The security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has considerably improved and there is near normalcy, a condition that had not prevailed so far in the past but for years from 2011 to 2016.
Normal public and business activity is continuing, this was also evident when the newly appointed GOC in C Northern Command Lt Gen Dwivedi along with other senior officers and ladies visited Lal Chowk.
Tourism is expected to pick up while a major tranche of investment is expected during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi this Month to the Union Territory.
This will be the prime minister's first visit to J & K after repealing Article 370 on August 05, 2019.
Security Forces have established a degree of dominance over terrorists in the Kashmir Valley, reducing violence and contributing to normalcy.
Has the militancy gone away in Kashmir? Here is a perspective-
What do the Numbers speak?
From the perspective of numbers which security forces provide as a measure of success, 175 terrorists were killed, while 183 were arrested by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Jammu and Kashmir between March 1, 2021, and March 16, 2022, director-general of the force Kuldeep Singh was quoted by the Hindustan Times.
Singh also claimed that, "After the abrogation of Article 370, the incidents of stone-pelting are almost nil. There is a decrease in the infiltration of foreign terrorists and attacks."
Ironically on the same day police arrested several youths who pelted stones and resorted to arson after the Nowgam encounter in Srinagar. "We have arrested many youth who resorted to stone pelting and arson after Nowgam encounter in which three categorised terrorists were killed," Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Rakesh Balwal told Greater Kashmir
Over the past decade or so, J & K Police and the Army have been quoting the number of terrorists present in Jammu and Kashmir as between 250 to 300. In the beginning of 2022 however, the J & K police claimed that there were just about 100 plus terrorists in the Kashmir Valley and stated they intended to bring down these numbers to below 100.
Similarly, over the years, it has been stated that the number of terrorists awaiting in training camps and launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and who will be inducted in the Union Territory for carrying out acts of terror vary from 200 to 500.
Surprisingly these numbers have remained constant, indicating that they are not a measure of the state of militancy in the Valley but only a marker of the security forces to demonstrate their counter-terrorist potential.
OGWs and Hybrid Militants
In another data marker, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir Zone, Vijay Kumar on March 17th termed the Over Ground Workers (OGWs) "one of the challenges" and said so far this year 150 such persons had been arrested. "The OGW network is one of the challenges for the Police force and they don't remain OGW forever," Kumar said.
Use of terms such as OGW and hybrid terrorists is one of the banes of rooting out sense of alienation in the youth. While the police see these as the support base of terrorists, they are also in the grey zone – between the mainstream and full-blown militancy.
Is arrest or elimination the only option for the purpose of mainstreaming is a question mark.
While much is being made of contacting the family of such youth, but arrests are continuing. This has a negative impact and other options need to be explored.
Measuring State of Militancy
An accurate measure of militancy is support of the people at large to the ideology of the extremists. In Jammu and Kashmir, this is clearly a sense of connect to the Indian national mainstream. This may be not easy to measure unless an open survey is carried out to which responses by the people are transparent.
While economically, the people in Kashmir are no doubt connecting themselves with the mainstream, there are serrations in the socio-political connect, leading to a steady stream of youth who may be seen as deviant joining militancy.
Some of them are clearly swayed by propaganda from Pakistan and Pak sponsored political elements in the Valley such as Hurriyat Conference though their voices at present are muted.
The objective of zero terrorism and zero militancy can be achieved only after the sense of alienation from a section of the youth how so ever small they may be is eliminated.
This will obviously happen once a popularly elected government comes to power in Jammu and Kashmir, for present administration is closely linked to police action giving the impression of a police state in the Union Territory. This will not be amenable to reconciliation by the people at large.
Early, "free and fair," elections is the first step to eliminate the roots of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. These should be free and accepted as such by people at large.