Kashmir report 2017: The summer of unrest that began in 2016 may never have ended

Kashmir report 2017: The summer of unrest that began in 2016 may never have ended

Kashmir, Kashmir -IOK Comments Off 10
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The Valley has seen sharp bursts of civil unrest, continued recruitment to militancy and a loss of faith in political processes.
Over eight days in December, three civilians were killed in three separate gunfights in Kashmir. Two of them were young women who leave behind daughters under a year old. The third was a driver in Kupwara, allegedly caught in the crossfire. The tally of casualties rises when you count the militants killed, the protestors injured. Days later, four soldiers were killed at the Line of Control in North Kashmir.
The year 2017 has ended as it began in Kashmir, with slow bloodletting and sporadic protests. The summer of unrest that started in 2016 never really ended, though the tidal wave of mass protests and strikes that lasted months may have petered out. The shape of violence changed this year. Gunfights between militants and security forces took place almost daily. Civil unrest usually erupted in short, sharp bursts, concentrated around specific events: an encounter, an election, a spate of alleged braid chopping.
Despite government efforts to restore what it terms “normalcy” to the Valley, the defining image of Kashmir in 2017 remains that of shawl maker Farooq Ahmed Dar, tied to the front of an Army jeep and used as a “human shield”.
The numbers
The numbers tell their own story. Militant and civilian fatalities were the highest in four years, the Lok Sabha was told earlier this month. According to government figures, 203 militants and 37 civilians had died till December 10, while 75 security forces personnel were killed in the same period. There were 335 militancy-related incidents in 2017, according to government data.
Later, the Rajya Sabha was told that incidents of stone pelting had dropped from 2,808 in 2016 to 1,198 till November this year. Estimates vary. In November, SP Vaid, director general of police, Jammu and Kashmir, declared a “90% drop” in stone pelting since 2016.
Yet a survey by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project reveals a surprising graph of unrest. The number of protests and riots in Kashmir rose on average between 2016 and 2017, settling at 10 times higher in August than they were in June 2016, the month before Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed. Curiously enough, according to this graph, civil unrest peaked in May, rather than in the thick of the 2016 uprising.
As for militancy, Wani’s death galvanised the local youth, who joined up in large numbers during the unrest of 2016. In October 2016, security agencies had estimated that 250 foreign and local militants were active in the Valley. In spite of heavy casualties after the Army launched “Operation All Out” to crush armed groups, informal police estimates put the number at 200, if not more. According to reports by security agencies, later disputed by the state police, at least 117 youth had joined militancy till November 30, the highest in eight years.
If civil unrest, militancy and political activity are taken to be the three indicators of peace in the Valley, none looked good in 2017.

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