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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 44 New Delhi October 20, 2018

Midnight Raids by Security Forces: A Wild Threat among Youth in Kashmir

Friday 19 October 2018

by Aijaz Ahmad Turrey and Tajamul Maqbool

Life in the Kashmir Valley, especially South Kashmir, has become hell for residents on account of increasing and continued nocturnal raids by the Indian security forces, forcing people to remain wide-awake during nights to foil arrest bids. The raids were earlier limited to family members of active Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and other militant groups. But nowadays no one is free from this dreadful grip conducted by Jammu and Kashmir Police, the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles and Central Reserve Police Force jointly. People protested and blocked the roads and observed shutdowns several times but there seems to be no relaxation in this unending unrest. Residents in South Kashmir said that midnight raids by security forces have forced scores of youths to go into hiding. The forces arrest whoever they find, especially the youth, beat others and damage property including vehicles, houses and even apple trees. Many of the police and Army personnel come in civilian dress and are very rough to those who oppose them.

The situation seems like that of the 1990s where people use to sleep at the houses of their relatives and friends to avoid any harm by the security agencies. It is a kind of tactics used by the security forces to terrorise the common masses and suppress the voices against the right to self-determination. Since the 2008 uprising in the Valley, there has been an increasing number of young protestors as compared to the armed struggle of the 1990s that was confined to militants only. There has been a shift in the nature of protests. Today the protests are more intense and violent and largely led by younger generations. Earlier in the name of CASO and encounters between security forces and militants, people used to move to neighbouring villages out of fear, but today it is impossible to stop the younger generation from moving towards the encounter sites. The protestors move towards the encounter site with the aim to save the lives of militants and use stone-pelting as a tool to disturb the operation. This has resulted in that many operations against the militants were cancelled by the security forces due to intense protests.

In today’s Kashmir conflict, the younger generation has been an important part of the movement and it has been a challenge for the security agencies to control the younger masses. Various programmes have been launched by the security agencies to engage the local youth and change their minds from the idea of Azadi. But these have not gained the desired results for the security establishments. Now the security forces, with the help of local informers have started nocturnal raids to arrest the protesters and to create the fear among the people so that they do not participate in the protests. The raids have not been limited to arrests only, but have resulted in the loss of property, production, humiliation of women and torture of family as a whole. Many people also charge them with stealing their money and precious things during the nocturnal raids. The families are very much disturbed with regard to the future of their children.

The victims of night-raid arrests have a kind of frustration and revenge in their minds and hearts. Instead of turning them towards peace the forces torture them badly behind bars forcing them to indulge in more violent activities. Day by day the outward calm, however, seems to melt away after sunset. So far the police have reportedly arrested thousands from different parts of Kashmir, but no official figures are available.

The forces said that they want to maintain peace by arresting only those youth who are involved in stone-pelting and other anti-India protests. But reports from the villages of South Kashmir’s Anantnag, Pulwama, and Shopian followed by North Kashmir’s Baramulla, Kupwara, and Bandipora, and Central Kashmir’s Budgam and Ganderbal reveal that the forces do not spare anyone during night-raids, they arrest whoever they find at home and mercilessly beat whoever raises a voice. They do not even spare the women. It is the most troubling characteristic of the armed conflict in Kashmir that the warfare is conducted amongst the people and inside the houses instead of conventional battlefields.

The authors are research (Ph.D) candidates at the Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar.

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