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Ending the cycle of violence in Kashmir

  • 15 March 2019


Last month, 19-year-old Adil Ahmed Dar drove a Scorpio SUV packed with explosives into a convoy of more than 70 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) vehicles in south Kashmir's Pulwama district. When he detonated the car bomb, eyewitnesses said, it triggered an 'earthquake-like' shock wave, leaving smouldering, twisted metal ruins and scattered body parts strewn along the highway. The attack killed more than 40 CRPF officers, making it Kashmir's deadliest in three decades.

Car bombs and suicide attacks have been surprisingly rare in Kashmir; it's the most militarised region in the world, so violence is a feature of everyday life. But the nature of this attack — a commercially available car pitted against a convoy of armoured trucks — attests to the kind of violence that most commonly afflicts the valley. 'A complex weapon makes the strong stronger,' wrote George Orwell, 'while a simple weapon — so as long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.'

Kashmiris are subject to the daily injustices of occupation; the omnipresent Indian forces act with virtual impunity. Last July, in Pulwama, not far from where Adil Ahmed Dar grew up, I met a family whose home had been razed by Indian forces during a security crackdown. The family's son and his friend were taken by Indian security forces and used as human shields in the remainder of the nighttime raids.

The boys and their family escaped uninjured. A few days later, gathered in the front room of their neighbours' home, they explained to me that Pulwama was becoming increasingly dangerous. In recent years, the centre of the militancy has shifted to south Kashmir and, as a result, India's security presence there has grown, terrorising and humiliating the local population. The cycle of violence has charted different courses in Kashmir since partition, but it has never ceased.

As I was leaving, Romana Bashir, the adult daughter of the family whose house had been destroyed, gave me a handwritten letter:

'Here people of Kashmir are in trouble. Here no one is safe whether old one, younger one or even a kid. Indian army oppresses us too much. They are oppressing our younger generation. There is no place everyday ... where there is no encounter. They are using bullets, pellets, shells upon us due to which so many people lost their lives, eyesights and so many become handicapped.

'We girls are also not safe in our paradise. Our