Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir – Encounters, killings, stone pelting and protests have become a daily affair in India-administered Kashmir, with the toll on human lives spiking in past two years.
According to local reports, at least 50 people were killed in the last month, including 28 rebels,14 civilians and eight Indian security personnel.
More and more young boys join the armed resistance against the Indian rule, with some reports saying at least 250 youth have turned rebels since the summer of 2016.
Many believe it was Hizbul Mujahideen rebel Burhan Wani’s killing in July 2016 that triggered a wave of protests and prompted young boys to pick up a gun.
Wani’s killing resulted in massive instability and violence in Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan in its entirety. The two countries have fought two wars over the Himalayan territory so far.
Saturday also marked 71 years of the Indian army entering Kashmir in 1947, a day both Kashmiris and Pakistan observe as a “Black Day”.
“In the early nineties, Kashmir had a new relationship with guns, which has now matured as even educated boys are now arming themselves,” Sheikh Showkat Hussain, professor of political science at Central University of Kashmir, told Al Jazeera.
He said ordinary Kashmiris now support the armed rebels with “more conviction” which has made the resistance to Indian rule “stronger and more violent”.
Hussain’s views echo on the ground as gun battles between rebels and security forces become more frequent.
Instances of people surrounding such encounter sites and throwing stones on Indian troops to allow the trapped rebels to escape have also increased.
Rebels, on the other hand, threaten local policemen, who are also mostly Kashmiris, of grave consequences if they don’t quit their jobs. Nearly 40 policemen have been killed by rebels this year.