Few Signs of Justice, Normalcy in Kashmir

Attack on security forces . . .

In a high-security neighbourhood of Srinagar, the largest city in India’s Kashmir Valley, militants attacked a police bus on Monday, killing three officers and critically injuring 13 others. This is the first major attack on security forces since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. Citing the attack, local political leaders challenged the Indian government’s narrative of normalcy returning to the region. Officials maintain that terror incidents in the Valley began decreasing after August 2019, but local leaders and the public say otherwise.

Civilians caught in the crossfire . . .

Hours before Monday’s attack, Indian counterinsurgency police killed two suspected rebels, allegedly after the suspects fired at them. However, witnesses say the accused did not fire at the officers and were killed without justification. The incident echoes another fatal shooting in November, when Indian police killed four men allegedly caught in the crossfire between security forces and militants. While the police statements have varied regarding the men’s militant status, the victims’ families maintain that at least three of them were civilians and that the police used them as “human shields” while searching for militants in a shopping complex.

Will there ever be a resolution?

While civilian deaths are nothing new in the Valley, perhaps equally painful are the disappearances of people in the region. Every year, on December 10, International Human Rights Day, families gather to protest, remember, and seek answers about their missing kin. However, this year, families avoided public gatherings as human rights groups and activists have come under heightened scrutiny and been subjected to physical crackdowns from authorities who claim these groups can be misused to “hurt the interests of the nation.” The crackdowns are particularly concerning to area residents, as the Indian security forces can operate with legal impunity under the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). Furthermore, measures such as the Public Safety Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have also been used to stifle dissent. As highlighted in a BBC report, the alienation of Kashmir is pushing the younger generation towards armed struggle, a factor that will intensify conflict and unrest in the region.