In Kashmir, India now struggles with “children of conflict”
Kashmir has been seething since early June. Life across the Muslim-majority valley has been completely disrupted by curfews and protest strikes since some of the biggest anti-India demonstrations in two years erupted a month ago.
Seventeen people, mostly teenage protesters, have been killed by security forces in near daily pro-freedom demonstrations fuelling anger across the disputed Himalayan region.
India blames Pakistan-based militants for the ongoing Kashmir protests but Kashmiris say the protests are spontaneous.
Who are these people organising freedom rallies and have discovered the power of mass protests that have dumbfounded the entire government?
They assemble in hundreds – and in some cases thousands, shouting, “Go India go”, “We want freedom” and take to the streets, pelting stones at police and paramilitary forces.
On Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites, they are spreading creative ideas for civil disobedience to challenge Indian rule.
They are Kashmir’s new generation of radicalised separatists, a new generation that has grown up in the shadow of the two-decade-old violence between Indian troops and separatist guerrillas that has killed tens of thousands of
Kashmir’s senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq recently told NDTV it is high time for the people of India to realise that the “baton of Kashmir’s freedom struggle” has passed on to the next generation.
“No military measure will be able to break the will and resolve of the people of Kashmir,” said Farooq.
The fresh wave of unrest started on June 11 when a 17-year-old student died after being hit by a teargas shell fired by police during a pro-freedom demonstration in Srinagar.
Since then, 16 other people have been killed by government forces during protests fuelling anti-India anger in Kashmir, a region where sentiments against New Delhi’s rule run deep.
Daily protests by thousands of Kashmiris in the past month highlight how a younger generation who know little but strife are taking the lead and radicalising a separatist movement that had tentatively talked peace with New Delhi.
Several failed rounds of peace talks between moderate separatists and New Delhi and a rise in killings blamed on security forces has further alienated the people of Kashmir.
Most of Kashmir has been locked down to quell protests, separatist leader and hundreds of protesters have been arrested and the police is raiding homes without warrants.
But anti-India protests still continue across the scenic region.
Rebel violence has significantly declined in Kashmir but for the time being the automatic rifles have given way to slingshots, grenades and stones.
Is Kashmir a near-forgotten conflict set to explode? Is the strife-torn region ready to slide into a renewed phase of armed uprising?