In Kashmir, Blood and Grief in an Intimate War: ‘These Bodies Are Our Assets’

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“Sameer loves these,” she said, pressing a handful of coconut candies into my palm and tugging me into their bare living room. The candies were exceptionally sweet and left a milky taste on the tongue.Sameer Tiger’s parents said their son was a reluctant militant. One afternoon in early 2016, he was accused of throwing rocks at police officers. Sameer Tiger was working in the bakery at the time, his parents said, and they insisted he was innocent.But the police didn’t listen and dragged him into a truck by his hair, they said. He spent a few days in jail. After he was let out, he disappeared.Soon his face popped up on separatist websites, his piercing eyes staring at the camera, his bushy hair now down to his shoulders, a Kalashnikov in his hands.“When we saw that,” said Maqbool, his father, “we said goodbye.”More than 250,000 Indian Army soldiers, border guards, police officers and police reservists are stationed in the valley, outnumbering the militants 1,000 to one. Most militants don’t last two years. One fighter, a former college sociology professor, was killed in May just two days after he joined.Their attacks tend to be quixotic and they usually die in a hail of automatic weapon fire. Their assassinations and killings are not militarily significant, more acts of protest against Indian rule. Of the approximately 250 known militants, police officials said, only 50 or so came from Pakistan, and most of the rest, the locals, have never left the valley.