The events this year so far in Kashmir indicate that not all is well for peace and tranquillity in the region. Though the events are disparate and may not be linked directly to each other they perhaps portray a picture of coming turbulence in Kashmir, unless requisite measures are undertaken. Last year till the end of August, the Kashmir valley witnessed some of worst incidents in a decade with loss of more than hundred lives.The protests made the Indian government jittery about the prospects of peace or at least towards maintaining the already fragile peace. The resort to measured violence by India, which was somehow aided by the logic of waning popular mood in supporting a sustained violence, and also some of the peace overtures by government such as instituting a panel of interlocutors to deliberate with disparate voices somehow led to end of violent protests and the return of a fraught peace.
The developments this year has further raised the issue whether peace in Kashmir will remain as fragile as it is, or there will be something spectacular as in the fashion of some north African Arab countries. The fear has already been expressed by the Indian army that the militants in Kashmir have resorted to the cyber domain to boost their massive networks and organisations against the establishment. Though it is true that the last year protests took the help of cyber space such as the use of Facebook and one of the leaders of the protests Mashrat Alam Bhat was a computer savvy Kashmiri, who used internet tools such as Youtube to spread his militant messages throughout the valley, the recent revelations bring into picture that the militants, deterred by the government forces, have resorted to internet extensively to strengthens their networks. Reportedly, the users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in Kashmir have widely circulated the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt.Hence, there is an apprehension that the recent protests in Arab world might embolden the separatist spirit in Kashmir, and help mobilizing people against the ruling establishment. As severe winter months are ending and summer is approaching, the melting of ice at the borders may aid infiltration bids from across the border and lead to fresh violence among the security forces and the militants motivated by the new messages of protests as circulated in the social network sites.
Separatist leaders in Kashmir have their websites in which they spread the messages not always conducive to peace in the valley. Reportedly, one of the prominent separatist leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has eight accounts in his name. Two Facebook pages named Mirwaiz Moulvi Muhammad Umar Farooq and Mirwaiz Manzil are operated by the top religious cleric himself. According to Shahid-ul-Islam, the spokesperson of Hurriyat Conference (M) of which Mirwaiz is the leader, “We find it important to connect to the people through social networking sites in the contemporary society. Given the circumstances we are in, there cannot be any better way for us to reach out from door to door.” Among these two pages, the first one is liked by 3437 users and the second one by 213. It is also possible that there are many readers of these sites without registering their names. Similarly, the Chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Muhammad Yasin Malik owns a single personal account by the name Yas Malik. Another page titled Yasin Malik Chairman JKLF has been liked by 6270 users. According to the spokesperson of JKLF, Altaf Ahmad, “Our pages perhaps has maximum fan following among the pro-freedom leaders.” The recent move by one of the national parties of India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to hoist national flag at the heart of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, on the Republic Day of India on 26th January was strongly opposed by the separatist parties, and their opposition was well circulated in the social networking sites. It may be a fortuitous incident that the BJP’s plan did not work out as the state government thwarted it at the entry point to the Kashmir region. In all probability the valley could have witnessed another bout of violence, had the BJP marched towards Srinagar to implement its plan.
Besides using the power of cyber domain, some of the militants have recently used open violence to silence any dissent to their activities. On the 31st of January, two militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba dragged out two young girls named Arifa and Akhtar from their house in the northern Kashmir town of Sopore, the stronghold of another separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani, and killed them brutally. They shot one girl in the left eye. The militants named Wasim Ganaie and Muzaffar Naikoo were labelled by the local police as ‘A’ category militants with cash rewards on their heads. The reasons of killings are not year clear. None of the prominent separatist leaders condemned the killing. There seems to be a method followed by separatist leaders in the context of killing of innocent people in Kashmir. They may justifiably protest against killing by the security forces, but they observe a studied silence in case of killing by militants. It may be possible that they too are afraid of the militants, which are probably gaining upper hand in recent months as violent protests last year showed. On 1st of February, a group of militants hurled two hand grenades at the house of a senior leader of Indian National Congress in Srinagar. The house was damaged partially.
Hence, at present it is difficult to say whether the peace in Kashmir is positive or fragile. There may be silence of guns on parts of both security forces and militants, the recent developments indicate the downward turn of Kashmir, particularly the valley. The efforts of New Delhi particularly in terms of appointing interlocutors may not achieve significant results, unless India faces the havoc caused by militants and their networks squarely. It may not be too late that India adopts wise methods to stop the spiralling of Kashmir into chaos. The onset of summer and the melting of snow at borders may further complicate the scenario, unless swift actions are taken.