Local Terrorists: Heroes for Kashmiris?
This is a guest blog written by Damodar. We thank him for the effort!
We find that sympathy of people with terrorists in Kashmir is increasing. When LET commander Abu Qasim was killed more than 30000 people attended his funeral. This number was larger than that which attended the funeral of CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (one of the most popular leader in recent times). During Pompore encounter people blocked roads to obstruct operations by the Security Forces. The protesters shouted anti India slogans. This fresh wave of sympathy for terrorists is akin to 1989-90 phase when militancy first erupted in Kashmir. Let us analyze the reasons.
The dismissal of the state government in 1987, rigged elections in 1988, killings of Kashmiri insurgents in Army operations since 1989, increased role of religion in Kashmiri politics, role of Pakistan propaganda and sponsored terrorism and vigorous counter action by Army, continued public harassment due to invocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), manipulative role of the centre and corrupt and inefficient state governments, seen to be working more in collusion with the centre rather than for the people are some important issues which have shaped Kashmiri psyche.
Social and local media, a very powerful tool of moulding public opinion, has been exploited by terrorists’ to spread anti central government and anti-Security Forces propaganda. In August 2015 terrorist Burhan Vani’s video and group photos became popular among Kashmiris. He posted his photo with arms and ammunition. In his video he projected himself as a protector of the Kashmiri people and Islam.
Creation of Anti Muslim Image of Central Government
Hanging of Afzal Guru, anti-Kashmiri students actions in Meerut, Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri in 2015, historical popular perception that Modi as CM was involved in state sponsored killing of Muslims in Gujarat has given enough material for Kashmiri separatists to project the BJP led government as anti Muslim. Earlier the separatists promoted the cause of liberation of Kashmir. Now they increasingly project themselves as saviours of Islam.
Poor Media Management by Army & Central Government
Indian Army has been running operation Sadbhawna in Kashmir since 1998 which show tangible development work. Indian Army played a key role in rescue operations during the Sep 2014 floods in Kashmir. Despite the good work done, inadequate media handling has failed to alter the image of the Army, battered by the long years of harassment suffered by the public under the AFSPA.
Perceived Non Delivery on Recent Promises
The popular perception is that the central government has failed to deliver on the promised relief measures post the 2014 floods. BJP is part of the state government and is perceived as having deliberately not delivered. This has lowered the credibility of not only BJP, but also the PDP.
Conclusion: Terrorists as Heroes!
It is difficult to pinpoint one single issue as responsible for the current state of feelings. The centre as well as state governments lack credibility and the Army is seen as a major and consistent source of harassment. The good work done in times of need has sadly not been able to change even the Army’s image in popular perception. In this situation the religiously inclined Kashmiri insurgents are seen as the desperate heroes of a desperate people. The central government needs to work very hard and fast to deliver on the promised relief measures, ensure that the fruits of development and progress reach the masses and consistently work to change the anti-Muslim image to prevent deterioration of the situation in Kashmir.