Monday, May 23rd, 2022 08:07:09

Kashmir on Boil, Again!

By Nilabh Krishna
Updated: November 1, 2021 9:46 am

The situation today resembles the early 1990s when the nascent separatist movement enjoyed mass support, and mass demonstrations were a daily affair. Kashmir watchers say that removal of the special status of the state through Article 370 was only a trigger that sparked off the fresh violence in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state where nearly three decades of separatist conflict has left tens of thousands dead.

A string of recent killings of civilians which were targeted in nature in Kashmir has once again instilled fear among the minority Hindu and Sikh communities in the Valley, with many comparing the situation similar to that in the 1990s, which saw merciless killings of the Kashmiri Pandits triggering their exodus from the valley. In the immediate aftermath of the killings of the minorities (it is to be remembered that minorities here mean Hindus and Sikhs and not Muslims), news reports suggest that around 150 families have packed their belongings and left the Valley. Among those who returned to Jammu are government employees, who are currently staying away from their work because of security concerns and are seeking transfers. Media reports coming from the Valley elucidates that families staying behind in Kashmir have been provided with complete security cover and were issued verbal instructions not to venture out after the evening.

During 1989-90, lakhs of Pandits were compelled to leave the Valley (they moved mainly to Jammu), after some members of the community were targeted following the eruption of militancy in 1989. But about 800 families had decided to stay back despite the troubled security situation. Most of these families had returned to the Valley under a rehabilitation policy announced by the then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005. Among them was a 68-year-old chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo, who earlier this month was killed by the terrorists near his medical shop at Iqbal Park in Srinagar. Earlier this month on October 7, a Sikh principal and her Pandit colleague were shot dead inside their school in the Eidgah area of Srinagar, leaving the other Muslim teachers alive. Two days before this incident, on October 5, three civilians – ML Bindroo; Virendra Paswan, a street food vendor from Bihar; and Mohammad Shafi Lone, a taxi driver in north Kashmir’s Bandipora – were killed in three separate militant attacks. On October 2, two civilians, Majid Ahmad Gojri and Mohammad Shafi Dar, were killed in two separate militant attacks.

The situation today resembles the early 1990s when the nascent separatist movement enjoyed mass support, and mass demonstrations were a daily affair. Kashmir watchers say that removal of the special status of the state through Article 370 was only a trigger that sparked off the fresh violence in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state where nearly three decades of separatist conflict has left tens of thousands dead.

There is no denying the fact that ever since the campaign to resettle the Kashmiri Pandits has begun, Hindus and other minorities are being killed selectively. The terrorists are trying to give them the message that whoever comes here to live, work, teach their children in school, will be killed.

This pattern is similar to that of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, where in the name of Islamic fundamentalism; all those who do not believe in radical jihad and Sharia are being killed.

Several outfits have claimed responsibility for these terror attacks in Kashmir. Among them, a new organisation has emerged namely TRF i.e. The Resistance Front. As per an IndiaToday report “TRF is a recent entrant in the spectrum of J&K’s militancy. The security forces believe it was floated after the Centre’s move to abrogate of Article 370 in 2019.

After the big move, the government had imposed severe restrictions on people and communication. The focus was entirely on controlling the law and order situation and not let any civilian unrest happen as a reaction to the decision taken by New Delhi. After months of blockade, the restrictions were slowly lifted.

In the meantime, it is believed that the handlers across the border devised the plan to float the TRF by using the cadre of LeT and other militant groups. The plan was to increase the militancy related activities as a reaction to August 2019 changes. What is interesting to note is that it was for the first time since Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the 1990s that a militant outfit had been given a non-religious name. The security apparatus in J&K believes that the aim of creating the TRF from the existing cadre of LeT and other groups was to give an indigenous colour to their activities in the wake of abrogation of Article 370. It is also believed that the creation would also provide a cover to Pakistan, which has been warned of blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for supporting non-state violent actors.”


Why the sudden attacks?

There is no denying the fact that the targeted killing of the minority community of Kashmir is a new phenomenon. One is surprised that such dastardly attacks are happening in current scenario in Kashmir, when Security Forces are having an almost absolute control over the situation and the terrorist activities have started to dwindle for the first time in last three decades. To understand this, one need to read Lt. Gen(Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain on where he explains the background in which such attacks are happening. He says “ Two aspects are important in this analysis. First is the fact that after the decisions of August 5, 2019, when India undertook a fresh robust drive against terror and combined it with a series of other constitutional and legal measures, the back of terror networks was largely broken. The most important of these measures was the focus laid on dismantling many networks which had thrived in J&K over 30 years, and on which the terror industry depended.

These networks run by a plethora of over ground workers (OGWs) helped shore up terror. While terrorists were regularly eliminated, these networks thrived and continued to support the creation and functioning of the replacements which were provided by recruitment or infiltration. The networks also had academic, financial, media, ideological and legal linkages. Once the networks got hit, the chances of revival of terror started to dwindle. It is important for the ISI to retain these networks and back them with intermittent high-profile acts to project relevance of separatists and terrorists. High-profile acts are not easy to come by with the dragnet laid by the security forces.

The second issue of relevance relates to the events in Afghanistan with the advent of Taliban 2.0. There were unreasonable expectations that the latter would immediately focus on assisting Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. The reality is that some winds of inspiration have blown in all directions and Islamist organizations are attempting revival. That is how the TRF probably feels inspired and the task given to it by the ISI forced it to seek soft options for immediate impact and messaging after the failure of efforts at Uri. The immediate impact of the targeting of minorities in Kashmir is social pressure—many leaving their home and hearth. This would be a victory of sorts for the perpetrators. It is at this time that the political and security communities in J&K must rise to give comprehensive assurances and work towards minority security.”


Government in Overdrive

The targeted killings of the minorities in Kashmir have sent government in an overdrive mode. In a major crackdown recently, more than 900 over-ground workers (OGWs) of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Al-Badr and The Resistance Front (TRF) were taken under detention in Kashmir. All of them were picked up by Jammu and Kashmir Police, as per a CNN-News18 report.

Sources told News18 that these 900 persons are now under detention with the NIA and J&K police. The list of their names was given by different agencies. This crackdown, sources, added, is different from the investigations in target killings. The crackdown was important because agencies want to understand the support structure to terror groups across border, they said.

This comes after a spate of militant attacks on minority civilians in Kashmir, and sources are claiming this to be the biggest ever crackdown in the Valley. Sources further said that all the detainees are under joint interrogation of different investigating agencies, which are trying to understand and correlate the working model behind the targeted killings of minorities.

Even though the attacks have been condemned by political parties, the condemnations are unlikely to soothe the fears of minorities, especially Kashmiri Pandits whose return to Kashmir was one of the main unfulfilled agenda of the central government. The targeted killings have heightened the sense of anxiety and fear among the minority community who seem to have turned into primary targets of militants as illustrated by the twin killings in Srinagar. The government alone cannot soothe the wounds of the minorities in Kashmir; the majority Muslim community has to step up its effort in this regard. A social movement within the majority Muslim community of Kashmir must emerge to display courage and empathy with the unfortunate members of their society. They cannot be seen to be resigning themselves to the situation and succumbing to the diktat of terrorists and separatists. Political parties must set aside differences and the Army must make use of its outreach network. Kashmir cannot be surrendered to the will of murderers and terrorists.


By Nilabh Krishna

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