Kashmir: Is another summer unrest on the cards?
By Sheikh Qayoom Srinagar: The recent spurt in militancy-related violence has claimed 17 lives in two days, while over 30 people were injured in civilian clashes with security forces in the same period -- raising the spectre of another summer of violent discontent.
The signs are all there: a spurt in violence, separatists uniting to continue their "protest calendar", large numbers of civilians attending funerals of slain militants, and small mobs gathering to pelt stones at the security forces during gunfights with militants.
On Tuesday, for instance, the security forces reportedly intercepted a car in Pulwama district. The occupant of the car abandoned the vehicle and managed to slip away as some youths distracted the security forces by pelting stones at them.
Reports said the man who slipped away was Abu Dujana, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander.
Are these developments telltale marks of another summer unrest in the making? If top officers of the security forces are to be believed, the answer is no. But, if one is to go by the local grapevine, these are signals of another summer of discontent waiting in the wings.
Even senior officers of state and other intelligence agencies appear to be divided in their opinion about this.
"People cannot afford to do away with their livelihood every now and then. The Valley was at a standstill for over five months last year. Development and livelihoods were destroyed.
"People have not recovered from that shock. They are looking forward to a normal summer this year so that they can earn to survive. Granted that the separatists are looking for opportunities to create trouble, but people are fed up," one senior intelligence officer told IANS on condition of anonymity.
On the flip side, an officer of another intelligence agency told IANS: "The one thing that can be said with absolute certainty about the situation in Kashmir is that it cannot be predicted with absolute certainty."
"We had a bloody summer unrest in 2010. The separatists achieved nothing through that except that the common man suffered immensely. It was believed that lessons had been learnt, but we had another bloody unrest in 2016.
"I don't say that we are on the brink of another unrest, and yet I firmly believe lowering the guard would be disastrous," the officer explained.
The state government has been doing everything possible to encourage the youth to join sports, compete at in state- and country-level civil service exams, look beyond the beaten track to find avenues for a better tomorrow in the corporate world so that militant groups are not able to woo them.
"It is a vicious circle of sorts that cannot be avoided as long as militancy continues. Crackdowns and other anti-militancy operations cannot be stopped because these pertain to the security of the country," a senior army officer told IANS.
"As long as there are local militants, however small or large their numbers might be, you cannot avoid their getting killed in operations. We have, in fact, taken serious casualties during recent operations to avoid civilian damage.
"When a local militant gets killed, sympathies naturally arise. Families, relatives, neighbours and friends protest such a death and the separatists find these situations handy," the officer added.
In a nutshell, what do all these developments indicate? Are we headed for another unrest in 2017? Would better sense prevail and peace be given a chance to allow Kashmiris live a normal life?
Well, predictions have always been the Waterloo of fortune-tellers in Kashmir.