looked back a bullet hit him in the eye and he fell down. We couldn’t even help him out because they continued firing on us.”
This is 45th death in the current unrest that broke out almost two months ago.
And every killing is adding more fuel to the fire of public anger that has now spread to all over the valley.
Officially, the entire Kashmir valley is under curfew.
Police vehicles with megaphones roam the streets warning people of dire consequences if they try to venture out.
But these warnings hold little meaning for protesters like 20-year old Zahid
“Even today you had announcements on the streets saying that whoever is seen on the streets will be shot and those who don’t die will be shot again. And when things like this happen how I can be inhumane enough not to protest? Call me a terrorist, call me sponsored by Pakistan, call me whatever you may but I still will. I will do whatever I can.”
Over the past week, the protesters have been attacking everything that symbolizes India’s authority over Kashmir.
Several government offices and vehicles, police stations and security forces’ pickets have been set on fire.
Even the homes of some government officials have also been attacked.
On the Chief Minister’s request, New Delhi has rushed more troops to the valley to control the situation but observers say it’s further aggravating the problem.
Nazir Masoodi is a Kashmiri journalist.
“So far the use of force has been the only option and response of the government to deal with the crisis. Ironically, the very force that has been accused of killing people and destabilizing the situation, they are bringing more of them to restore normalcy while people here are attacking them wherever they find them. It’s not just hundreds of people; thousands are coming out in every nook and corner of the valley. So really it’s a kind of mass movement.”
New Delhi has so far maintained a mysterious silence on the ongoing crisis in the valley.
But with the beginning of winter session of the parliament, the opposition has brought it to the national focus demanding explanation from the government.
Responding, Home Minister P Chidambaram made his first statement on the issue
While regretting the death of young children in the valley, he absolved the security forces of all responsibility for the killings.
“The security forces have conducted themselves with commendable restraint in a highly volatile situation. They have shown courage and fortitude. There have been a total of 872 stone-pelting incidents in June and July 2010. I266 security personnel have been injured in the last two months alone”
The minister appealed the Kashmiri parents to keep away their children from the protests.
While acknowledging that Kashmir was a political issue which needs political solution he made it clear that any dialogue can begin only after normalcy returns to the region.
“I would urge all sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to heed the voices of reason and desist from violent protests. Mindless violence and destruction of public property will not lead to any solution. Once peace and order are restored I’m confident that we can explore the possibility of reactivating the political process that holds the key to solution.”
But this has not gone down well with a majority of the people in Kashmir.
Siddiq Wahid is professor of political science at Kashmir University.
“We are talking after 44 deaths, and that’s not a small number. We are talking after Kashmir has been burnt. We are talking after people were protesting in the beginning without throwing stones and a man was killed. We’ve said why the parents can’t talk to their children to keep them in. Why can’t we talk to our soldiers and tell them don’t shoot children? This is so transparent and obvious. “
Appeals for putting an end to violence have come from the separatists as well.
Senior separatist leader Sayyid Ali Gilani says violence by the protesters is hurting the Kashmir I people’s cause.
“These things have no place in our movement. I understand that it is a reaction against the Indian occupation and aginst the brutal killings by Indian forces but our reaction must also be dignified. We must always maintain the difference between the oppressor and the oppressed. “
But the protesters seem to be in no mood to listen to any one.
Earlier in the week an influential militant leader’s call for ending shut down and restoring normalcy evoked fierce criticism from the protesters.
Analysts like wahid say only a serious and sincere political initiative from New Delhi to resolve the Kashmir issue can pacify the restless youth and bring peace pack to the streets.
“I think it has gone out of control and that’s a scary thought. It‘s telling you two things neither of which spell good for New Delhi. Number one, you have an eminently young political class growing up in Kashmir, arguably the most politically educated than anywhere in this country. Number two, it may mean that they have gotten even more radical get it. Let Delhi contemplate that. The cause is a political issue and Delhi is not just in denial over it, it just doesn’t get it.”