When a militant dies in Kashmir

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militants killed during an army encounter
militants killed during an army encounter

The video is just 1.15 minute long. And it has gone viral in Kashmir. It is about a father in a South Kashmir village asking his militant son Showkat Ahmad Lone to surrender before the waiting security personnel close in and kill him. A posse of soldiers pushes the frail, pheran-⁠clad old man to the front with a megaphone in hand -⁠ its red narrow end and the white cone-⁠shaped horn is the only colour in the hauntingly gray video.

“Shawa (short for Showkat). I am your papa. Please come out. Save your life. I will save you. Shawa. Come out please. You don’t have even weapons with you. Raise your hands and come out please,” the old man calls out, sobbing as he speaks. But there is no response from the three storeyed brick house in which his son is holed up with another militant Gulzar Ahmad Bhat.

The Old man calls out again: “Shawa. Shawa. Please come out. I have nobody without you. What will I do? I have grown old now. Nobody will harm you if you surrender. I will save you.”

Again no response. Silence only deepens. The camera lifts to the gable of the house. It lingers on the shut windows. Nothing seems to move there. Disappointed, the soldiers behind the old man tell him to stop. “Come back now. You can call him on his phone. If he is willing to surrender, he will do so.”

But Showkat and his associate Gulzar don’t. In the subsequent gunfight both were killed: Showkat, a resident of village Lelhar and Gulzar, a resident of Tilangam. They worked for  Lashkar-⁠e-⁠Toiba. A police man was also injured in the exchange of fire. The encounter took place on August 11, 2015. Their funeral was attended by the thousands.

Ever since, the militancy in South Kashmir has only further spread. Since January, twenty four militants and seven security personnel have been killed in the intermittent encounters, most of them taking place in the four districts of South Kashmir – Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam. Latest figures put the number of militants in the Valley at 145, again most of them from South Kashmir, with local recruits decisively outnumbering the foreigners.

This is happening at a time when the militancy in North Kashmir has diminished and its former bastions like the apple town of Sopore are now by and large peaceful. There is so far little understanding of what has prompted the youth in South to join militancy in large numbers. Geographically, South Kashmir is located far away from Line of Control unlike Kupwara and Baramulla districts. This rules out easier accessibility to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) – either for crossing over for arms training or for getting weapons. Also given the strengthened fencing of LoC, it is not easy to send across arms from PoK.