Kashmir needs a solution immediately before the situation goes completely out of hand
Force Magazine - National Security and Aerospace Newsmagazine

Valley on Fire

Kashmir needs a solution immediately before the situation goes completely out of hand

Fayaz Bukhari

The lowest ever voter turnout of 7.1 per cent in Srinagar by-polls marred by violence is an indicator of the grim situation in Kashmir and the government’s failure to handle it.

The by-polls brought to the fore the trouble in Kashmir which has been brewing for long. What made it worse is the government and security agencies turning a blind eye towards the growing anger in the Valley especially among the youth, and the Centre’s failure to engage with the separatists and Pakistan.

More importantly, it was the conduct of elections that was ill-planned. It only ended up emboldening the separatists and setting a trend for future elections. The election, held in an extremely volatile situation, saw the killing of eight persons in security forces firing and over 200 injured including security force personnel. Jammu and Kashmir Police and the divisional administration had recommended 300 companies of Para-military security forces for conduct of by-poll and shifting of over 200 polling stations including those where killing of eight protesters took place. However, the Election Commission of India (ECI) was reluctant. They sent only 120 companies from the outside, out of which 65 reached on April 8 and were not deployed at all. This led to the compromise in tackling law and order situation, resulting in large-scale violence during polling and low voter turnout.

The videos that surfaced soon after the restoration of internet service (that remained shut on poll day and two days after it to prevent violence) led to further outrage. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah was first to tweet the video in which the army had tied a man, Farooq Ahmad Dar of Budgam, to its jeep and paraded him for several hours in the villages of Budgam during by-polls in Srinagar constituency.

Valley on Fire “This young man was TIED to the front of an army jeep to make sure no stones were thrown at the jeep? This is just so shocking!!!! #Kashmir”, Omar Abdullah tweeted. “Here’s the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry and follow up NOW!!,” he demanded.

Dar had cast his vote before he was picked up by the army, roughed up, tied to the jeep and used as a human shield against the stone-pelters. The video went viral, leaving many shocked and angry not just in Kashmir but the world over.

In fact, former Northern commander of the army, Lt Gen H S Panag in his tweet said: “Image of a ‘stone pelter’ tied in front of a jeep as a ‘human shield’, will 4 ever haunt the Indian Army & the nation! Whatever the Provocation, the Indian Armed Forces Cannot Take Recourse to Illegal Acts. I endorse the views!”

The other video was about a Para-military man shooting down a stone pelter directly in the head, and one more on stone-pelters heckling Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men in Budgam. These videos also led to anger amongst the people. The video even prompted cricketers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag to tweet that kicking para-military personnel was not acceptable, that ‘Kashmir is ours’, that jihadis could go to Pakistan and for every slap received by a jawan, a hundred lives should be taken. The outrage by cricketers elicited an equally strong reaction in Kashmir and later police registered a case and arrested around one dozen youth for heckling CRPF men.

The lowest ever voter turnout for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency and violence has given a handle to the Separatists in demanding that the elections are flawed. It has also made them relevant as this time they claim that low voter turnout was due to their boycott call.

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