Begin talks with Kashmiri youth or things will worsen | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Begin talks with Kashmiri youth or things will worsen

Breaking the vicious cycle is imperative and it cannot just be done with brute force. If the answer lay in stamping out protests with an iron boot, the youth would not be back on the streets after over a hundred killings and blindings that followed the death of militant commander Burhan Wani last year

editorials Updated: Mar 31, 2017 18:20 IST
Kashmiri youth throw stones at security forces during a protest in Srinagar, February 9, 2017
Kashmiri youth throw stones at security forces during a protest in Srinagar, February 9, 2017(AP)

Kashmir is convulsed in lethal violence once again as stone pelters and security forces continue to fight pitched battles. Each battle is getting more intense. The last one left three civilians dead and over 60 security personnel injured. This paper has for long been advocating for an approach that involves the politics of engagement but the BJP-led Narendra Modi government is of the view that the violence is masterminded by Pakistan and that the pelters are paid by the ISI, the neighbour’s intelligence agency. While it is a fact that Pakistan is fishing in muddied waters what is equally true is that a vast majority of the youth are disillusioned and alienated by an oppressive security apparatus.

The Valley is caught in the midst of a vicious cycle, in which more and more youth are finding militancy to be an attractive option. The numbers tabled in Parliament are a scary reminder of the fact that local Kashmiris are choosing the path of violence: 2016 saw 88 locals join militancy, up from 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013. The number of encounters too is up and so are civilian deaths because the youth are now pelting stones at the security forces at encounter sites and helping militants escape. The latest appeal against hindering security operations came from the State’s top police officer who said the boys were committing suicide by rushing into places where “a bullet does not know whom it will hit.’’ Earlier, the army chief had issued a sterner warning but the latest incident in which three civilians were killed is proof of the fact that the youth remain largely undeterred.

Breaking the vicious cycle is imperative and it cannot be done with brute force alone. If the answer lay in stamping out protests with an iron boot, the youth would not be back on the streets after over a hundred killings and blindings that followed the death of militant commander Burhan Wani last year. All stone pelters are clearly not Pakistan’s handmaidens. Kashmir’s problem is intrinsically political, not military. No answer can flow from the barrel of a gun. The military will of the state was evident last summer when pellet guns became a dangerous leitmotif that spurred further protests. The blanket ban on cellular and internet services too re-affirmed the siege mentality of the youth who feel the government only talks to them through violence. The way forward – as the summer months approach – lies in engagement.

The governments, at the state and the Centre, must demonstrate an appetite for a political conversation with all stakeholders. The Valley is precariously perched and the ball is in the government’s court. It must reach out, sooner rather than later.