The summer has just begun and divisive forces will make every effort to bring the Valley to the boil. Our forces will have to remain not only vigilant but on high alert
Every summer, which coincides with the ‘Durbar’ move, it almost becomes a routine affair for elements inimical to the return of normalcy and peace in Kashmir to set the Valley on fire. Continued conflicts and the disturbed law and order situation suit vested interests for whom militancy has become a necessity so that they can enjoy power as well as extract financial benefits, status and perks from emerging situations. Excuse or “trigger”, as referred in the parlance of security forces, is what allows them to set the Valley in turmoil and, thus, gives them a green signal for the commencement of hartal/bandh politics, intifada-style agitations, anti-India sloganeering and separatist politics.
The media, too, gets attracted and Kashmir hogs the limelight as prime-time debates are held over this issue. Not sensitive to the adverse effect such portrayal of Kashmir can have on the livelihood of the locals — who eagerly wait for the onset of this season to make good as this is a favourable tourist season — the fourth estate, too, willy-nilly contributes to the deepening of resentment in the Valley. The entire ecosystem gets affected with a few benefitting out of this situation even as a vast majority of the people suffer silently.
The summer of 2019 has been no different. Fortunately, parliamentary elections were conducted peacefully except for the targetted killing of one senior political leader and a sarpanch, who belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a couple of days before the polling for final phase of the Anantnag parliamentary constituency. The successful conduct of the elections has rattled the divisive forces to such an extent that they appeared disheartened and demoralised. The relentless pressure put by the security forces, particularly post-Pulwama, has broken the backbone of a Pakistan-sponsored proxy war with the top leadership of both the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lakshar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) virtually made extinct. More than 50 terrorists have been killed since February this year.
Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), though having the largest cadre, suffers from lack of leadership, arms and ammunition supply, training and motivation. The strict action taken by the Government against terror funding has stopped the free flow of foreign funds, thus leading to a cash crunch. Hence, the outfit has been on the back foot since long and has mainly involved itself in providing logistics and local knowledge support to foreign or foreign-affiliated groups.
Under such circumstances, the story of the horrific rape of a three-year-old girl in Bandipora area went viral and proved to be a boon for anti-national forces active in Kashmir. While everybody condemned the heinous act and demanded quick justice, the police acted promptly by arresting the culprit. Inimical elements saw in it a ray of hope for the trigger they were looking for this summer. Initially, the principal of the school, where the culprit studied, gave him an age certificate, declaring him a juvenile for reasons best known to him. A medical exam by the police, however, proved that he was an adult. Then the entire episode was given a sectarian touch by leaking out information that the victim child was a Shia. Protest marches were taken out, which raised tempers and brought the Valley on an edge of sectarian clashes.
Surprisingly, mainstream leaders in Kashmir and several civil society groups have remained ambivalent to the situation. Nobody visited the victim’s house. There were no candle marches as were witnessed during the infamous Rasana case of January 2018, which was used by the same elements to defame the Dogras of Jammu and create a communal rift between the local Dogras and Gujjars, who enjoyed centuries of bonhomie and co-existence.
As all this was happening, another rape case was reported in the Valley. It happened on the evening of May 12 in Ganderbal. This incident triggered further outrage. Something familiar happened then and it bore resemblance to the spontaneous violence that erupted after the killing of Burhan Wani, though not to that extent or scale but the modus operandi appeared familiar. The students assumed control of the protests and they appeared in large numbers on the streets, pelting stones and targetting security forces as well as the local police.
Interestingly, neither the security personnel nor the policemen were in any way involved in the horrendous crimes. Such organised stone-pelting had diminished to quite an extent after the imposition of Governor’s rule in the State. This week saw violent clashes. Over 50 people, including 47 security personnel, were injured in the clashes that broke out on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. A large number of vehicles were also damaged and the highway was kept blocked for hours together. Every effort was made by the protesters to provoke the security forces to retaliate with force. Some hidden hand was guiding them to do that.
Having failed in their design to achieve the desired result, the protesters shifted their focus to the capital town of Srinagar, the seat of power, with hopes that the security forces will brook no nonsense here. Protesters clashed with the security forces outside all major schools and colleges, including the University of Kashmir. The focus was lost from providing justice to the rape victim to somehow provoking the security forces to open fire in retaliation. The security forces so far have not obliged them.
The attempt of the inimical forces to turn the table by using the rape cases as an excuse to create a trigger seems to be failing this time but the security forces have to remain alive to their design. Credit also goes to the local police, which successfully apprehended both the culprits without losing much time and forming Special Investigation Teams to enquire into the episodes.
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tried to add fuel to fire by suggesting that the accused should be stoned to death. She wanted to create a controversy that might also provide an opportunity to set the Valley on fire. But fortunately for Kashmir, she failed in her attempt as nobody took her seriously and treated her tweet as yet another desperate attempt to remain politically relevant in the vast canvas of Kashmiri politics.
The attempt of the inimical forces may have ebbed temporarily but they will not give up so easily. Pakistan will try all the tricks to ensure that not only Kashmir remains on the boil but the arc of insurgency spreads south of Pir Panjal. Some events in the recent past do not augur well for the emerging security scenario in Kashmir. Pakistan has succeeded in getting loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that will help it to bolster its failing economy. But the strict conditions imposed by IMF and the Financial Action Task Force will force Pakistan to not be seen as an executor of cross-border terrorism.
Nevertheless, it will also not let the investments made by it to keep Kashmir as a dispute with India go waste so easily. Pakistan will try to keep the militancy alive in Kashmir to project it as a home-grown resistance movement.
The recent meeting organised by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) between the Islamic State and HM indicates the change in the modus operandi. IS supremo Al-Baghdadi has also shown renewed interest in India and Ghajwa-i-Hind. IS has also claimed that it has set up new branch ‘Wilayah of Hind’ (India Province) after the multiple attacks in Sri Lanka with the help of a local affiliate. The presence of ISJK in Kashmir, which police claims to have totally wiped out, is a worrying development and will have to be carefully monitored.
Thus, the search for trigger by anti-national elements will continue. It remains to be seen when and who provides the trigger. The security forces cannot afford to lower their guard. Or on scenting out the unusual.
(The writer is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist and strategic analyst)
Writer: Anil Gupta
Courtesy: The Pioneer