Delhi is caught in a spot over the killing of seven civilians in violent clashes in the aftermath of an encounter in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday morning that also raised a question about its policy on Kashmir.
Three militants and a soldier were killed in the gunfight that spurred the violent protests with heavy stone-throwing at the soldiers from a very short distance. That created a situation that All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq described as the “continuing terror and trauma unleashed by the Indian security forces.”
Equally angry were the mainstream leaders who called it a “massacre” and pinned the responsibility at the Centre for not keeping the forces in check.
Today’s incident underlined the failure of the law and order enforcing agencies to keep the stone-throwing civilians away from the encounter site — a paddy field open from all sides in the Monghama area of Sirnoo village in Pulwama district. At the same time, it became clear that the civilians sympathetic to militants — incited or on their own volition — continue to keep their date with the gunfight sites where clashes invariably consume the lives of the protesters as well.
The Centre’s “all-out policy” is not paying dividends as more and more militants are surfacing despite the forces having killed 233 of them this year so far. The forces too have lost 87 men during the period. It will have to relook at its policy of going all-out against the militants in all circumstances without caring for the risks involved.
The policy of treating “terrorists and stone-throwers as one”, repeatedly spelled out by Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat, generated a new narrative in Kashmir where the militants were described as Kashmiris, making no distinction between the armed combatants and the rest.
Today’s killings have served as a reversal of fortunes for the government that had rested its reputation on drastically reduced stone-throwing incidents and the civilian casualties.
Governor Satya Pal Malik had claimed it as recently as on Wednesday that the “stone-throwing incidents and the local recruitment of militants has come down to zero level.” But, today’s incident has raised a big question mark on this remarks.
Delhi already struggling with the fallout of the UNHCR report on human rights on Kashmir will find it difficult to defend this incident as it is pegged as “killing by forces”, unlike the explosion at the gunfight sight in Kulgam that killed seven civilians after the forces had left the area in a huff.
In any case, Delhi would have to come out with an answer and spell out as to how it is dealing with the situation in Kashmir that is becoming more complex. The entire political buffer is gone, as the state is under the Central rule.
By now it must have been clear to the policy-makers in Delhi that the Kashmir situation is becoming more complex than it has comprehended so far. And complexity hinders solutions. It must find a new policy to deal with Kashmir. The hard stick policy often breaks the stick used in the counter-terrorism scenario, like in Kashmir.