The killing of Burhan Wani, the young man from Tral who had joined the ranks of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, has ended a long manhunt by the security forces. But it may already have given a new lease of life to the disaffection in the Valley. Burhan’s example combined with his audacious use of social media had persuaded only a handful of others in his age group to pick up the gun in the last two years, but he clearly gave voice to the unarmed anger of thousands. Despite the numerous eruptions of this disenchantment in confrontations between the police and army on one side and Kashmiri civilians on the other, even at sites of encounters with militants, both the Centre and state governments had sought to play it down, describing the radicalisation as a “local” phenomenon that could be easily brought under control. The peaceful by-election in Anantnag in which Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was elected to the Jammu & Kashmir assembly with a large victory margin, was seen as evidence of the acceptance of the status quo. If the Kupwara incident in April, and the recent Lashkar-e-Toiba attack on the CRPF convoy in south Kashmir, which killed eight jawans, were wake-up calls, the violent incidents around Burhan’s funeral should leave no doubt that the disenchantment is not localised, nor is it restricted to a few dozen people. At least 17 people, including one policeman, have lost their lives; the police have come under unprecedented attack. All this begs a couple of questions: Given the reaction to the killings and funerals of other militants, did the security forces have no plan in place for the fallout even as they took the decision to eliminate Burhan? Would it have been wiser to capture him alive?
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Beyond the security aspects, the turmoil in the Valley has shown up the glaring absence in the present dispensation of a political approach to the Kashmir issue. While the PDP-BJP coalition government’s promise to study the possibility of withdrawing the AFSPA has remained just that, last week’s well-intentioned decision by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to release 634 stone pelters and withdraw cases against them, has turned out to be too little too late. With no progress in talks with Pakistan, the Centre’s stubborn insistence that there are no third parties to the Kashmir issue has prevented it from making a substantive political outreach to various stakeholders in the Valley, despite the promise to do so in the “agenda for the alliance”.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was undeniably scoring political points with his tweet that Burhan would prove to be a bigger rallying point from his grave than alive. But if that prognosis is not to come true, it is time for the Centre to recognise that Kashmir today needs big political steps. Nothing would be more self-delusional than to use the resumption of the Amarnath Yatra to show all is well and normal again in the state.