Kashmir: Another Cycle of Violence, Sans Conflict Resolution Initiatives
The legacy of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir denotes cycles of peace and violence over the past three decades. While there was relative calm in the Union Territory over the past few years and the period precedes that of August 2019 when the special status of the erstwhile State provided through Article 370 was revoked, recent trends indicate that another cycle of violence may be in the offing with terrorist groups changing the techniques to suit the present conditions on the ground.
How long this cycle of violence will last remains to be seen, for the Indian state has the will and the capability to contain the same even if there are additional triggers such as possible induction of Afghan trained militants. The moot question is will this follow measures for conflict resolution that may bring about greater peace and stability in the UT?
Before turning to what the conflict resolution measures are or can be a brief look at the trends in violence in October so far are relevant. There are two distinct trends visible in J & K in October and this includes both the region – Jammu as well as Kashmir.
First coming to the latter a series of terrorist attacks in Kashmir came through targeted assassination of a number of Kashmir Pandits and non state locals.
Seven civilians have been killed so far in October, mostly by pistol-borne youth are not listed with the security forces as “terrorists”. Many of these attacks are suspected to have been carried out by these "part time or hybrid terrorists".
"Hybrid terrorists or part time terrorists are those who are not listed with us but are in touch with militants, they are locally trained and after taking out one or two attacks, they slip back into normal life. 97 pistols have been recovered so far this year. This shows Pakistan has a new agenda that maximum number of pistols and hand grenades be pumped.
The main reason is to create an atmosphere of fear," said Vijay Kumar, IG Kashmir. These new lot of youth has been identified with the group ‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF) a cohort of the Lashkar e Taiyyaba which seems to have managed to organise urban youth and indoctrinate to indulge in targeted killings which does not require extensive training.
“85 percent attacks on police and other people were carried out with pistols,” he said, adding that till today 97 pistols have been seized. The Kashmir Police chief said: “Pakistan is pushing small weapons (Pistols) so that killings with labels like informers are carried out.” “85 percent attacks on police and other people were carried out with pistols,” he said, adding that till today 97 pistols have been seized. The Kashmir Police chief said: “Pakistan is pushing small weapons (Pistols) so that killings with labels like informers are carried out.”
These selective killings have raised fears of another exodus of Kashmir Pandit from the Valley replicating the first in 1990.
Reports indicate that Kashmiri Pandit families were leaving Sheikhpora, which was exclusively established in the Budgam district in 2003 return and rehabilitate the Pandits.
After the recent spate of attacks and killings, Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti president Sanjay Tiku told PTI: “Around 500 people or more have started leaving from different areas like Budgam, Anantnag and Pulwama. There are some non-Kashmir pandit families who have also left. It is 1990 revisited… It may seem invisible but migration is going on and I was anticipating this. We had requested an appointment from the Lt. Governor's office in June, but have not been given time till now.”
Police are now trying to break the chain of these attacks which will be difficult even though more than 500 marked as Overground Workers have been detained by the Jammu Kashmir Police. This may or may not lead to the perpetrators of the attack but will certainly only harden the anti national sentiment in the youth in the Valley and thus has to be guarded against.
A list of targeted killings since January summarised by Greater Kashmir is as per Appendix
The second trend is of resurgence of militancy in the hill sector of Jammu region – the Rajouri Poonch belt where terrorists have been holed out in forests and a major encounter is ongoing to winkle them out in Dehra Ki Gali (DKG) tourism point.
Five encounters, both in the hinterland and along the Line of Control (LoC), during the last two months have put security forces on alert with agencies warning of attempts for revival of militancy in Rajouri and Poonch districts as per Greater Kashmir. One took place on August 6 in Thanamandi, Bhangai in which two militants were killed while second took place at Kalas Mohalla of Karyote village of Thanamandi on August 19 in which one militant and one Army JCO were killed.
On August 30, another gunfight occurred in Poonch sector along the LoC which happened after the Army foiled an infiltration attempt and two militants were killed. Similarly, on September 2, Army intercepted a group of militants in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch in which a large Amount of arms and ammunition was recovered while one to two militants were killed but other members of the group took away their bodies.
The fifth gunfight took place on September 13 in Gambhir Mughlan area of Manjakote in Rajouri in which one militant was killed. Army also foiled two more Infiltration attempts along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch in the last two months by timely interception of militant groups. These details have been revealed in a report by Greater Kashmir.
The counter terror operation in DKF started on night of October 10 and 11 in Chamrer forest area on October 10 and one army JCO, one Naik and three jawans sustained critical injuries and later succumbed to the same.
Poonch range Vivek Gupta in fact confirmed that the "group was present in the area for two to three months. The area where contact took place and attack took place are in the same belt."
How the new violence portends are tackled by the State and Central security forces remains to be seen?
Meanwhile there are concerns of a surge of violence in Jammu and Kashmir through induction of LeT and JeM terrorist leaders trained in camps in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane accepted possibility of Afghan-origin foreign terrorists attempting to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir once the situation stabilises in Afghanistan does exist in the question answer session in the India Today conclave.
"Definitely, there has been a spurt in activities (in Jammu and Kashmir) but whether they can be directly linked to what is happening in or happened in Afghanistan, we really cannot say," the Army Chief said.
“But what we can say and learn from the past is that when the previous Taliban regime was in power, that time definitely we had foreign terrorists of Afghan origin in Jammu and Kashmir," he said. "So there are reasons to believe that the same thing might happen once again that once the situation in Afghanistan stabilises, then we could see an inflow of these fighters from Afghanistan to the Jammu and Kashmir," he added.
Chief of Army Staff said Indian armed forces are fully ready to deal with any such attempts. "We are prepared for any such eventuality. We have a very strong counter-infiltration grid to stop them at the border. We have a very strong counter-terrorism grid in the hinterland to take care of any such actions. Just as we dealt with them in the early 2000s, we will deal with them now also should they venture anywhere near us," he said.
Targeted killings since January – Source Greater Kashmir
• The first killing took place on first January when militants shot dead famous goldsmith Satpal Nishchal in Hari Singh High Street area of city. He was shot dead in his jewellery shop.
• The second killing took place on 17 February, when Akash Mehra, son of Ramesh Kumar Mehra, owner of famous Krishna Dhaba was fatally injured in militant attack. He succumbed to his injuries at Srinagar hospital.
• Just two days after attack on Mehra, two policemen were shot dead in a hit and run militant attack in Baghat Barzulla area of Srinagar. When cops were fired upon they were on grocery shop. This was the third incident.
• In the fourth incident two BJP councillors and a cop were killed on 29 March in Sopore Town of North Kashmir.
• In the fifth incident on 2 June, BJP leader, Rakesh Pandit was shot dead by militants when he was going to meet his friend in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
• In the sixth incident, a policeman was shot dead outside his residence in Eidgah area of Srinagar on 17 June.
• Inspector Parvez Ahmad was shot dead in Nowgam area on June, 22, by the militants. It was the seventh incident.
• SPO, Fayaz Ahmad Bhat and, his wife Raja Begum and daughter Rafiya Jan were killed in militant attack in Tral on 25 June. It was eight incident.
• In Bulbul Lanker area of Nawa Kadal in Srinagar on 27 July, a youth was shot dead by militants in broad daylight. This was ninth incident.
• In 10th incident, on 17 September, militants shot dead a non-local laborer in Nehama area of Kulgam district in southern Kashmir. He was identified as Shankar Kumar Chowdhary.
• On the same day, militants shot dead policeman Bantu Sharma, a resident of Wanpoh, Kulgam and that was 11th incident.
• Two civilians were killed by the militants in Srinagar on 2 October and that was 12th incident.
• In 13th incident on 2 October, three persons were shot dead in Srinagar and Bandipora by the militants.
• In the 14th incident on 7 October, two teachers were killed in an Old Srinagar area.