Bloody Kulgam killings

Kashmir Times. Dated: 11/1/2020 12:46:44 AM

Govt must respond to the challenge of political killings not by flexing muscles but with pargmatism

The killing of three BJP workers in Kulgam is shocking and highly condemnable. Violence in any form and from any quarter cannot be condoned. It is brutal and a heinous crime. The three, Fida Hussain Yatoo, Umer Rashid Beigh and Umer Ramzan Hajam, were killed on Thursday, while they were traveling in a car, by militants alleged to bear allegiance to the recently floated The Resistance Front (TRF), which security forces believe is a shadowy group of Lashkar-e-Toiba front. A thorough probe and bringing the culprits to the book is important and must be done with immediacy and without allowing anyone to draw political mileage from the incident. The Kulgam incident is once again a reminder that civilian killings, particularly those affiliated to political groups, are on the rise and a cause of great concern. On the one hand, the government is talking about revitalizing the political space in Jammu and Kashmir with emphasis on grass-roots politics but on the other it has allowed political workers and activists at the ground level to be turned into sitting ducks amidst an extremely hostile climate that forbids the penetration of mainstream political discourse at the ground level. The hot pursuit method of containing militancy through the sheer bulk of killing militants, or getting them to surrender, is a miscalculated policy with minimal strategic gains that are short-lived. Unless the military methods are coupled with a process of reaching out to the population, no amount of ‘strategically successful’ operations are going to be helpful. Militancy that feeds not only from religious radicalization and by proxies from across the border but also seething and deepening discontent within needs a far more multi-pronged approach that includes an ear to the ground, political reach out to the masses, recapacitating a political space and building a vision that is inclusive as well as aims towards a dialogue and involvement of the public.
On the contrary, the government seems to have not only ignored the repeated requests of political workers and representatives at the grassroots for better security but contributed in endangering their lives by maintaining rigid posturing without preparing for the security of those who work in the frontline. This rigid posturing along with the legal and political changes since last year have also pushed the mainstream political leadership at the top to the wall. There is neither an attempt to imaginatively think about reviving the political space that accommodates the aspirations on the ground, neither any space left for the various political formations to consolidate their position. Lack of democratic space and absence of political voices create an enabling atmosphere for violence. Besides, left with no agenda to espouse, there is a greater risk of mainstream political leadership falling prey to a divisive rhetoric, signs of which have dangerously begun to emerge. Existence of militant violence, even if not an upsurge, coupled with divisive political rhetoric can result in a major catastrophe in time to come and this must be avoided at all cost. Precious human lives – of both those belonging to state’s agencies and civilians - are being lost to an armed conflict and they can no longer be treated as cannon fodder. The government needs to do much more than simply gear up its military power to combat such a challenge. It must be armed with pragmatism and vision to create an enabling atmosphere where people feel included and not alienated. This can go a long way in weakening the support for militancy and also towards stability in the restive region.



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