The increase in Kashmir Terrorism and violence levels on the streets and participation of the local population became a cause for worry in 2016. The peace dividend achieved at great cost only a couple of years earlier seemed to be losing out to the mindlessness of violent mobs.
Kashmir Terrorism | Troubled waters
- There was an enhanced local recruitment, especially within the ranks of the Hizb-ulMujahideen (HM).
- A larger proportion of the new recruits came from South Kashmir, unlike in the past when North Kashmir was the hub of violence and terrorism.
- The security forces were routinely the target of stone pelting mobs.
- And finally, children and women had been pushed into the line of pellets and bullets due to relentless propaganda, coercion and the resultant cycle of violence.
Kashmir Terrorism | Analyzing the trends
All this indicate an upswing in the levels of violence and a hardening of approach by Pakistan, which controls and coordinates major terrorist groups like the LeT and HM. Contrary to this seemingly obvious conclusion, however, the reality could be the very opposite. In fact, we may well witness a shift in the ground situation in Kashmir.
Kashmir Terrorism | Lessons from the Punjab experience
- Even as terrorism was at its peak in the state during 1980s and 90s, the criminalisation of terrorist groups had led to senseless violence, with humiliation and atrocities being unleashed against policemen and their families as well as common citizens. This led to a fight for survival between the people and the local police on one side and the terrorists on the other.
- Given the nature of violent acts perpetrated by the terrorists, the struggle also became personal. The alienation of the population and victimisation of the local police turned the tide in favour of the State.
- The gradual rise in terrorism in Punjab stood in contrast to its sudden elimination. Terrorists were hunted down without pity or remorse.
Replicating Punjab’s strategy in Kashmir
- The misdirected angst of terrorists against policemen, their families, a defenceless Kashmiri army officer on leave and innocent pilgrims all appear to represent a sign of disarray in their ranks.
- It is a reflection of the frustration that has surfaced against Kashmiris employed in the police and in the security forces as well as against the syncretic culture of tolerance prevalent in the state.
- The debacle of terrorism in Punjab suggests that all this violence against security forces and policemen could push the common people who came for the funerals of terrorists to shift their loyalties.
- The return of violence also sets back any possibility of bringing different groups to the negotiating table in the near future.
Shift on the ground
- The turning of the tide through a series of counter terrorism operations seems to suggest that the shift is already underway. For instance, June 2017 witnessed a series of successful strikes by security forces against terrorists and especially their leaders. To a casual observer, this may seem to be a coincidence. But the reality is that these strikes were enabled by accurate intelligence provided by angry locals who may not be able to voice their dissent in public, given their fear of being targeted by terrorists, but have helped punish them for their wanton acts of violence.
- For the common Kashmiri people, the Amarnath pilgrimage is an important event in the annual calendar that contributes significantly to their income. The attempt to disrupt it suggests a disconnect with the local economics of the region.The distancing of every segment of Kashmiri politics, population and even separatists from the Amarnath pilgrim attack is a clear indication of anger and frustration that seems to be building up against senseless acts of terrorism. It is also a reality check for Kashmiri leaders, both mainstream and separatist.
- The decision of some within terrorist ranks to reject Kashmiriyat and secularism is likely to propagate a radical ideology that the present leadership in the state will be unable to reconcile with their own objectives.
If this reality does not lead to a rejection of senseless violence, it is a matter of time before the people and their police in Kashmir turn the tide of violence and defeat terrorism in conjunction with other security forces, as happened in Punjab.