Working out new ways
The past two years have witnessed a new phenomenon in Kashmir where protestors have been witnessed to storm the encounter sites. This new development has been witnessed across Kashmir with the intensity of such incidents being very severe in most parts of south Kashmir.
This new development has over the past two years caused a great concern for the security establishment as well as the general populace in the valley. Going by the official figures around 50 civilians were killed in protests at encounter sites this year (until November 26). This trend seems highly disturbing as the loss of 50 civilians during encounters is quite enormous.
The killings though could have been avoided, but the non compliance of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP’s) at the encounter sites has been a major cause of deaths taking place at the encounter sites.
Though the security agencies operating in Kashmir had last year formulated a strategy to increase the number of their forces personnel in the outer and middle layer cordons, the strategy it seems has not paid any dividends.
The security plan entailed that outer and middle layer cordons would comprise police and CRPF men who would primarily be responsible for dealing with the law and order situation. The close-contact-cordon (third layer) would remain engaged directly with the militants, however, the civilian loses have still been witnessed.
Even on Sunday a teenage boy died because of a bullet injury in south Kashmir’s Batagund area when militants and security personnel were involved in a gunfight.
While as senior security officials say there is no fault in the standard operating procedure for dealing with protesters at the encounter site and in fact the SOP was modified after steep rise in such incidents in first six months this year, the killings have raised several important questions.
Questions that need answers from all stakeholders. Primarily, the onus of letting the civilian killings to happen is put on the state and the security agencies that come under its direct control.
These agencies, though how disciplined they may be, but the fact of the matter is that killings have taking place and are even now being witnessed, albeit the magnitude may have seen reduction in intensity as compared to last two years.
The last few major encounters that took place in south Kashmir were reported during the night and as such the participation of youth to disrupt the operations may have witnessed a decline, but the issue is that no sooner will an encounter ensue during the day time the results will be the same as have been witnessed during the past two years.
The killing of youth at encounter sites needs a debated response. Those who wield some influence on the present separatist leadership, besides the leadership itself has to come forward and debate the issue as to what needs to be done.
Letting our youth fall prey to bullets and pellets is no option, at least not for a place like Kashmir that has been witnessing mayhem and killings for three decades now.