Thursday, 5 December 2019

Omar’s Kashmir

Updated: April 3, 2010 11:56 am

He is urbane, suave and well educated. He is also, unlike his father who is decidedly gregarious if not garrulous, very understated. He is over a year old in a job to which he was catapulted due to fortuitous circumstances. And he is only 40 years of age. On the other hand the civilisation that he is to oversee is as old as the hills. (The indigenous Kashmiri Saptarishi calendar just entered its 5086th recorded year!)

            How does one situate Omar Abdullah? He that blended so well with the national political scape that he actually seemed to be to the milieu born. He, with his easy sophistication and calm demeanour, did not seem to be particularly suited to the quicksand of Kashmir politics. Yet here he was, catapulted into the hottest seat in India. Was his redoubtable father, Farooq Abdullah the lion in the winter no longer seen as the natural midwife of a resurgent post-terror Kashmir? Many Kashmir watchers across the world thought that. Or, as the other possibility, was he a compromise candidate because the State Congress Party was not comfortable with the Return of the Playful Panther? Many in Srinagar believed this. Whatever be the case, Omar Abdullah scion of the pre-eminent political family in Kashmir came to be on centre stage. It was another matter that the other pre-eminent political family also made a repeat entry in Act Two, Scene One on the national stage around the same time. Was Omar Abdullah’s ascension seen as a test balloon, a dummy run, for Rahul Gandhi’s perceived eventual enthronement? Many national political commentators believed this.

            When he entered Kashmir politics in 1998, separatism was projected as the predominant Kashmiri sentiment. The polity was deeply divided between people who believed this projection and those who were chary of it. In 1998, Omar Abdullah was elected to 12th Lok Sabha. In 1998-99, he was Member, Committee on Transport and Tourism and Member, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Tourism where his contribution, if any, did not get noticed. In 1999, he was re-elected to the 13th Lok Sabha. On October 13, 1999 he took oath as Union Minister of state, Commerce and Industry. On July 22, 2001, he was made Union Minister of State for External affairs. As MOS, External Affairs, he was noticed to say the least. Many people thought that he had found his true calling as a young Indian Muslim national leader. It was a very seductive thesis, buttressed by his performance in Parliament during the Indo-US nuclear deal trust vote. His “I am a Muslim and an Indian” speech was a runaway hit, particularly among the youth. He resigned from the Central Cabinet in December 2002 to take over, from his father, as the President of National Conference. Leading the party in the 2002 State Assembly elections, he lost not only his own (traditional NC seat) of Ganderbal, he also had the dubious distinction of leading the oldest political firm in the state to its first loss of mandate of the people. In the next election however, he rose Phoenix-like to lead the same old party to power, once again.

            In the 2008 J&K State Assembly elections, NC won the maximum number of seats and formed a coalition government with Congress party. Omar Abdullah was sworn in as the 11th Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on January 5, 2009 the third generation Abdullah to do so.

            His becoming the Chief Minister came with a pre-loaded basket of expectations. The terror-weary Kashmiris wanted out but did not know how that would come about. They only knew that for twenty odd years several aging players had played out every hand in the Kashmir card game several times over in an endless cycle of political chicanery. Here was what they perceived as a clean break from the past a young, seemingly sincere, obviously intelligent, highly articulate person who could help break the impasse. They also expected better administration, visibly more effective governance, equitable growth of hitherto neglected areas and sectors and most importantly easy access to the ruling class. As far as the last bit is concerned, Omar Abdullah was certainly far better than his predecessors which included his father. As far as realpolitik was concerned, he had a mixed report card which can be briefly summarized as:

            Sex scandal response and instant offer to resign: plus. Shopian handling: minus (though vindicated in the end). Handling “Sangbari” (stone pelting by street gangs, sequentially dubbed as Islamic and non-Islamic by the Head Mufti, Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Hurriyat, Syed Salahuddin the principal Pakistan based terrorist et al and endlessly debated in the local Press): plus. Correctly assessing the size of the nuisance groups in Kashmir: an obvious big plus. Articulation of the yearning of common people to see less obtrusive policing: a huge plus. Failure to address the continuously accruing problems of the denominationally purged denizens of the valley or devising of strategies to restore them to their natural habitat: a huge minus.

            So, he missed a trick or two. But then a Chief Minister is not the Chief Executive! So, has he been the Chief Minister? The semantic load is on the word “minister”, which our lexical memory tells us means either the superior of some religious order, a head of a government department, a diplomatic agent representing a state or sovereign in a foreign country, a person to attend to the needs of (someone) or finally, the act of providing (something necessary or helpful). Omar Abdullah has manfully tried to do all this, if not more, at one time or the other.

            So, is Omar Abdullah just another son that has, willy-nilly, risen? Or is there more to this young man than meets the eye?

            To understand the conundrum that is Omar Abdullah qua Kashmir, one needs an analysis or a simple deconstruction, of his most definitive definition of himself and his understanding of the paradigm that is Kashmir qua India. This is his address to the Parliament of India referred to earlier

            One can do no better than to quote his speech verbatim and analyse the same, en passant!

            Omar Abdullah: I have been a Member of this House for 10 years, and I have never disturbed this House in these 10 years. I have sat with them and I have sat on this side, and I have never disrupted a speaker and yet here they do not have the courtesy to listen to what I have to say.

            Subtext: We in Kashmir ally with whoever is in power at the Centre. This is out of necessity, not need. That does not mean that we do

not have a voice of our own, or that voice should not be heard by New Delhi.


           RED CARPET FOR JIHADISTS

PITFALLS AHEAD


Seventy-year-old Badrudin Quereshi’s (name changed due to security reason), a resident of Sopore in north Kashmir, 16-year-old son Imdad Quereshi went missing about five ears back. Family launched massive search to locate him without any success and continue to believe until last year that he was killed by “Indian security personnel” in some “fake encounter”.

            But, in February last, the father received a phone call from a person who claimed to be his son, whom they have considered dead. Then, it was discovered that Imdad had crossed over to Pakistan occupied Kashmir and was trained in one of the terrorist camps at Solna village, Kotli in Pakistan administered Kashmir to wage a war against India.

            Imdad told his father that he wants to return, as he is disenchanted with the slogan of jihad for which he reportedly crossed over to Pakistan. He narrated as to how he was tortured and refused treatment by his mentors in Pakistan as a punishment when he returned with snow bite in harsh snow-clad mountains in Gurez sector, where he was pushed into Indian side along with a group of terrorists. He now is limbless.

            In the following telephonic communications to his family, which were made secretly, Imdad continued pleading his father to facilitate his return safely, but for the fear of being reprimanded by Indian security agencies and concerned about the safety of his son in Pakistan, Badrudin feels helpless to do some thing for his son.

            However, in one of the major confidence-building measures, on behalf of Indian government, Home Minister P Chidambaram raised a hope for Imdad and many others like him when he announced amnesty to hundreds of Kashmiri men based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir training camps if they wish to return home and shun violence.

            Thousands of Kashmiris had slipped into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for arms training after insurgency broke out in Indian Kashmir in 1989.

            Since then, though many did return and executed several terror acts, many died in Indian military operations, some died on a rugged terrain while sneaking into the Indian side and many more are still living in different parts of Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

            The Indian government offer came after there has been an upsurge in terrorism-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir. On February

11, when Chidambaram made the offer, maybe to the surprise of national and international media, however, for local media in Jammu and Kashmir, it was an expected move, as many as 65 terrorist incidents took place in the state in the first 45 days of this year.

            “The idea of granting amnesty to Kashmiri youth in PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) has been accepted. The idea must be translated into action now,” Chidambaram told reporters in Delhi.

            Kashmir observers believe that It has also been an attempt to soothe anger in Kashmir, where “fake encounters and civilian deaths”, blamed on security forces, have fuelled anti-India sentiment.

            Though, no Indian military officer was ready to talk on the issue, according to Indian intelligence officials in the state, a number of terrorists in Pakistan-administered Kashmir have expressed their willingness to surrender through various modes of communications with their families. Officials privately maintain that many parents from various parts of the state have been approaching them to facilitate the return of their sons from Pakistan.

            A case in instance is of 32-year-old Asghar Gurjar (name changed) of Surankote area of border district Poonch. Allured by money and power that the gun brought in, Asghar had crossed from Pir Panjal mountainous range about 14 years back. He also returned after receiving training in Pakistan and participated in a few major offences against Indian troopers in Poonch. Later, he returned to Pakistan-occupied and was rewarded by marriage to a Pakistani Kashmiri girl by sleuths of ISI, who sought his occasional favours for pushing terrorists through safe areas, unnoticeable by Indian troopers along borders.

            It was a smooth arrangement for both sides until three years back, Asghar now a family man with three children and a small grocery business in Muzzafarabad refused to work for his Pakistani mentors as he wanted a stable and secure life with his family.

            Stung by his refusal, ISI has located his family to some unknown location and he has not seen them for past three years and is hiding at different locations in Pakistan fearing his death.

            Asghar in the past one year has repeatedly communicated to his family in Surankote to facilitate his safe return with the help of Indian forces.

            “I am very happy with the news of amnesty. My son is ready to surrender. I have communicated this to army commander in my area. Now, I am hopeful, I would see my son after so many years,” said Baber Gurjar, the father of Asghar.

            It is learnt that the amnesty proposal was conceived in 2006 but was never translated into action. But with intelligence inputs coming in that many of the Kashmiri men were keen to return, the Indian security agencies have given it a green signal. Many of the terrorists are just waiting for the authentication process to begin. Some are waiting at the Bangladesh and Nepal borders waiting for the green signal to cross the border to Indian side.

            According to rough estimates, there are about 3,000 men from Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan who had crossed the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between India and Pakistan-held Kashmir over the last two decades in different batches since 1989 when Islamic terrorism erupted in the state. These youths were lured to “jihad” by terror outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and other groups who have training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

            Abdul Rehman, 18, had fled to Pakistan after he was promised Rs 100,000 by a tout-alluring youth

from Indian side to join terror ranks. For the past three years, his father

Suleman has received at least a dozen letters, in which he has virtually pleaded him to facilitate his return. He was forced to work as servant with a Pakistan security personnel since he could not qualify any of the arms ammunition training course. All the letters have been delivered by Suleiman to Indian security personnel so that his son could be

given a safe return home.

            The letters, according to Indian military officials, reveal the pathetic conditions many are are living in across the border. Some have turned beggars, many work as labourers. There is a general craving among most of them to return home, revealed an Intelligence officer.

Though, the amnesty proposal has been cheered by political leaders of all hues in Kashmir barring BJP and some other regional parties, which have expressed apprehension about giving safety passage to those who once trotted gun in state killing several innocents. BJP president Nitin Gadkari has threatened to launch a nationwide agitation against the government’s proposal.

            As the families of many, who have their men in Pakistan for years, are joyful that such an offer would open doors for the return of them in near future without the fear of being reprimanded, the success of such a step is however doubtful going by the grim situation of many local terrorists who shunned the path of violence in past few years.

            In late 90s, the surrendered terrorists were also inducted into Indian paramilitary forces but later this drive was stopped. The CRPF inducted a full battalion of surrendered terrorists in the North-East and the BSF also recruited 450 such youths, who had shunned anti-India violence and returned to the mainstream.

            “I surrendered in 1998. It is more trouble being an ex-terrorist than an active one,” says Sazid Bhat, a former terrorist from Habbakadal, Srinagar.

            “After I was released in 2001, I never imagined taking up arms again or participating in any violent activity,” he says. “But security agencies continued to harass not only me but also my family. If there is any pro-freedom protest in the area, police or any other agency summons us,” he says. “One never comes out of this whirlpool of being subjected to investigations.”

            However, when former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed came to power in 2002, he framed a new surrender policy for the local terrorists in 2004. The surrendered terrorists were offered incentives for weapons they surrender. For an AK rifle, the incentive is Rs 15,000 and for the UMG, GPMG, Pika, RPG and Sniper rifle, the incentive amount is 25,000. For a revolver and pistol, the incentive is Rs 3,000 and for grenades it is Rs 500 per piece.

            Under the rehabilitation provisions, the surrendered terrorist is eligible for an immediate grant of Rs 150,000 to be kept in a fixed deposit in a bank for three years. He can draw the money only after the completion of three years, subject to good behaviour.

            Besides this, he is also entitled to Rs 2,000 as monthly stipend for three years after the surrender. Under the policy, the government is also supposed to give vocational training to the surrendered terrorists. Also, the surrendered terrorist can join jobs in any government sector, the Army and the cooperatives.

            The incentives of the rehabilitation policy never reached most of these surrendered terrorist. This brought disillusionment, fear and even death to them, and there were many reports of many rejoining the terror ranks. “What happened to the plan, I surrendered with six others in 2005, two among the group have again joined the ranks with terror outfit Lashkar. They were disillusioned with almost negligible rehabilitation both economic and social after the surrender. What will it do with the youth who arrive back from the other side of LoC?” told Tariq Dar, a terrorist now working as special police officer with Indian security forces in Banihal, when this correspondent met him.

            Dar explained as to why many who surrender join the ranks again. The main reason is that every venture they make to lead a normal, self-sustaining life after release is marred by the continuous harassment of the

security agencies.

“Personally, I would be happy if the government plans to rehabilitate

someone, but reflecting on the promises made to us and our present

condition, I don’t think it is in anyway seriously going to help anyone to come back into the mainstream. The government has no plans for the rehabilitation of those who have already given up violence. What will it give to those who are yet to do so?” he says.

            In October last, the surrendered terrorists staged a protest in Jammu against rejection in the recruitment drive by the security forces and several unfulfilled promises by the state government. According to them, their credentials continue to remain dubious if they want to get a passport or job in the government or private sector.

            One such “disenchanted” former terrorist, Rouf Quyoom, from Doda had crossed over to Pakistan in 1999 and obtained arms training and spent three years with a group of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Motivated by his family to surrender, Quyoom started working with the Indian army as a special police officer (SPO). On his information and tips, Indian army gunned down several hardcore foreign terrorists and recovered huge deposits of ammunition. He also motivated several other youth to shun violence and surrender. He was hero but for a price. His father was gunned down by terrorists and his brother was abducted forcing Quyoom to shift her widowed mother and two sisters to Jammu, where he is working as security guard.

            Mohammad Rafiq, son of Nizam Din of Doda district, was once a dreaded terrorist of the area with a cash award of Rs 100,000. Rafiq also agreed to surrender in 2004. However, after the surrender, he merely got Rs 5,000 from the police. “We have been shuttling from pillar to post but no one is listening to us, be it the civil administration, the CID or the security forces. I have not got the fixed deposit amount or any other incentive against the weapons I surrendered.”

            Another former terrorist, on condition of anonymity, claims that there are elements in the administration that do not want the terrorism to end. Supporting his claim he says, “The Army put in a word for me, requesting the district administration to give me the job of a peon. To my utter shock, I found out that the recommendation letter by the Army had reached the terrorists, who wrote a threat letter to me warning that since I was joining hands with the enemy I would be killed.” He further claims that terrorism is benefitting some people in the government.

            People who want their children to return will have to contact the additional deputy inspector general of the state’s criminal investigation department. “Yes, there may be a possibility that Pakistan might push some hardened terrorists into the state and therefore there will be extra checks,” the security official said.

Identification, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration of the terrorists into the system is expected to take some months.

            Indian security agencies have worked out a five-level verification process for the surrender-and-rehabilitation of Kashmiri terrorists in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir who want to return home.

            According to the procedure laid out, terrorists will be accepted after a background check by police. The criminal cases against them will not be withdrawn and they will not get a financial rehabilitation package but can join government-sponsored vocational training courses. Cases filed for illegal border-crossing and crimes committed in the state will continue but the government will take a lenient view, taking good behaviour into consideration. The terrorists will have to take an oath before authorities to reject terrorism.

            Those keeping close watch on Kashmir affairs claim that there is remote possibility that the government of Pakistan would co-operate in any scheme to repatriate the Kashmiri terrorists as it would expose it on international fora that it was providing logistic support to Kashmiri terrorists and training them on its soil. But India would soon take up the amnesty issue with Pakistan at foreign secretary-level talks, sources say.

By Prakriiti Gupta from Srinagar


Omar Abdullah: I am a Muslim, and I am an Indian. I see no distinction between the two. I see no reason why I, as a Muslim, have to fear a deal between India and the United States of America (USA). This is a deal between two countries. It is a deal between, we hope, two countries that in the future will be two equals.

            Subtext: This part of my speech is self-explanatory! This is what is my personal ethos and I believe it can be no other way.

            Omar Abdullah: Sir, the enemies of Indian Muslims are not the Americans, and the enemies of the Indian Muslims are not ‘deals’ like this. The enemies of Indian Muslims are the same enemies that all the poor people of India face, namely, poverty and hunger, unemployment, lack of development and the absence of a voice. It is that we are against, namely, the effort being made to crush our voice.

            Subtext: I am hereby positioning myself as the leader of Indian Muslims and an important voice in national debates.

            Omar Abdullah: I am not a Member of the UPA, and I do not aspire the Membership of the UPA. But I am extremely unhappy with the way in which my friends in the Left have taken on this self-imposed position of being the certifiers of who is secular and who is not.

            Subtext: Secularism has to be the overriding paradigm of modern India, a covenant of faith and nobody has the right to employ it for scoring political brownie points.

            Omar Abdullah: Until a few years ago, I was a part of the NDA and I was a Minister with them. The same Left people considered me as a political untouchable, and they considered me an outcaste because I was a part of the NDA. Today, the same Left people are telling me that all secular Parties must unite with the BJP to bring down this Government.

            Subtext: Politics is the art of possible and we understand it well enough. Please do not take our support lightly or for granted.

            There is an old saying in Persian: “Tifl shavad khaanadaar, khaana shavad veraan!” Loosely it means that if a stripling assumes charge of the house, it is headed towards disaster. When Omar Abdullah took over as the youngest Chief Minister of demographically the oldest state of India Jammu & Kashmir, many a Persian knowing grey eminences there are quite a few of them in Kashmir gleefully quoted this Persian saying. Fourteen months on, do we find that their smirking superciliousness was justified? The answer is an emphatic no! But has Omar Abdullah at least begun to prove the exact opposite that a young gun with a good sight fires accurately? The jury is still out on that.

 By Shantiveer Kaul

 

Abhishek please insert this article in BOX please

PERILS OF GOVERNMENT’S MOVE

By GS Nair

Is India going for a secret pact with Pakistan over Kashmir under pressure from the Obama administration? There have been rumours on this count among certain quarters in the country. Similar doubts were raised by LK Advani in the Parliament which was rebutted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, there has been a grey area with regard to the Kashmir policy of the present government at the centre. At least certain decisions and proposals by the government give an impression that it is making a departure from the “stated policy” of the country.

            In a controversial move, the government recently said it was ready to “welcome” Kashmiris who had gone to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) if they abjure terrorism. “The idea that any Indian who had crossed over to PoK and wishes to return India is certainly welcome,” said Home Minister P Chidambaram, while backing the proposal mooted by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

            The Union Home Minister said the idea was acceptable to the government and asked the state administration to put this idea into practice. In fact, it was one of the recommendations of the working group appointed by the Prime Minister on Kashmir. But the manner in which the working group submitted its report itself is controversial and lacks legitimacy as most of its members were not aware of the recommendations.

            However, his ministerial colleague and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is opposed to the idea of rolling out red carpet for erstwhile terrorists who had crossed over to PoK to wage a war against India. According to him, this would open a Pandora’s Box as terrorists would easily sneak in to “create trouble”. He definitely has a point. It is difficult to establish the identity of the terrorists and even more difficult is to identify their motives.

            Although terrorism has come down over the years, thanks to the efforts of the Army, the condition of the state is not yet conducive to roll out such a plan. First, it has to start from the home front. Kashmiri Pandits, who were rendered homeless during the initial stages of terrorism and thrown out of the valley at gunpoint, should be rehabilitated.

            Such a proposal at this juncture when terrorism is on the wane and jihadist organisations are under severe pressure to reignite violence and keep alive the issue, the government’s proposed move will give a fresh lease of life to terrorism. Of late, Pak-based jihadist organisations have changed their tack and are linking other issues like water dispute and India-

Pak talks in their scheme of things. Recently, Hafiz Saeed of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) asked Pakistan to wage jihad against India if it did not agree for talks. The JuD chief has been issuing threats to India despite New Delhi’s plea for taking action against Saeed in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and India is seen helpless.

            Pakistan has been snubbing India on a regular basis. Immediately after the Mumbai attacks the UPA government called off all dialogues with Pakistan saying that India would begin talks only after the neighbour takes action against perpetrators. But all of a sudden, the government changed the strategy and went ahead with foreign secretary-level talks. India went to the extent of saying that it was ready to talk Baluchistan too. There was no clarity on the issue on the official stance of the country. One of the major foreign policy blunders vis-a-vis Pakistan committed by the government was the joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh. This amounted to admitting that India too is a transporter of terrorism.

            The talks have not helped in bringing down the bitterness between the two countries. All though it may be dismissed as a pessimistic view, even hundred years of talk is not going to change the callous altitude of the neighbour. Pakistan continues to use terrorism as a policy, support cross-border terrorism, and help jihadist groups in carrying out attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan. Its army has been facilitating terrorist incursions on India.

            Immediately after taking charge as the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, in an interview to ‘The Wall Street Journal, dubbed the militants’ operating in Kashmir as terrorists. It was music to the ears of India, but it did not give much weightage to this as Pakistan army calls shots on major policy decisions. The army is facing attack from pro-Taliban elements in NWFP and other areas. The terrorist elements are angry with the army and the government because they have turned against terror groups under pressure from the US.

            The terrorists are mounting attacks on army installations on regular basis. The US drone attacks are breaking the back of the Taliban. Therefore, the army and ISI are trying to direct the terrorists towards India as part of its strategy. A US expert rightly pointed out, in the months to come al-Qaeda might mount even far deadlier attacks on India than that in Mumbai.

            In this backdrop, one has to see the significance of the government’s move to welcome PoK-based terrorists. Chidambaram can say that “PoK is actually an Indian territory”, and therefore we should welcome them back. He is correct but what is the ground reality? According to the Indian government, there are over 44 terrorist training camps operating in PoK. There are thousands in the Pakistani-controlled Kashmir waiting to cross over to India to spread terror. We have seen the results of “healing touch policy” pursued by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s PDP. There is a view that many youth in Kashmir have turned to terrorism out of under-development. That may be true, but more than that it is the Pakistani agencies that are fomenting terrorism in Kashmir.

            The first thing the government should do is to break the back of terrorist groups operating within and outside the country. Though it is a tall order, the government should use every resource at its command to achieve this end. Then only can the country think of bringing back the erstwhile terrorists.

Normalcy in J&K

Fact or Illusion

By Jasbir Sarai

Normalcy has become a fashionable topic in the political circles of Kashmir. Each leader of the State has a different take on the subject which in turn is leading to utter confusion. Interestingly even the ruling coalition is sending contradictory signals that are difficult to fathom. The Chief Minister of J&K, on January 08, two days after the terrorist attack at Lal Chowk downplayed the incident during his address at the Pravasi Bharati Divas by professing that the terrorists were engaged on the basis of credible intelligence inputs and that such incidents do not signify revival of terrorism. A pertinent question is: If credible intelligence was available why did the security forces not react before the terrorists could reach a crowded market and create so much mayhem?

            While the Chief Minister was selling normalcy to the NRIs, the Defence Minister AK Antony was voicing concern over reports that a large number of terrorists are waiting in PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) to cross over into Kashmir and the Home Minister P Chidambaram was talking about the continuing vulnerability of the state to terrorist attacks sponsored by forces from across the border.

            The existing level of normalcy in the state can be assessed by a holistic analysis of the situation on ground. The first and foremost is the capability of our friends in Pakistan to pump adrenalin into the terrorist movement in J&K. The turmoil in Pakistan has by no means reduced their interest and involvement in Kashmir. Attempts to infiltrate continue and new openings are being attempted in the Jammu-Poonch region now that the traditional Kashmir-based routes have closed due to heavy snowfall. Pakistani Rangers, for the first time in recent times, resorted to blatant violation of cease fire and attempts are being made to sneak in terrorists by blasting/cutting breaches in the border fencing. The recently targeted areas are in Jammu and Poonch districts. This apart, there is irrefutable evidence of the continued presence of terrorist camps across the border. More than 2500 trained terrorists are awaiting induction with about a thousand staged forward. They are equipped with sophisticated arms similar to the arsenal that the terrorists involved in the Lal Chowk attack were carrying with them.

            Next is the matter of terrorist-initiated violence. There is no facet of terrorist activity that is not continuing unabated. In fact, terrorists are being continuously motivated by their handlers from across the border to raise the threshold of violence so that this talk of normalcy is automatically nipped in the bud. Apart from the most daring attack at Lal Chowk over the last month or so terrorists have continued with all other facets that form part of their nefarious agenda.

            The local populace is being intimidated by killing of innocents due to personal vendettas or on suspicion of being informers of the security forces. Terrorists shot dead a 22-year-old girl, Shiraza Akhtar in Mir

Mohalla, Kellar, Shopian on December 15, and a 25-year-old youth Nazir Ahmad Chopan at Kadipora in Pulwama on December, 19.

            Terrorist-initiated incidents are also on the rise and Kashmir has witnessed a spate of violence in the wake of the terrorist attack at Lal Chowk. A major encounter took place at Damhal Hanjipora in South Kashmir on January 13, in which two terrorists of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Adil and Tahir Inquilabi were killed while the security forces also suffered the loss of a soldier and a policeman. This was followed by a grenade attack on Sopur Police station on January 15, where, after the attack, a group of heavily armed terrorists opened fire on the Police party that had reached the spot to take stock of the situation. In the ensuing gun battle one Kashmiri policeman Nazir Ahmed and a civilian, Parvez Ahmed, lost their lives.

            On the political front the initiative taken by the centre to reach out to the separatists through quiet diplomacy and considerable reduction in troop strength has cut no ice with the separatists. The PDP has said that the troop reduction is cosmetic. The Hurriyat Conference said that it is not visible on ground and Syed Ali Shah Geelani capped the discussion by stating that the reduction will in any case make no difference since the deployment runs into about eight lakh personnel. Anything less than the Indian State standing defenseless and with open arms to welcome the jihadi’s from Pakistan will, in any case, not meet his aspirations.

            During this period yet another chapter has been added to the environment of political belligerence in the Valley. A very disturbing trend that is gaining momentum is the linkage between violence and agitations. This was first seen in the Lal Chowk attack where protests were carried out in the adjoining areas of at Maisuma, Basant Bagh, Gawkadal, Magarmal Bagh, Habba Kadal in which pro-freedom slogans were chanted and stones were pelted, as a result, people injured in the encounter found it difficult to reach the hospital. Again on January 17, some young people took to the streets in parts of the old city to protest against the killing of the civilian Parvez Ahmed in the terrorist strike at Sopur. These youth were not bothered by the fact that a Kashmiri policeman, Nazir Ahmed, from their own Police force also lost his life in the mindless act of violence by the terrorists.

            In yet another incident, Dalgate, a tourist hub, has witnessed a forced shut down due to protests by some trouble-makers against the death of a young man Inayat Khan. All of these are clear-cut cases of political opportunism that is being orchestrated with money power.

            It is evident from the foregoing that even though the situation in Kashmir has turned around for the better it has as yet not attained a level where it can be termed as normal. For normalcy to become firmly embedded, the social-political environment has to be in sync with the efforts to maintain fool proof internal and external security. There are challenges to be faced on the fronts of cross-border import of terror, internal security and political integration. These aspects are in many ways inter connected.

            In case the people of Kashmir unequivocally reject the overtures of our friends across the border, the cross-border, interference will be automatically contained, but for that to happen the political thought process will have to undergo a change. Till such time that all mechanisms for ushering normalcy are in place, Kashmir will not regain its glory.

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