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Kashmir terrorism and article 370 The Excelsior 17 Jan 2023
Speaking to reporters in Anantnag post the Rajouri killings on 01 and 02 Jan this year, Omar Abdullah stated, ‘Earlier, it was said that Article 370 pampered militancy in J&K and if it will be finished the region will get militancy-free and people will heave a sigh of relief. Instead of curbing militancy, there is a huge rise in militant activities in J&K.’ A similar comment had been made by Farooq Abdullah in Delhi in end Dec. Amit Shah, the Home Minister had stated as part of the debate on removing Article 370, ‘Article 370 is root cause of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. It allowed the terror networks to spread in the state,’ which the Kashmir leadership is exploiting.
The government, on the contrary, claims that there has been a drop in violence since abrogation of article 370. Police statistics mention that from August 5, 2016, to August 4, 2019, the number of law-and-order incidents in the Valley were 3,686 while 438 incidents were reported from August 5, 2019, to August 4, 2022, marking a major drop. The ADG Police, Kashmir zone, Vijay Kumar stated that over 500 militants were eliminated in the past three years. At the same time 174 security personnel and 110 civilians lost their lives as compared to 290 security personnel and 191 civilians in the previous three years.
Simultaneously, targeting of members of the minority Kashmiri Pundit community, migrant workers and off duty police personnel by so-called ‘hybrid terrorists’ continues. In addition, as the recent Rajouri and Sidhra incidents proved, militancy is far from over, despite being contained. Its spreading South of the Pir Panjal add to concerns.
On the positive side, Kashmir no longer witnesses shutdowns and stone pelting. Tourism is booming after COVID relaxations, with tourists even visiting regions close to the borders, which were generally no-go areas. Separatist politics has almost ended. The pro-Pak lobby in Kashmir has been shrinking while space available to the ISI reducing.
As former RAW chief, AS Dulat stated, ‘The (government’s) muscular policy in Kashmir has worked — militancy has come down, infiltration reduced… There are no separatists now in Kashmir, they have been mainstreamed. Militancy in Kashmir has not totally gone away, nor has the ISI.’ The muscular policy involved clamping down on the Hurriyat, blocking its funding and eliminating its power base. The government’s decision of demolishing residences of terrorist supporters has reduced their support base, with locals rushing with information.
There are reports that the government is considering toning down the deployment of Rashtriya Rifles and replacing them with CAPFs (BSF/CRPF) in few districts of the valley. The state police would also be given an enhanced role in anti-terrorist operations. This is based on the improving security scenario in the region. Kashmir will also host the G 20 Tourism meet in May this year, much against the objections of Pakistan.
Narco-terrorism is emerging as a new threat. With drones supplying drugs, families in the valley are being destroyed with increased drug addiction amongst the youth. There has yet to be a cohesive policy on handling drug abuse. Deaddiction centres exist but are insufficient and poorly managed. It requires a cohesive approach involving the state and society.
What remains a shortcoming is reducing numbers of youth selecting the gun instead of the pen. Numbers may be low as compared to previous years, but they continue. Is it because of high-handedness of security forces, unemployment, addiction to drugs or lure of easy money or a combination of all is difficult to state. Reports also suggest that radicalization continues. There are terrorist sympathizers, but these remain underground.
The days of poster boy terrorists like Burhan Wani, who were idolized with large fan following and the power to incite others into their fold has ended. Nor are there ‘funeral brigades’ which were recruiting grounds. There have been no claims of anyone picking up the gun on account of abrogation of article 370. Clamping down on overground workers reduces induction into terrorism.
For Pakistan removal of article 370 has been a major setback as they believe India has changed the disputed status of Kashmir. Their prediction that the Indian decision will result in mass protests were proved wrong. In fact there is a reverse scenario emerging. The population in POK and Gilgit Baltistan are currently protesting actions of the Pak state and seeking greener pastures on the Indian side. While Pak controlled regions face oppression and shortfalls in everything, development is evident on the Indian side. Pak media has been banned from reporting these developments as it would belie their claims on Kashmir.
Pak’s attempts to enhance terrorist activities were initially hampered by them being placed on the FATF Grey List. The acceptance of a ceasefire along the LAC reduced support to infiltration. This gave security agencies an opportunity to control terrorism within. In recent days, India has launched a diplomatic campaign against state sponsorship of terrorism, especially during its last month in the UNSC. It has placed Pak on the backfoot. Added is Pakistan’s concerns on is western borders where the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) is making inroads which necessitates a strong military response.
This has resulted in Pak exploiting its mouthpieces to propagate fake inputs on Kashmir. Pakistan’s former permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi writes in The Dawn, ‘Just about every aspect of life for Muslims in J and K is under assault by India’s ruling BJP. Human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture, continue with impunity.’ Pak is aware that it has lost the battle for Kashmir with none backing it. Apart from the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) spokesperson, no one else comments on it.
The removal of article 370 and converting the state into a Union Territory provided security forces the freedom to act without political pressure. An enhanced security grid reduced infiltration. To display its intent on development the government has opened a number of medical and management institutes. However, reducing unemployment, which is far higher than the national average has yet to be addressed. The biggest takeaway has been the end of stone pelting which was a daily feature till Aug 2019. At the end of the day, work still remains to be done.