Has Kashmir’s spiral of violence slipped out of control?

By Sheikh Qayoom

Srinagar, April 18: An alarming spurt in violence in early spring has been marked by attacks on civilians by militants, the army using a civilian as a shield against stone-pelters, the lowest ever voter turn-out in a parliamentary by-election and the use of social media as a tool to stoke passions.

These are all indications of bad days ahead for Kashmiris, who were looking forward to a calmer summer in 2017.

If this is the bad news, what is even worse is that the situation appears to be slipping out of the hands of both the state and the non-state actors in Kashmir’s sordid drama of pain and suffering.

In the Srinagar parliamentary by-poll on April 9, just seven per cent of the voters came out to exercise their franchise. Eight civilian protesters died while trying to ensure the boycott of an election that was otherwise ignored by a vast majority of Kashmiris.

The fallout of the unprecedented low voter turnout and violence in Srinagar forced the deferment of the Anantnag by-poll that was scheduled on April 12.

While the Election Commission pushed this to May 25, all indications on the ground suggest it would have to be deferred to October or beyond.

In another video from the same district a civilian was seen cursing himself for being an activist of a mainstream political party and vowed never to even look at politics in the future.

The recent “video war” in the Valley started after images of a CRPF trooper being heckled by youths during the April 9 election were uploaded on social media.

This was followed by the video of a youth tied to the front of an army jeep, apparently to avoid attacks from stone-pelters.

Then, massive Valley-wide protests by students broke out on April 17 after videos showing students of Pulwama college being ruthlessly beaten by the security forces were uploaded on social media the previous day.

To prevent the use of social media as a tool to stoke passions, the authorities on Monday again ordered the suspension of mobile internet services in the Valley.

The blame games between the mainstream parties notwithstanding, unless the central and the state governments act fast to pull Kashmir out of its present spiral of anger and violence, 2017 might be worse than what Kashmiris have been through since armed violence started here in the early 1990s.

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