Published On: Tue, Aug 30th, 2016

Lesser the militancy, deadlier the impact

small band of militants in Kashmir is keeping the jihad alive and Kashmir issue in focus

Millitant attack on CRPF convoy at Pampore

Can a lesser number of active militants have a deadlier impact on the security situation? Yes, it can. This is at least what the Kashmir  situation for 2016 loudly confirms for us and also holds a lesson for future.

If anything, the past five years tell us that the amount of yearly violence which keeps Kashmir in national and international spotlight is generated by a small band of the militants. The strategy has worked to a great effect.  Coupled with intermittent cross-LoC firing which extends the trouble to  Jammu and its border areas, a perception of the violence hangs over entire J&K.

According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, in the past six months 73 militants, thirty security personnel and five civilians died in militancy related incidents.  This shows a conspicuous rise in the militancy as against 2015 during which 113 militants, 41 security personnel and 20 civilians lost their violence in militant violence.

Similarly In 2014, 110 militants, 51 security personnel  and 32 civilians were killed.  The number was by and large similar for 2013, 2012 2011, except for the fact that the violence plunged to its lowest in 2012 when only 84 militants, 17 security personnel and 16 civilians were killed.

However, in all these years, government figures for the militancy have hovered between 100-150, comprising local recruits and the foreigners, who were in majority until the last year when suddenly the equation altered. Now for the first time in a decade, local militants  outnumbered foreigners. Out of 142 active militants in Valley, 88 were locals and the rest from Pakistan or Pakistan Administered Kashmir.

The militant figures revealed by the government for 2016 are identical to the last year. Around 145 militants are active in Valley out of which 91 are locals and 54 foreigners. This despite the fact that around 176 militants have been  killed in security operations since 2015.

Both Pakistan and the local component of the militancy have it all covered up. Over a hundred militants tie down thousands of the Army, BSF, CRPF and police personnel backed up by the cross-LoC exchanges to cover the areas where militants can’t operate.

In 2016, around 93 border firing incidents were reported along the International Border in Jammu between January 15, 2015 to January 15, 2016 which resulted in the death of six civilians and injuries to 43 others including three security personnel. Jammu district accounted for 54 violations followed by 22  from Samba and 17 from Kathua districts.

But what is important is that the militant figures have remained static, underlining a constant replenishment of the depleted ranks through fresh recruitment and the infiltration.

The reality has brought the security establishment face to face with the changing nature of militancy in the state whereby a smaller number of well-trained militants can inflict the maximum damage. There is a profound transformation underway in the way the militants operate in the state. And this is to put a lesser number of militants on the ground who are difficult to detect and are also able to launch high-profile strikes in places where these get the maximum attention,  In the process they create a perception of militancy that is disproportionate to their number.

The militants do it by launching attacks at places which command most attention. For example, many strikes take place along Anantnag-Srinagar highway. The road which sees the heavy security traffic is also Srinagar’s most important artery and easily accessible to media. Pampore was one such attack geared to draw the maximum attention. It has already forced the union government to replace Central Reserve Police Force with BSF. Besides, the attack also brought the home minister Ranjnath Singh to Kashmir.

But the situation as the past half a decade would tell us is unlikely to change for the better. Already, to replenish the 73 militants killed this year, around 60 militants are believed have infiltrated into Valley in recent months. Even the Pampore attack is said to have been executed by the freshly infiltrated militants. They were reportedly part of the fidayeen group who were charged to carry out suicide missions”.

There is but a  possibility that with a little more hike in infiltration, the graph of violence could sufficiently go up. If the number of infiltrating militants goes up by a 100 or by only a few dozen, this will mean a huge spike in violence. This will create a huge security challenge leading to Kashmir issue hurtling back into international focus.

What is the solution to this situation? Certainly not the one being advanced by the government, which sees the youth taking up the gun a result of the ill-defined and catch-all radicalization and forgets the troubled political context under which the Valley operates. So the jobs, economic prosperity will hardly address the problem. What will address is the political solution to the festering political issue that Kashmir is and has been for the past almost 70 years.

—-ends—–

(The story was published in July 2016 issue of Kashmir Scan)

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