Giving rise to a series of mass protests and anti-India public demonstrations in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir, the martyrdom of young Kashmiri ‘poster boy’ Burhan Wani infused a new spirit into the Kashmir freedom movement. Now the recent martyrdom of his “successor”, the Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Sabzar Bhat has once again sparked fierce protests and agitation against the occupying Indian forces across the IHK. Soon after his death, a curfew was clamped in the entire valley to keep the angry protesters confined in their homes. However, on Sunday, thousands of Kashmiris defied curfew to attend the funeral of Sabzar Bhat in a village near Srinagar. Noticeably, the public sentiments against India have reached their zenith in the volatile valley.

As a precautionary measure, the government has ordered the suspension of mobile internet services in addition to imposing curfew throughout the troubled valley. The prominent Hurriyat leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani have been placed under house arrest. Similarly, the JKLF chief Yasin Malik has also been arrested and shifted to the central jail. Dukhtaran-e-Millat leader Asiya Andrabi is already in jail. As usual, while condemning the killing of Sabzar Bhat and other Kashmiris, Pakistan has called upon the international community, including the UN and human rights organisations, to intervene in this matter.

Last year, the martyrdom of young Kashmiri freedom activists Burhan Wani gave rise to what is being dubbed as the latest ‘Kashmiri Intifada’. A massive wave of unrest and agitation instantly gripped the valley following his death. Anti-India protests erupted across the valley in which more than one hundred Kashmiris died while more than 1500 were injured. The use of pellet guns by the Indian security forces also rendered dozens of Kashmiris blind. The troubled valley experienced a media blackout. Moreover, the valley also remained under the 53-day curfew, which was also the longest ever period of curfew in IHK. However, despite extensively and aggressively employing its coercive apparatus, India could by no means suppress Kashmiris’ freedom aspirations.

For a long time, India has been trying to consolidate its illegal occupation on Kashmir through military means. So now, Kashmir has become the most militarised zone in the world. Empowering the Indian security forces to use power with impunity, India has enacted a number of black laws, namely the Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), over a period of time. At present, besides more than half a million regular Indian Army troops, India has deployed a large number of personnel of the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Special Operation Group in Kashmir to suppress the ongoing Kashmir freedom movement.

Following the death of Burhan Wani last year, India readily devised some novel tools to effectively meet the ‘new challenges’ of controlling and dispersing the angry protesters in the occupied Kashmir. So the Indian security forces resorted to use of pallets guns against the protesters in occupied Kashmir, which left numerous Kashmiris blind. Similarly, a few days ago, we saw the Indian Army humiliating a young Kashmiri protester, named Farooq Dar, who was tied to the front of an army jeep as human shield. Regrettably, instead of punishing the junior army officer for this illegal and inhumane act, the India Army Chief awarded him with a Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card. This essentially shows how deeply the anti-Kashmiris vengeance has penetrated the Indian Army’s rank and file. Indeed no civilized country in the world can think of employing these sorts of sub-human and humiliating tactics against the unarmed protesters.

The current ‘Kashmiri Intifada’ should be distinguished from the past separatist or freedom movements in IHK. First of all, it is an indigenous Kashmiri movement which was initiated, and now being run by the Kashmiris people without any conventional external support. Pakistan, due to its internal counter-terror challenges in the post 9/11 period, has apparently abandoned altogether its earlier policy of logistically supporting the Kashmiri freedom fighters. So now the Kashmiris are struggling for their fundamental political rights themselves to determine their political future. Secondly, the Kashmiri youth are the forerunners of the current freedom movement. The Kashmiri youth, irrespective of their gender, class or orientation, are actively resisting against illegal Indian rule in IHK. In fact, young Kashmiri freedom activists like Burhan Wani and Sabzar Bhat are just the iconic symbols for this new Kashmir freedom movement.

It is really frustrating for the young Kashmiris that they are being denied their basic political rights, especially the right to self-determination, in this era of advanced communication and human rights. India certainly has made no significant endeavour for the economic uplift and well-being of the Kashmiris. Consequently, the conflict-hit disputed territory of Kashmir is now the most economically deprived and backward region in India. Owing to lack of economic activity in the valley, there are only insufficient economic opportunities for the Kashmiri youth. At the moment, the nature and quantum of their sufferings are simply unprecedented in the contemporary world. Therefore, the frustrated, alienated and deprived young Kashmiris have now revolted against India, which symbolically represents the political status quo in the occupied territory.

Despite fighting a number of wars and pursuing an extensive dialogue process for a long time, Pakistan and India, the two major South Asian stakeholders in Kashmir issue have failed to resolve this issue amicably. Now the snail-paced dialogue process between India and Pakistan has been suspended altogether as both countries are absolutely unable to sit together on the negotiating table. It is really regrettable that India is also hardly interested in initiating a dialogue process even with the indigenous Kashmiri leaders. It never bothered to seek a political solution for Kashmir problem by politically engaging any Kashmiri freedom organisation, including the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. So now, this non-inclusive policy has virtually put India in a political blind alley.

Observably, India’s entire domestic military, legal and political instruments to consolidate its illegal rule over Kashmir have badly failed in the face of Kashmiri people’s strong aspiration for freedom and self-determination. Therefore, under the circumstances, an impartial and independent plebiscite or referendum is the pragmatic solution for the underlying woes of the Kashmiri people, who have already paid a heavy price for their fundamental political rights. The Kashmiris should be allowed to determine their political future in accordance with the universal principle of ‘consent of the governed’.

In the contemporary age of communication and openness, no political movement or struggle can be suppressed through military means, or by unnecessarily imposing media restrictions on individuals. At this stage, in the absence of any significant outlet for the boiling sentiments of subjugated and exploited Kashmiris, their long-suppressed emotions would take a violent expression beyond the capacity and control of occupying Indian forces in IHK.