The Bold Voice of J&K

The rise of a new wave of militancy in J&K

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Ashok K Mehta   

When Burhan Wani was killed in a routine operation earlier this month, his father, a headmaster, was apparently waiting for it to happen: “The life cycle of a militant is seven years. He had used up six years”, he said. Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D.S Hooda has given the militants, who are joining now, a life of six months to 12 months. Despite these variations in the longevity of a militant, the worrying feature is that a new wave of militancy, called intifada, inspired by Wani, has started.
Henry Kissinger had famously said, “When an insurgent doesn’t lose, he wins; when security forces do not win, they lose”. Rarely has an externally aided insurgency been subdued by the use of force and coercion alone. The history of cementing Jammu and Kashmir de jure as an integral part of India is a case of missed and lost opportunities. The failure to create an effective deterrent to limit Pakistan’s ability to interfere in Kashmir is an enduring liability. Inadequate use of force against militants-turned-terrorists who are Pakistani nationals, coupled with absence of a political process, has cost the State dearly. Lessons were not learnt from uprisings in 2008 and 2010 to deal with a triad of interlinked operational issues – domination of Line of Control (LoC), suppression of militancy and securing the high ground in the information space with a youth outreach programme. As before, when the lid was put on, the underlying reasons for the violent protests this time, a false calm was restored.
While the security forces were prepared to deal with the spike in infiltration and related violence, it was not so for the protests that followed the killing of Wani. According to July 5 editorial in this newspaper, security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir had warned the Ministry of Home Affairs of growing anger and alienation against the PDP-BJP coalition Government – asking it to open channels of engaging with the Hurriyat and other stakeholders.
The new wave of militancy has attracted the local youth – of the 190 militants in Jammu and Kashmir, for the first time, 70 per cent are locals from well to do families and well educated, some of them Pakistan returned. Militants are highly motivated, driven by religious fervour and charged with radical and communal ideas. A sense of romanticism has also crept in among the Wani brigade who are ready to die for a cause. The intifada spirit, initially confined to south Kashmir, is spreading with popular local support for the cause. Accompanying is the feeling of imagined and real victimhood of all that is wrong in a State under frequent siege.
The most distressing phase of new-age militancy is locals hampering security force operations to take out militants holed up in villages. Women ring-fence parts of the military cordon to facilitate getaway of militants and even try to snatch weapons from security forces. Loud hailers from mosques denounce the operations and laud their trapped heroes. The situation gets worse during funerals of slain terrorists when crowds mixed with militants attack security force personnel andmilitary installations. Wani had more than 50,000 mourners, a large number by funeral standards. What can be more demoralising for soldiers than the terrorists they have killed, frequently sacrificing their comrades, being glorified and deified by locals. No insurgency can be subdued without local support.
It is estimated that 42 protestors were killed and more than 1,500 wounded in the aftermath of the Wani funeral. Despite the frequent bandhs and protest marches including in 2008 and 2010, security forces continue to be inept in crowd control resulting in excessive casualties. Special skills and benign equipment are required for this but police are not beneficiaries of such talent and tools.
What the Army and security forces can do in aid to civil authority in disturbed insurgency and terror-ridden States is to create conditions conducive for cranking in the political process. From a high of 7,000 in 1990 to 3,500 in 2003, the security forces have reduced terrorist population to a low of less than 200 today. The State and the Centre, who share power in the State, should kickstart the internal engagement with relevant stakeholders.
In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had started five working groups on Kashmir – strengthening relations across the LoC; Centre-State relations; good governance; infrastructure and economic development; Confidence Building Measures with Jammu and Kashmir – and like the engagement of interlocutors in the State, everything petered out.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to the Pampore attack in which eight Central Reserve Police Force men were killed said: “Those who have to work from the table will work from the table; and those who have the border will work at the border with full strength. Each one will fulfil responsibility entrusted to them. Our jawans are fulfilling their responsibility.” It is clear that those working from the table have not been fulfilling their responsibility for a long time now. Two years on after pledging to turn the situation around in Jammu and Kashmir a royal mess has been created by the PDP/BJP Government. Asking the security forces to carry the can for failures of governance and politics is extremely uncivil.
In displaying muscular nationalism, the government cancelled two meetings with Pakistan – Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh in August 2014 and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in August 2015 – over its meeting the Hurriyat. Quietly during the last session of Parliament, Minister of State Gen V. K Singh in a written reply removed the embargo on Hurriyat saying they were Indian citizens and could meet persons from any country. Modi wasted two years and then inevitably Pathankot happened.
Coinciding with the elimination of Wani, the Supreme Court gave a masterly strategic judgement on the indefinite deployment of the Armed Forces in Manipur. It could apply equally to other areas of internal conflict. Rejecting the government’s plea that a war-like situation existed in Manipur their Lordships ruled: “This would reflect poorly on our Armed Forces that they were unable to effectively tackle a war-like situation for almost six decades. It would also reflect poorly on the Government of India that it was unable to resort to constitutional provisions to bring a war-like situation under control for six decades.” In Jammu & Kashmir, it is seven decades.
The Courts are questioning the absence of the democratic process in open-ended deployment of security forces in a disturbed area. The military has achieved the optimum – keeping Kashmir as an integral part of India through war and war-like situations. But military deployment in Kashmir’s political vacuum will invite the law of diminishing returns.

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