Ramadan sees increased violence in Kashmir, reveals data

By Auqib Javeed, TwoCircles.net 

The holy month of Ramadan all over the world witnesses’ festivities and joy among Muslims. For Muslim majority Kashmir, the month adds more violence and mayhem, reports Auqib Javeed. 

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Srinagar: Since 2017, the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in Kashmir has been the bloodiest month of year recording at least 199 killings in different incidents of violence in the conflict-torn region – with this year’s Ramadan alone recording 44 killings. Data for the past four years reveals increased violence, bloodshed, protests, and a spike in encounters with militants and armed forces during the Muslim holy month.

Data compiled by prominent human rights group Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a copy of which lies with TwoCircles.net, reveals that among 199 people killed in Ramadan since 2017 in Kashmir, 100 are militants, 50 are civilians and 49 belonged to armed forces and Jammu Kashmir police personnel.

Observers in Kashmir believe that the increase in day to day violence in Kashmir peaked following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016.

The four-year period from 2016 to 2019 recorded the killing over 700 militants and points to the frequency of violent encounters between armed forces and militants, besides the killing of 494 civilians and 517 armed and police forces personnel in the same period.

Ramadan in 2017 saw a total of 54 killings, which included 16 armed forces, 30 militants, and 8 civilians.

In 2018 – despite the call for ceasefire announced by Government of India following requests by Mehbooba Mufti led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir to cease violent operations, the violence didn’t abate and the ceasefire didn’t yield any positive results.

Despite the call for a ceasefire, the holy month of Ramadan in 2018 – which fell on May 16 and concluded on June 14 – witnessed 39 killings, which included 16 armed forces, 23 militants and 19 civilians and over 60 incidents of militant-related violence.

During the “ceasefire”, there was a spurt in grenade attacks too. At least 18 grenade attacks took place which left nearly 60 people, including 27 security forces personnel injured, the JKCCS report reveals.

Pertinently – as per JKCCS, the year 2018 was the deadliest year of the last decade as violence peaked during the year resulting in the killing of at least 586 people in different incidents of violence, which is highest in the last decade.

The violence continued into 2019.

The holy month of Ramadan in 2019, which fell on May 7 and concluded on June 4, saw an uptick in violent incidents in Kashmir, with almost daily encounters, Cordon and Search Operations (CASO’s), killings, shutdowns and protests.

Data accessed by TwoCircles.net revealed that Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a total of 43 killings, which included 25 militants, 13 civilians, and five armed forces personnel in the holy month of Ramadan in 2019.

In 2019, the month of Ramadan saw almost a daily occurrence of encounters between armed forces and militants, with at least 26 encounters.

The trend of increased violence continued into 2020 despite repeated claims by the Government of India that abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution in August 2019 had brought visible change on the ground in Kashmir.

The first five months of 2020 has witnessed the killing of nearly 80 militants and 25 armed forces personnel. The first five months have also seen a spurt in gunfights. In fact, the number of gunfights since March this year is higher compared to gunfights in the six months of the shutdown after the government of India scrapped Article 370 of the Indian constitution on August 5, 2019.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the frequency of encounters, clashes, destruction of property in the just concluded holy month of Ramadan has left people reeling under the cloak of daily violence. The just-concluded month of Ramadan – which fell on April 25 and concluded on May 23 – witnessed 44 killings, which included 12 armed forces personnel, 22 militants and 8 civilians. As many as twenty structures were destroyed during encounters and mobile internet was shut twice in Srinagar and as many times in South Kashmir areas where encounters occurred.

Kashmir based political observers see the spike in violence to continue until New Delhi takes any serious initiative of reaching out to the people for a meaningful dialogue process.

Noor Ahmad Baba, political commentator and former head of Kashmir University’s Political Science department told TwoCircles.net that BJP led Govt at Centre has not only alienated the common people but their own mainstream politicians here as well.

“The violence will increase. Youth will continue to pick up arms out of frustration and they will be killed because they can’t fight such a huge army,” Baba said.

Author and political commentator Gowhar Geelani said it is a matter of research to find out why Kashmir is witnessing a spike in militancy-related cases and counter-militancy operations.

“I believe that politics has to take centre stage to alter the status quo or else only more destruction awaits and the future looks darker than it is now. Better sense has to prevail,” Geelani said.

Geelani believes that the institution of “dialogue and rationality” in Jammu and Kashmir is in suspended animation just like the J&K’s Legislative Assembly is since June 2018.

“All the middle ground stands obliterated as if talking about dialogue, politics and solutions has been criminalised,” he argues.

Common Kashmiris said that the recent month of Ramadan saw only bloodshed and it has been the same for the past few years. They see no breakthrough in mitigation of violence.

“Ramadan is the month of supplication. People tend to pray peacefully but when you witness killing and bloodshed in this month too, you can imagine the plight of the people,” Mohammad Ubair, a student of Kashmir University said.

Mehraj-ud-din Bhat, a researcher of Contemporary Islamic Studies sees the spike of violence in Ramadan as to “crush the majority sentiment” in the sacred month.

“The intensification of operations against the militants with an unprecedented increase in the month of Ramadan seems a structural pattern to hurt sentiments of Muslims,” Bhat said.

However, the counter-insurgency grid in the valley doesn’t see any reason for the spike of encounters and violence in Ramadan.

A top CI official told TwoCircles.net that “it may be usual Muslim perception that all good deeds are rewarded in Ramadan so you see more militants getting killed in this month but whenever we get any lead – be it any month or time – we have to eliminate the militants,” he said.