Kashmir bleeds as New Delhi awaits Musharraf
7 July 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: While a red carpet welcome awaits Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf at New Delhi and Agra, Kashmir continues to bleed. There has been no respite in militant attacks and the security forces’ retaliatory actions and sporadic reprisals after Pakistan’s military ruler was invited for talks by Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. All that is left by this ceaseless conflict is bloodstained life in the Valley and elsewhere in the state. The suffering may well be a point of discussion between the two leaders when they meet later this month but the desire for peace to return to the Kashmiris’ lives may still be elusive. At least the increasing number of violent incidents testifies that they are hoping against hope. “If they (Mr. Vajpayee and Gen. Musharraf) decide to meet again it would be seen as a big achievement; if they go beyond this one may well call it miracle,” opined a Western diplomat who was in the Valley last week to judge the mood of the Kashmiri people vis-à-vis the forthcoming summit. The threat issued by various militant outfits that they would continue to target the “enemy” even during the summit and the security forces’ pledge that they accept the challenge suggest Kashmiri is not off the hook yet. Official statistics give a feel of how outrage persistently takes lives in the state. It is immaterial whether a dead person is a soldier, a civilian or a militant. The unofficial death toll of 80,000 in the 12-year-old conflict may be on the higher side; the official 30,000- 35,000 is not any small. Not a single household is left untouched. They continue to live a pained life. The week of June 21-27 added another 70 dead to the toll. They included 42 militants or suspected militants (at least one “foreign mercenary” shot dead by the troops in an “encounter” later turned out to be a local herdsman), 16 security force men, a former militant working for the security forces and 11 civilians. Another 42 people were killed during the week June 28-July 4. A major incident last week was a fierce gunbattle between the militants and troops inside Bagtoor Nowshara jungle in the Gurez sector, close to the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan, which left seven militants and four soldiers, including an officer, dead. The fighting erupted late on June 25 evening and continued through June 26 afternoon. The militants had reportedly sneaked into India from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir when the troops ambushed them. Another bloody incident took place at Check Post Keeri in the Bijbehara area of south Kashmir, also on June 25. Three militants who had attacked a joint patrol of the local police’s elite counter-insurgency Special Operations Group and paramilitary forces were killed whereas a policeman was killed in the firefight that followed. On the same day, an encounter between the militants and the security forces left three soldiers, one militant and one civilian dead at Lah in Rajouri district. Seven soldiers were injured in the incident and unofficial reports suggest four of them succumbed later (not included in the final death toll during the week). Then comes the attack of July 1 in the Bowansar Rajwar area of Handwara. It left two soldiers dead and another injured. On that day, the security forces killed two Lashkar- e-Tayyaba militants, both said to be Pakistani nationals, at Kimsar Behak, also in Kupwara district. A night before, militants abducted two brothers, both surrendered militants, from their house at Panzoora Handwara and later shot them in a neighbouring forest. One of the victims died on the spot while the other escaped in an injured condition. Also killed on that day by slitting their throats were husband Muhammad Ishaq, a herdsman, and his wife Tasveer Begum at Khanater in Poonch district. The couple were accused of being “informers” of the security forces. In all these incidents apart from over 100 people getting killed, many were left crippled for life, properties worth millions destroyed and the Kashmiri further traumatised. The irony is that no one know whether this human tragedy would, at all, come up for discussion between the two leaders?