As the Kashmir Valley braces itself for a violent summer, a cross-section of society leaders, including the Commander of the Indian Army’s Chinar Corps have recommended a political solution to end this turmoil. For all those in favour of recommending dialogue with separatists -- who believe in talking to no one less than the Prime Minister or the UN Secretary General – the question is: Will terror attacks and stone pelting end with dialogue? Are Hurriyat separatists in control of militants and their force multipliers?
The answer is totally in the negative as has been seen in the violent stone pelting years of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013 in the Valley. While the Modi government is in no mood to talk to the Hurriyat separatists, seen as puppet proxies of Islamabad, the Centre and the state government should prepare a ground for political engagement in the Valley that is free from violence. The first step towards this lies with the Indian Army and the BSF, who man the international borders and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
It is imperative that the Indian Army must put an end to cross-border infiltration of jihadists notwithstanding the mountainous terrain and inclement weather conditions. It is a known fact that violence in the Valley is directly proportional to the number of armed infiltrators north of Pir Panjal. Contrary to what the Army and the intelligence agencies say, 2015 and 2016 have been years where the cross-border infiltration touched a new high. The assessment of security agencies is that there are some 300 armed infiltrators active in the Valley, but para-military commanders serving in the area believe the number could be twice or thrice the stated number with local recruitment on the rise.
An environment has been created in the Valley, that makes it seem like the turbulent 1990s are back. It is for the Army commanders to ensure that the numbers of militants don’t increase, by ending infiltration and strengthening the counter-insurgency grid. Kashmir watchers believe that the moment the militant threshold in the Valley crosses 200 in number, violence returns in all forms, with political activity choked due to fear.
The second step is most crucial, as the State needs to empower Jammu and Kashmir police personnel, who are at the receiving end from both the militants and the public at large. The morale of the state police is down as duty constables are being hit by stones on the road and their families threatened by militants or their over ground workers at home. The time has come to revamp the state police leadership with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti having the option to either lead or get out of the way.
Just as the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Lashkar-e-Tayyebba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants have synergised terror operations in the Valley as a new tactic conjured by Islamabad, the state police should join hands with the paramilitary forces and the Rashtriya Rifles in countering them. The Indian security forces need to foil efforts of these terror groups to enlarge the theatre of violence by shifting militants from south to central Kashmir particularly Budgam district. The counter-insurgency operations need to speeded up and carried out in a professional manner as per standard operating procedures not in cowboy style.
The third step is to choke cross-border funding of violence through under and over invoicing of LoC trade at Chakanda Bagh and Salamabad. An investigation conducted by NIA into cross-LoC trade indicates that money to the tune of over Rs 100 crore was being pumped up to sustain violence in the Valley through dubious trade methods. For instance, the volume of almond kernel imported from Pakistan through his route is more than that being produced in the entire country.
Despite the fact that the number of assault rifles, grenades and pistols being seized from Pakistani trucks is growing, Indian authorities still do not have a full body truck scanner, thanks to bureaucratic red tape and a turf war between security forces. The fact is that more than eight years into cross-LoC trade, authorities in Occupied Kashmir have a truck scanner and the Indian side is still waiting for Godot.
The last step before political engagement with valid stakeholders in the Valley commences is good governance from the Mufti government, which like all previous regimes looks to the Centre for leadership.
While sons and daughters of illustrious fathers and mothers of political families in the Valley are still to live up to expectations, Mehbooba should break this mould and lead from the front by empowering her administration, and the police in particular.
It is impossible for Kashmir to return to normal if the CM stays in a cocoon surrounded by favourite courtiers and is afraid to take militancy head on. The Centre can only help manage, the solution lies within the Valley itself.