Kashmir calms down, but peace still distant
Winter has come to Kashmir, a scenic valley deep in the Himalayas, cooling tensions in the disputed region after months of violent anti-India demonstrations.
At least 110 people have been killed since June. Dozens were wounded, mostly by police bullets, during the protests – the biggest since a revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989.
A separatist strike, curfew and security lock-down, that dragged on for over four months and closed much of the region, have ebbed away and the streets across Kashmir are abuzz with activity again.
Authorities say the arrest of some “hard-core” protest organisers and the onset of winter helped to calm the protests.
But there is no optimism across Kashmir valley that peace has returned.
Nayeem Akhtar, chief spokesman of the state’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party says the weakening of anti-India protests should not be mistaken for an end to the problem.
“You cannot expect Kashmiris to be in permanent agitation mode. People are exhausted, they have suffered deaths, injuries, financial losses,” Akhtar told The Hindu newspaper.
Locals fear that if New Delhi fails to address the Kashmir anger, deaths and rights violations, the disputed region could slide into a renewed phase of militancy.
“…otherwise, as a Kashmiri, I am worried that stone-pelting should not lead to something worse,” Akhtar warns.
Authorities in Srinagar removed some security bunkers and appointed a new team to talk to the violence-weary people and their leaders, as part of New Delhi’s efforts to defuse tensions in Kashmir.
But there is already a sudden rise in militancy and security agencies say a large number of “stone pelting” protesters are joining the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.
If New Delhi does not act quickly to address Kashmir political grievance, will the region flare up again?
Does Kashmir risk a return to militancy?
The warning signs of violence are visible there. Nearly a dozen militants were killed in separate gun battles in the past one week across the region.