2018: The year of funerals, political coups, and burning homes

Photograph of a civilian Amir Hameed Lone when he was life support for 12 days at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). After battling death for 12 days, Amir breathed his last on 15th April 2018. Amir was seriously injured in clashes following the killing of a local youth at Chhatergul Kangan of Ganderbal district.

2018 turned out to be the deadliest year of the last decade in Kashmir, where violence and uncertainly overshadowed everything. Apart from unleashing major military offensive, it saw politics taking different twists and turns in the region. In this piece,  a Srinagar-based independent journalist presents the major trending frames of the year.

The year set off with routine violence. Some houses as usual rose up in flames, while civilians continued to run towards the gunfight sites to rescue their armed brethren. Some fell defying the oft-repeated advisories, while others died inside their yards, neighbourhoods and streets.

As violence rose, New Delhi further flexed military muscle in its “integral part”.

The little space for dialogue squeezed further, while a new narrative was floated, confusing the historicity of the Kashmir dispute. The brutal rape and murder case involving an 8-year-old nomad Muslim girl at Kathua exposed the communal designs, and ended up sacking and shaming ministers in Mehbooba Mufti’s cabinet.

But mainly, it was the martial approach, lately termed as ‘state doctrine’ by BJP’s Yashwant Sinha, which remained at play: “Use brute force to quell the dissent.”

As the year progressed, a wave of uncertainty, amid the judicial assault on JK’s special status, gripped the valley. The militant leadership took the major drubbing, while NIA crackdown continued on Kashmir’s resistance camp.

By summer, the well-known editor’s broad day light assassination fanned tensions and unsettled his tribe. BJP soon called a presser and decided to desert the unholy alliance.

As governor’s rule came into vogue, the old man in the office, who had walked in Raj Bhavan during the peak 2008 Amarnath land row, played his own self — the crisis manager. Once he failed to take dictations from Delhi, NN Vohra had to make way for BJP’s own governor—the Indian premier Narendra Modi’s pick—drafted from Bihar.

As Satya Pal Malik’s tumultuous tenure began, the violence refused to ebb. Such was his posturing—from day one—that despite civilian killings, he played Nero.

He was soon fiddling with state laws at the behest of his SAC — majorly represented by the former ‘celebrated’ Indian officials. In wake of the grand alliance, his eleventh-hour decision to dissolve the assembly, on which he was sitting for months, only made him Delhi’s suitable JK manager.

Even as he ended up harrying BJP’s ally Sajad Lone in the process, Malik managed to steer clear of the controversy. By facilitating the twin polls on expected lines in the state. He did it for Delhi, where others had faltered and fumbled.

Amid these shrilling political affairs, Kashmir continued to witness the vitriolic violence. By the year end, at least 565 killings, including 265 insurgents, 152 civilians and 148 Indian forces personnel, made 2018 the bloodiest year of the last decade.

Kashmiri kids displaying fired bullets collected from the damaged houses after the gunfight at Mujgund on the outskirts of Srinagar. Two teenage militants Mudasir Parrey, 14, and Saqib Bilal Sheikh, 17, along with their non-local commander were killed in that gunfight.

A youth stands in front of a wall of a residential house that was ravaged during a gunfight at Nowgam, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Sabzar Ahmad Sofi a scholar turned militant, along with his associate were killed in a gunfight that took place in the house.

People shouting pro-freedom slogans during the funeral procession of a civilian Adil Ahmad Yadoo who lost his life after an armed forces vehicle mowed him down in Chattabal, Srinagar during intense clashes between anti-India protesters and armed forces following a gun fight in the area.

Indian policemen firing pellets and tear smoke shells towards anti-India protesters during the funeral of militant Dawood Salafi at his native place HMT, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Dawood was killed along with his three associates in a gunfight at Nowshera village of Anantnag district.

People run for cover after armed forces fire tear gas shells on the funeral procession of militant Zubair Ahmad Turray at his native place Main Town of Shopian district. Zubair was killed on 3rd April 2018, a day that is being termed in Kashmiri history as The Bloody Sunday. 13 militants, four civilians and three armed forces personnel lost their lives in three separate gunfights, both carried out in District Shopian of South Kashmir.

People surround the ambulance carrying the body of militant Fayaz Ahmad at his native place Khanqah, in old Srinagar. Fayaz was killed along with his two associates in a gunfight at Chattabal area of Srinagar.

Sister of a civilian Firdous Ahmad faints as the body of her brother arrives at their home located in Begum Bagh area of Kakapora, in Pulwama district. Firdous was killed after armed forces opened fire to disperse the anti-India protesters during a gunfight at Hakripora area of district Pulwama.

Amid sloganeering people carry the body of militant Tauseef Sheikh at his native village Rampora area of Khudwani, in Kulgam district. Tauseef along with his four associates including top commander Saddam Padder were killed in a gunfight at Badigam village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Women and children watch the funeral procession of militant Adnan Hizbi at his native village Kareemabad, in Pulwama district. Adnan was killed along with his two associates including an Army man turned militant Zahoor Ahmad Thokar in a gunfight at Sirnoo village of district Pulwama.

A young Kashmiri kid shouting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans during the funeral ceremony of two militants Umar Malik and Wakar Sheikh at their native place Malikgund, in Shopian district. Umar and Wakar were killed along with their associate in a gunfight at Kiloora village of district Shopian.

A brother of militant Shariq Ahmad Sheikh clings to his grave at his native village Gulzarpora, in Pulwama district. Shariq was killed along with his associate in a gunfight at Tahab area of district Pulwama.


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