Centre to scale up ops against Kashmir militants as Governor’s rule imposed after BJP, PDP split
Under governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi will embark on a hardline security-centric policy with the scaling up of counter-insurgency operations, especially in the four districts of South Kashmir — Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama — that have become the hotbed of militancy in the last two years, officials familiar with the plan said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its almost 40-month alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned, paving the way for direct Central rule to be overseen by governor NN Vohra.
“Trust deficit, governance deficit and soft separatism — these were the three main complaints against Mehbooba Mufti when the BJP decided to pull plug on its alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir,” said a person familiar with the thinking of the Union government.
Although the second term of governor Vohra, 82, is ending on June 27, he is expected to continue in office, at least until the completion of the Amarnath yatra, which passes through South Kashmir districts. The annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine ends on August 26.
Security for the Amarnath yatra was a paramount concern when the government decided on Monday not to extend the month-long Ramzan halt on counter-insurgency operations.
“It was felt that without resuming operations against militants, the Amarnath yatra cannot be secured. Now, under the governor’s rule the security forces are expected to step up pressure against militants,” said a home ministry official on the condition of anonymity.
A Union minister said the government will adopt a more aggressive approach not only inside Kashmir but also along the Line of Control and the International Border as well.
“The government is conscious of the fact that increased operations may lead to retaliation from the other side, and ensuring peaceful Amarnath yatra was an important assignment,” said the minister, who requested anonymity.
The minister claimed that the security forces had inflicted serious damage on the establishment on the other side of the Line of Control, and the challenge before the government was to deal with those who create trouble on this side of the border through locals.
Data available with security forces shows that 144 militants are active in South Kashmir. Among them, 131 are locals and 13 are foreign terrorists. Between January 1 and May 31, around 90 new recruits joined the ranks of militants in South Kashmir; in 2017, 109 new recruits joined militancy. In 2017, security forces killed 144 militants in the region.
A former army commander, who has served in Kashmir, said security forces will have more freedom in launching operations against militants.
“The army and other security forces will find it easier to operate under the governor. The Unified Command will be under the governor, instead of the CM. This means political sensitivity won’t come in the way of operations. Take an example, if the army wants to do a hinterland operation in South Kashmir, a PDP government would be far more cautious. I am not saying there were restrictions earlier but there will more freedom now,” said the retired commander on condition of anonymity.
Formalities of announcing governor’s rule in the state are being completed in the Union home ministry. Union home minister Rajnath Singh met with officials to discuss the key requirements for J&K in the absence of an elected government in the state.