The worst fears about the Kashmir Valley post-August 5 are coming true with violence going up sharply in the last few days. Militants in the Valley have ratcheted up their attacks, killing three non-residents in the last three days.
On Wednesday afternoon, unknown militants shot dead an unskilled labourer from Chattisgarh at a village in southern Pulwama district.
A few hours later militants, according to police, surfaced in neighbouring Shopian district and killed a Punjab based apple trader while injuring another. Similarly, on Monday barely a few hours after the postpaid cell phones in the Valley sprung to life after remaining dead for 70 long days, militants surfaced at a village in Shopian district and killed a truck driver. The driver had arrived with the truck to transport apples outside the state.
The security establishment and political observers had braced for a spike in violence after the NDA government read down Article 370 and 35A and ended the special constitutional provisions that Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed on August 5. However, the calibrated violence directed at non-locals is a new trend in the Valley.
Security agencies see the killing of the truck driver and the fruit trader as a desperate attempt by militants to bully fruit growers into submission. But they are largely at a loss on the killing of the poor migrant labourer.
Threats to fruit growers
Militants, according to police, have been consistently issuing threats to growers since the harvesting season began in the Valley in early September. The threats asking the farmers not to pluck the yield come in the form of posters put up at various places across the fruit belt of Kashmir. The attack on a fruit trader inside his house in Baramulla was the first warning to the farmers.
Although growers went ahead to harvest their crop, two significant fruit Mandis in Sopore and Shopian continue to remain shut.
" I am only picking up the fruits and packing them. The killing of a driver will have a bearing on sale and transportation", said Javed Ahmad, an apple grower in Shopian.
In view of the threats issued by militants and growing attacks, the government in early September decided to procure the crop directed from the growers through National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India( NAFED).
The growers, however, were largely reluctant to sell to NAFED.
Nazir Ahmad, an orchard owner explains that many growers have taken money in advance from traders in Delhi and other places and they have to send the supplies to those traders first.
Identity issue and violence
Political observers believe that violence aimed at outsiders is related to identity and cultural issues that have surfaced since August 5. The controversial reading down of Constitutional provisions was like a red rag to a bull to those who were sensitive about their identity and culture.
Militants in Kashmir, they point out, had seldom targeted outsiders earlier. This fresh spurt of violence and singling out non-residents is both unprecedented and ominous, say political observers. Targeting migrant labourers is also a first, they point out.
"Those who are behind these killings want to send out the message that they are against settlement of outsiders in Kashmir", they believe.
Observers believe the situation was aggravated by the irresponsible statements made by a few right-wing leaders, which upset both people and the militants. . They referred to a BJP lawmaker in Uttar Pradesh who had flippantly said that the move would enable the party’s young cadre to marry fair-skinned women in Kashmir. Such statements were humiliating, insulting and may well have provoked the militants.