Editorial (The News): In the most deadly attack since January 2013 on an Indian army installation in Held Kashmir, militants staged an audacious attack on a military camp located about 100 kilometers from Srinagar, and not far from the Line of Control.
Eleven soldiers lost their lives and six militants died as well in fighting that lasted several hours. The violence came as the polling process for state elections got underway in Kashmir, and was not the only violent episode witnessed on Friday. The attack on the army camp came ahead of a visit to Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is due to address a BJP election rally in Kashmir on Monday. It is unclear if the recent violence in Kashmir is linked to the polls taking place, but Modi’s divisive BJP is making a play to gain power in the state for the first time and in doing so is widening the divide between the Hindu population and the aggrieved Muslims. Modi has visited Kashmir on multiple occasions and is trying to sell his party in the state by promising economic development. It is a strategy which was always unlikely to curb separatist sentiment since anger in Kashmir exists more because of political than economic deprivation.
The recent violence underscores the need to find a solution to the problem of Kashmir. Modi is yet to directly blame Pakistan for the attack but the jingoistic Indian media is already on our case. While campaigning in Kashmir the Indian prime minister called the attack an attack on India’s democracy. One does not need to condone militancy to understand how wrong Modi is. Kashmir may be holding elections but the vote should not be confused for democracy. You cannot have democracy in an area occupied by hundreds of thousands of soldiers and where much of the population does not wish to be part of the country which has annexed it. All the freedoms one would associate with a functioning democracy, including freedom of speech and association, are absent in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir have no voice and, like all oppressed people, they lash out against their tormentors. The latest attack also raises the threat of revenge by the military. This has happened before and will end only if the effort to move towards a resolution of the Kashmir problem is pushed forward, not just by India and Pakistan but also by the rest of the world. Human misery such as that we see in Kashmir should not be tolerated. It is shameful this has been allowed for so long. This is not something Modi, or indeed the entire Indian political class, wants to hear but the Kashmiris cannot be silenced forever.