Syed Kaleem Geelani

Blood, Blockade and Breakup!

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Killing of hundreds, blockade of internet and breakup of political parties was all about last year in Kashmir

Kashmir valley has always witnessed tragedies and unexpected occurrences throughout many years and last year too, the valley witnessed a series of killings of militants as well as of civilians. The valley also witnessed a large number of frequent internet blockades especially in South Kashmir areas, leaving the people in misery and disconnected from the whole world. In addition to that, the most pre eminent and critics driven coalition government between centre led BJP(Bhartiya Janta Party) and state led PDP(People’s Democratic Party) suffered a sudden breakdown as BJP pulled out from the government, bringing the state under governor rule. From militant killings to civilians, abductions to warnings, shutdown to internet clampdown, ceasefire to breakup of political parties, fax machine drama to dissolution of assembly, Governor rule to presidential rule; the past year has been in news.

The year, 2018 was the bloodiest year in decade in Kashmir. From militants to security forces, everyone tasted the fury of 2018. But it’s quite shameful and disheartening that this bloodiest year almost passed without any major attention in the national media. There has been rise in lack of national media attention towards violence in Kashmir and its repercussions. Even, the top political and social personalities of India acted as mute spectators to keep their political and social statures and out of harm’s way. From Triple talaq, cow lychings and name changing spree, the National media revolved around just a few chosen headlines.

Killings in Kashmir: 

Post Burhan Wani’s death in 2016, there has been a sharp increase in militancy throughout the valley. It triggered a surge in local militancy that does not seem to have abated yet. There is almost daily bloodshed as protests are being dealt with force and encounters between militants and security forces happen every two or three days.

In the post Burhaan uprising, hundreds were killed, thousands injured and hundreds of houses vandalized. Whole valley was drenched in blood but last year, Kashmir was no different with respect to bloodshed and other miseries. The only difference between 2016 and last year is the pattern of killings.

In past, there were the encounters between militants and security forces but now the forces have to face locals as people turn up in large numbers to disrupt the gunfight operation of forces so as to pave the passage for holed up militants to escape the scene. There was a time in Kashmir, when a loud bang of sound would frighten people and restrict them to their homes, but the situation has changed over the period of time. The people now come out of their homes and disturb the anti militancy operations at the cost of their lives. Atleast 40 civilians were killed & hundreds were injured at encounter sites during the past year. A nine month old kid, Hiba Nisar was the worst sufferer of past year as pellets stuck into her left eye & she nearly lost her eyesight. From times,

The people here see the same blasted houses, bodies borne along by a sea of mourners, a phalanx of uniforms year and again. The year was marked by massive gunfights, killings, internet blockades, abductions and surprisingly execution videos, a first in Kashmir’s three-decade-long militancy. It also saw the assassination of Rising Kashmir editor Syed Shujaat Bukhari in the broad daylight amid the preparations of Eid after the end of Ramadan. According to home ministry figures, 238 militants, 86 security forces personnel and 37 civilians were killed in militancy related incidents last year. According to other estimates, 413 were killed in incidents of violence as of November 28. The conflict this year can be defined by gunfights that inflicted a high death toll.

While security forces call the high militant casualties a success, gunfights continue to fuel public anger against the government and instigate more youth to join militant groups. The four districts of South Kashmir – Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam remained the epicenter of local militancy. But youth from central and northern districts too took up arms. Among the most familiar faces of the militancy in 2018 were Mohammad Rafi Bhat from Ganderbal district and Mannan Wani from Kupwara in North Kashmir. Both became poster boys of Kashmir militancy.

Internet Blockade: The censorship and blocking of internet in volatile situations and areas has became a norm for Kashmir but this year the blockades crossed the limits especially for South Kashmir areas. Atleast after every second or third day, the people had to bear four to five days usually without internet. The students and employees had to suffer immensely due to the continues clampdown on Internet by authorities forcing the residents to request and beg before authorities for the restoration of internet. I guess more than half of the year was passed without Internet. Recently a girl student, studying outside appeared on a video on social media, while tears were rolling down her eyes, she was appealing the authorities to restore the internet in South Kashmir so that she could see the face of her parents. This is the story of every student of South Kashmir out from their homes.

Breakup of political parties:

After Ramzan ceasefire announced by the Centre in May on the request of state government especially by PDP, there was an abrupt breakdown between the two parties and this news was shocking for all political parties and local people as well. The party which was struggling to heal up wounds of Kashmiri people was left wounded itself by their coalition partners. This move shattered the party & they began losing its leaders one by one. As of now four PDP leaders have left the party. Surprisingly, while I was jotting this down, a senior PDP leader left the party late night. This time again the elections will be under the shadow of the doubt that centre has always controlled and undermined representative politics in J&K.

The author writes on various issues & themes. He can be reached at [email protected]

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