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The new face of resistance in Kashmir

Murali Krishnan New Delhi
April 12, 2017

The Indian government was forced to postpone by-elections in Kashmir due to violent protests. Clashes between protesters and security forces have continued for months, with experts pointing to a new resistance movement.

Indien Kashmir Eskalation Gefechte
Image: Reuters/D.Ismail

Srinagar is once again volatile after weekend violence forced the government to postpone by-elections. At least eight people were killed and more than 200 were wounded during clashes between protesters and police. And authorities said Monday they killed four suspected rebels who were attempting to cross into the India-administered Kashmir from the Pakistani section.

The initial turnout of voters in the Srinagar by-election was just 7 percent - the lowest anywhere in India-administered Kashmir in almost three decades. Kashmiri separatists had called for a boycott of the polls.

Violent protests completely paralyzed Budgam, a city which recorded a 60 percent turnout in the last state election.

"There were incidents of stone pelting. Petrol bombs were hurled and a polling booth was set ablaze. Electronic voting machines were also damaged," said the state's Chief Electoral Officer, Shantmanu.

Violence spreading

Anti-India sentiment is growing in the region and experts fear that things will likely to get worse in the coming days.

"The unrest is spreading in Kashmir. The southern part is now the hub of militancy," Bashir Manzar, an analyst and editor of the "Kashmir Images" newspaper, told DW.

The situation in the Indian part of Kashmir has been volatile since the killing of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July last year. Protests against Indian rule and clashes between separatists and soldiers have claimed hundreds of lives since then.

Indien Symbolbild Polizeigewalt
Kashmiri youth feel alienated and frustratedImage: Getty Images/AFP/

Since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir - a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.

"Kashmiri youth are willing to confront the security forces; they are willing to die," Riyaz Malik, a Political Science lecturer, told DW.

Alienation and radicalization

Kashmiri youth are at the forefront of this new wave of violence. Experts say that many of these teenagers don't feel any association with New Delhi.

Kashmir's former chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, who is also a candidate in the by-election, agrees.

"The young generation has only seen the soldiers carrying guns. That is why we're seeing these attacks on the security forces and the heavy loss of lives," said Abdullah.

According to the latest census, nearly 60 percent of the Valley's male residents are under the age of 30, and 70 percent are below the age of 35.

"The state simply does not have enough jobs to keep its youth occupied. Apart from unemployment, there is also a need to work out a political solution," R K Bhat, a political science lecturer from Srinagar, told DW.

Mukhtar Ahmad, a journalist from Srinagar, who has chronicled the conflict for over two decades, believes that the administration must act swiftly to arrest the downward slide.

"If things continue like this, we will see a very serious problem. This could be a bad summer again," Ahmad told DW.

Wani's successor and the Hizbul Mujahideen group's commander, Zakir Musa, is using social media to urge young protestors to take on the security forces. He has a wide appeal among the youth.

In his latest video, Musa told protesters to confront the military not in the name of nationalism but "for Islam." He also said that nationalism and democracy are forbidden in Islam.

All these factors, experts say, are contributing to an increasing radicalization of Kashmiri youth.

Murali Krishnan
Murali Krishnan Journalist based in New Delhi, focusing on Indian politics, society and business@mkrish11