Recurring pattern of targeted killings in Kashmir

A deeper look at the genesis of such killings is linked to various factors

Arun Joshi

On  Friday evening, militants shot dead BJP sarpanch Manzoor Ahmad Bangroo in the Pattan area of the north Kashmir district of Baramullah. Two days before that a taxi driver Satish Singh was shot in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, and these killings were preceded by a number of attacks on non-locals in the Valley. This is the return of an old familiar pattern of the targeted killings in Kashmir, which always brings a blot to the image of the Valley which is currently buzzing with the massive footfall of the tourists.

These fatal and not-so fatal attacks on the people, especially targeting the minorities, non-local workers, and elected representatives of the Panchayati Raj institutions dot Kashmir’s landscape at regular intervals, and the design of the militants is clear; to infuse fear and unpredictability among the people, and also make the Indian nation to know that they exist. The scenes brought about by the killings are responded to by the severe condemnation by the Kashmiri leaders, for they think that it is their duty to condemn these murders to establish their credentials having no connection with such elements and that they stand at a huge distance from the ideology of the killers. There are vows by the rulers that the killings would be avenged. This is not rhetoric as the counter-terrorism operations have yielded results and most of the militants involved in such selective killings have been neutralized.

A deeper look at the genesis of such killings is linked to a number of factors. Traditionally, the militants of whatever stripe they might be, want to show their capacity to use guns and kill, thus to maintain their profile as the disrupters of the normal life, and ideologically they are convinced that whatever they are doing is for telling the world that peace in Kashmir is fragile.  Their motivation comes through cyberspace where radicalism is high on the airwaves, and also from the environment in which they were born and brought up.

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There is a huge difference between the generation that picked up guns in 1989 onwards than the generation currently engaged in the killing spree. The pre-1989 generation’s average age at the time of getting into militancy was in the 20s, though later it percolated to the young boys in their late teens. The generation had not seen guns in Kashmir, nor the militancy before 1980s, and were part of the culture in which guns were not in their mind. It was the success of Mujahadeen in Afghanistan who drove out the Soviet Union troops from Afghanistan that served as a motivation, and the political turmoil in Kashmir where politicians were interested more in advancing their self-interests instead of working for the welfare of the people prompted them to seek, what they called, redressal of their grievances beyond the constitutional parameters.

The generation of the current times was born amidst bullets and bombs and they are inured to blasts are inured to violence, the blood-letting comes natural to them, particularly for those whose mind is tuned and trained by the conflict that they have seen and experienced in their homes, neighbhoorhood and the overall atmosphere of Kashmir since 1990. They are the toughened lot. They have chosen a greater game for themselves to cover their identity as militants – operating as normal beings, studying or working as normal students, workers or simply living a life of queuing up for jobs online. This is very difficult to penetrate into their minds, and that is what makes it difficult to trace the new local breed of militants, who believe that they can achieve their objectives- ideological ones- through targeted killings.

It is a mind game, and the security agencies will have to study their minds before devising strategies to keep them away from the crimes that tend to dent the claims of complete normalcy and peace in Kashmir. There are quite a lot of gaps which need to be filled through a psychological approach as also creating optics on the ground that the new generation finds is their own and not the imposed one. It is very critical if the fight against militancy and the minds working behind it is to be addressed in a realistic manner.

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