by Kuldeep Khuda
Since July 2016, after the killing of Burhan Wani in an operation, Kashmir has been in the news mostly for wrong reasons. The law and order situation, as it emerged, after Burhan Wani’s elimination, has kept Kashmir on an edge. The indices which portray the Internal Security Situation, have infact been on a steady increase since 2013. However, if terror figures and the associated developments are any indicators of ‘shape of things to come’ we need to put our thinking cap on and start working on our plans (if any) before the situation gets even more challenging.
A glance at the militancy graph will clear doubts about which way we are going. From 2006 to 2012 the terror incidents went down from 1438 to 124 which then rose to 151 in 2014 and further to 279 in 2017. Security forces casualties number came down to just 15 in 2012 (lowest ever during 28 years of militancy) from 182 in 2006. This figure rose to 47 in 2014 and further to 80 in 2017. The trend in terrorists killed depicts similar pattern, 591 in 2006, 72 in 2012, 110 in 2014 and 213 in 2017. If all the three strong parameters of security situation viz number of militancy incidents, security forces casualties and terrorists killed are showing an upward trend, it does not require rocket science to understand which way we are going and how our tactics on dealing Kashmir situation is delivering.
Conflict zone usually is associated with conflict of interests between those managing the security grid and political grid. After the launch of Operation All Out some important militant commanders got neutralised and the year 2017 saw 213 terrorists getting killed. This achievement of police and security forces cannot be underestimated. Most of the intelligence leading to successful and surgical operations flows from police. But, the success of operations gets diluted when the neutralised number of militants gets replaced by infiltration and fresh recruitment. Last year witnessed local militant recruitment at 126, highest during last more than twelve years. This year during first four months with around 50 local youth getting into militant cadres, last year’s number is likely to get surpassed.
= When the political grid is inactive, even if security grid gets results, common man on many occasions becomes a victim of favouritism and nepotism. The frustration of common man with the system he is in has to find an exit route. In other states of India, where system failures may be acuter, the exit route for frustration takes the form of Dharnas, strikes, arson etc. But, in the valley with militancy now firmly entrenched for last three decades, taking up gun is not only a readily available option but an attractive and glamorous one as well.
Inputs about infiltration and border firing are not encouraging either. But, more worrying is the local recruitment in militant cadres. Unrestricted use of social media by Burhan Wani enabled him to gain larger than life status. His death only provided the spark to ignite already vitiated atmosphere. Every militant’s funeral draws thousands to the venue. It is not uncommon to see gun-wielding militants appearing at the scene and play on the minds of youth. The event and its management more than makeup for the losses in terrorist cadre by way of fresh recruitment of a few more than lost. The calibrated release of videos on social media projecting terrorists as messiahs and brave hearts of the community serves as a catalyst in attracting youngsters to join the ‘jihad’.
Glamorisation of militancy has attracted well-educated boys into its ranks. Earlier unheard of but now a reality is a large number of educated youth getting enthused to be part of the ‘movement’ and to spearhead it. A local PhD scholar studying in Aligarh Muslim University, a faculty member from Kashmir University who subsequently got killed in an operation, an MBA son of a prominent separatist, are some of the recently recruited educated youth. This is changing the dimensions and dynamics of terrorism we are about to see unfolding in the valley during the next few years. A cult has been born. Whether it will grow to assume a menacing role, will largely depend on our response.
(The author has been state’s police chief. The ideas expressed in this write-up are personal.)