Kashmir security situation brings new fault lines , newer challenges

Arun Joshi

Security situation in Kashmir has come into sharper focus yet again with the security agencies devising methods to meet the new challenges in dealing with the fresh spate of the targeted killings , which have stunned the people and the security agencies alike.

It may not exactly be the revival of militancy of the 1990s era, when guns, bombs , bullets and grenades demonstrated that how the violence can take everything hostage .That time , the government response came in piecemeal , this time it is wholesome , but that has not altered the situation where the people could feel safe from violence.

‘A new habit , evolved over the past two years , especially after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019 , is asking question , “ why the changed constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir has not brought the relief from terrorism that was expected?” The political leaders – Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – mock at the government’s claims that the situation has improved , they point out to the selective killings in Kashmir , which has renewed element of fear among the people and increased the challenges for the security forces.

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Frequent security reviews and requisitioning of more security forces indicate that the security scenario is not up to satisfaction of the authorities . Something more needs to be done , and what is that , is being searched by the government But unless it shuns its own self-belief driven narratives that the things are improving, it cannot look at the hard realities that have emerged in the recent months . Killing of militants is just one prism of looking at things , the real stability and peace can be determined by the overall mood of the people. The silence prevailing in Kashmir keeps the exact details of the situation under the lid.

What is beneath the surface is not known in exact terms, it can be guessed only .

After a spate of killing of civilians in October , in which the non-locals and non-Muslims, were primary targets of the pistol wielding militants , the government had voiced its worries and undertaken steps to neutralize the militants . But what needs to be understood is that , these kind of killings have their own definition . The killers are militants who are self-motivated or indoctrinated on social media in an environment of growing radicalism in which violence is offered as a way out of all the crises , and if not the instant solution , at least the misguided notion of the “ martyrdom” for a cause. This is a really dangerous ideology which has infected society and changed its outlook toward killings and the consequences thereof. The people have learnt to retreat themselves into the self-conceived enclaves where they do not speak against the militancy and the cult of violence . That they have started taking these things in their stride is again a dangerous signal , where nothing matters to them. This sense of aloofness or silent acquiesce to what is happening will have more serious situations in store . Society needs to stand against violence , unless that is done , all the security measures and their objectives would never be realised .

This killings , which the militants want to shape as a phenomenon , are different from the lone wolf attacks . The lone -wolf attack , in which the ideology driven self-made terrorists target the communities to whom they are opposed , are well equipped and armed and chose their targets at crowded places. The killings in Kashmir show that though this is an individual act , they act at the behest of groups who survive on propaganda and finance coming through drugs and other illegal sources .

These groups are scattered and communicate on individual-to-individual basis , and rely on coded messages on social media . All these techniques are deadly and not easy to detect . That makes the task of tracing and neutralizing the killers more difficult.

The security forces’ thrust on all -out anti-insurgency operations in the Valley is not an all- time solution to the deadly problem . One size fits all approach is where the security agencies are missing the point : that such operations prove counter-productive . The movement of the security forces in big columns to the places where they suspect the militants are hiding or have the information about their presence , quite often confirmed by the intelligence agencies , add eeriness to the atmosphere.. And such large movements , without any difference of time and space , fill the air with fear. This fear in itself undermines the sense of security that the people need the most in these circumstances .

A new approach is need of the hour. There are two ways of doing these things . One, is to make complete assessment of the situation in the past 32 years , the phases of militancy, its tide and ebbs , and the mood of the people during all these phases . Second, the security forces should reflect about their own strategies in response to the changing shapes and contours of militancy or terrorism, whatever name is to be given to the violence , in terms of effectiveness and the results thereof. That the militancy still exists , points out that either there were flaws in counter-insurgency strategies or militants moved better in chalking out their plans of strategies.

The country should remember that each time it reviews its security strategy vis-à-vis Kashmir, especially when it is unscheduled , meaning thereby arising out of the reaction to unanticipated turn of events , it shows that the things are not in control and the mechanism is being worked out to meet the new challenges .

Arun Joshi is a Senior Journalist, Political Analyst based in Jammu and Kashmir. He has authored four books, including, “Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War”. He has worked with Hindustan Times, The Times of India, The Indian Express and The Tribune, and visited several countries to deliver lectures on Kashmir issue and international affairs.

Views expressed are personal

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