Terrorists Change Strategies in Jammu & Kashmir
Terrorists have launched massive attacks and killed several civilians belonging to minority communities- Sikhs and Hindus in various parts of Jammu & Kashmir, especially in Srinagar and Bandipore. Recently, tensions over the border have increased leaving the minor communities in confusion about how to handle the consequences. This spree of killings has spread panic among the minorities and non-local workers.
The killings are a part of the conspiracy hatched to create a wedge between the majority and the minority communities living in the Kashmir Valley, and to target the local ethos and values which can be defeated by the people collectively. It is a move to damage and target the age-old traditional communal harmony in Kashmir. People of the Valley need to be vigilant about the elements who want to exploit the situation for their own ulterior political motives. The recent killings in Kashmir are a lunatic fringe.
Almost after every killing, The Resistance Front (TRF), a Front for Pakistan-based militant organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, released a statement claiming that these people have been killed because they are non-local Hindutava agents and Government informers. These killings carried out by Shaheed Gazi Squad, a terrorist outfit of TRF is a threat to national security. TRF has threatened the people of Kashmir saying “no one would be spared if they chose to become a pawn of occupier’s dictates or implement occupier’s dirty commands only to placate the occupier.” Despite choosing to kill from minority communities of the Union Territory, its claim is that the killings had nothing to do with religion and warned them who try to give this a religious color. “Our fight is to safeguard our freedom. All domicile holders, stooges and collaborators, regardless of religion are enemy of the Kashmir struggle and will not be spared…further, they cannot tolerate anyone compelling someone to attend the occupier regime’s 15th August filthy function,” the terrorist outfit statement read.
Those mercilessly killed have paid with their lives for standing up for their country; they were killed just because they stood for the nation. The incidents of targeting civilians in Kashmir are barbaric. The innocent people who are working for the society and have nothing to do with anyone are being targeted. This is an abominable act to create an atmosphere of fear so as to damage the communal harmony in Kashmir. It requires that the perpetrators of the terror attack be given a befitting reply so that they may not succeed in disturbing peace, progress and prosperity of Kashmir.
TRF is basically an offshoot of the Pakistan backed Lashkar-e-Taiba; it is just an attempt to give the benefit of deniability to Pakistan. There is a whole baggage of evidence against Pakistan being behind Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e- Muhammad. By giving it a new name, they want to localize militancy in Kashmir. Given the kind of international scrutiny on Pakistan for rearing terrorists in its backyard, the strategy makes sense. So far, TRF has tried hard to differentiate itself from existing militant groups, whose iconography and propaganda are laced with religious overtones. It is the second group in Kashmir to avoid a name with religious resonances; the first being the now banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Second, TRF Members keep a low profile, unlike the Hizbul Mujahideen Terrorists who became household names through their social media presence. They don’t have a face, for they know exposing their faces or releasing their photos and videos will basically make them more vulnerable. Usually, the announcement of new recruits comes through audio messages. At the same time the group has been prompt to issue statement after acts of violence. TRF is perhaps the only group which gives explanation behind every killing, irrespective of whether there is any semblance of truth in it or not. Given the response against civilian killings in society, the older terrorist groups would usually avoid taking ownership of such killings. But TRF does not shy away from owning its acts.
TRF employs a changed strategy to carry out its terrorist activities. Pistols have been used for almost all the killings. These acts of murder and killings are committed by newly recruited tourists or those who are about to join terrorist ranks. In some cases, Overground Workers have been directly involved. These Overground Workers are the non -combatants who are tasked with arranging logistics for militant groups. Increasingly, they are being drawn into direct violence Operatives who have gone underground, return to their daily lives and jobs after an act of violence. The identification of these ‘hybrid militants’ (the term used by the Police) has become a problem for the Police.
TRF is the prime architect of this new strategy. TRF has been able to kill so many civilians because they task people who are not listed as militants in Police records with those killings. They just kill a soft-target and return to normal life. As a result, their identification becomes more difficult. The targeted killings of minorities reflect the changed strategy of the terrorists. Due to the killing of a large number of terrorists of all outfits, especially their leaderships, destruction of their support structures and continuous and effective maintenance of law and order, terrorists’ handlers across have got frustrated and changed their strategy and started targeting unarmed policemen, innocent civilians, politicians and now innocent civilians from minority communities including women.The targeted killing of the civilians of the minority Hindu and Sikh Community has caused a lot of consternation. There is a fear that the sudden spike in civilian killings might presage a return to 1990 when the Valley was cleansed of Kashmiri Pandits.
While the panic is entirely understandable, any comparison with the events of 1990 is specious. Back then, people in charge of security of the realm were either sleeping on the job, or entertaining themselves elsewhere. Now, the incidents of the last week have seen security agencies redouble their efforts to eliminate the terrorists behind these killings. What is more, the security and intelligence grid in the Valley remains pretty robust and effective. The average shelf life of terrorists in Kashmir is a few months. Moreover, the idea of terrorists to scare away people from other parts of India who come to Kashmir to earn a living hasn’t really worked. Further, these killings are not celebrated in Kashmir; except by the lunatic fringe of Islamist separatists pretending to be fighting for Kashmir’s independence. It is also important that these incidents should not be conflated either with the constitutional reforms that took place in Jammu & Kashmir in 2019 or with the formation of the Taliban ‘Emirate’ in Afghanistan. This is the casuistry around the constitutional reforms fueling terrorism. While it is the democratic right of politicians to oppose the constitutional reforms of 2019, to conflate terrorist attacks with these reforms is to provide a sort of justification, something that plays into the hands of the false narrative the terrorists are trying to manufacture and peddle.
The needless clamor over the new domicile laws in Jammu & Kashmir is more egregious. Not only are these no different from those in other parts of India, they have Jammu &Kashmir specific safeguards that impose a lot of restrictions and constraints on who can get domicile or buy property in the Union Territory. The condemnation of the killings of minorities is meaningless if it is accompanied by utterly malicious and baseless fears being expressed over the non-existent demographic invasion of Kashmir. To make an issue of the domicile laws (as is being done by the Opposition Parties) is to provide oxygen to the terrorists’ agenda. Further, the Opposition in Kashmir must also understand that the terrorists cannot be allowed to harm the communal fabric of the Valley, which is intact since past so many decades.
By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)