Kashmir witnessed another unfortunate scene on Monday when several thousand people gathered for the funeral of the three militants belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit who were gunned down by security forces at the Awora village in Pahalgam. The three militants had planned a major attack, before specific intelligence on them led the security forces to their hideout.
The disturbing trend of the locals attending militants' funerals in the valley does not seem to die down. An officer posted in the valley says that the people tend to attend such funerals in large numbers especially when the militant is a local. "There is no logic or justification, but it continues to happen," he says. Moreover in the midst of an operation, the locals gather around the encounter site and pelt stones at the security forces. This was witnessed in the Awora encounter too.
Missing the point:
The Indian Army always gives local militants a chance to surrender. There have been several such instances when a militant is holed up given a chance to surrender. When the militant has refused to surrender, the army brings the family members in a bid to coax him to give up arms.
However, there are some militants who refuse to surrender and the security forces have no option but to engage them in battle. The killing of Burhan Wani became the reason for the Kashmir unrest that began on July 9, 2016. Since then, it has become a trend for locals to attend militant funerals.
Take the case of Rayees Ahmed Dar the Lashkar-e-Tayiba militant who was gunned down in Kakpora. Crowds had come in large numbers and even raised pro-azadi slogans.
Turning them into martyrs
The death of Abu Qasim, the dreaded LeT militant also witnessed similar scenes. The man with a reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head was given a hero's good bye by the people of Kulgam. Thousands in all age groups turned up at his funeral and mourned his death. Women were wailing and the impression that one got after witnessing this was that a terrorist had been turned into a martyr. The case of Qasim is even more ironic considering he was a Pakistani.
Going by the recent events, it appears as though Kashmir is being pushed back to what it was in the late 90s. The crowds at the funerals of militants suggests a sense of defiance. People feel that Kashmir should be viewed as a political issue. There is a great deal of insecurity among the youth in particular who complain of being alienated. Such an existing scenario in Kashmir has led to this defiance and attending these funerals is nothing but an attempt to send a message out to the government.