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OpinionsSummer of 2017: Full of Challenges

Summer of 2017: Full of Challenges

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Summer of 2017: Full of Challenges

Brig Anil Gupta

From all available indications it is emerging that the impending summer in the valley is going to be very hot. It is not a weatherman's warning but prediction of many keen Kashmir watchers. Hectic activities across the LOC and international border (IB) in Pak territory, establishments of training camps, efforts to revive and unify terrorist organisations those were dormant since long, formation of Tehrik-e-Azadi Jammu Kashmir, resurfacing of launch pads with approximately 100-150 terrorists waiting to infiltrate, desperate attempts of infiltration backed by ceasefire violations, surge in number of locally recruited Hizb militants, spurt in terrorist activities in South Kashmir, regular incidents of public “resistance” to enable the terrorists to break the security forces' cordon,  attempts to demoralise the State Police by threatening their family members and increased activities of ISI are few early and late indicators that form the basis of prediction of a tumultuous summer. There has been no change in stance of Pakistan and its sympathisers, the separatists as well as the other global jihadi terrorist organisations. But at the same time some main stream politicians who have held or still hold constitutional positions but have lost their importance in the present dispensation in the state have started speaking the language of the separatists and pro-azadi elements in order to regain   political space under the misconception that anti-India rhetoric can only help them revive their political fortunes.  This is acting as a catalyst for Pak sponsored hooligans and turning Kashmir into a cauldron of unrest, lawlessness and terror.

Kashmir today is witnessing a peculiar phenomenon. Almost continuous turmoil in Kashmir for last three decades means that the present youth of Kashmir is product of the gun-culture era. They have grown up in an era characterised by check posts, security bunkers, curfews, bandhs, hartals, cordon and search, encounters, stone pelting and detentions. They have been victims of two worst natural calamities Snow Tsunami and the Floods. Loss of a kith or kin has been a regular feature of their growing up process. The youth has been indoctrinated by “salafi” literature available freely through mosques and madarsas and is often confused between “humanitarianism” and “radicalism”. They have grown up in a monolithic society and have no experience of renowned Kashmiri Sufi culture characterised by co-existence of multiple religious and cultural ethnicities, tolerance, mutual acceptance and inclusiveness.  Instead they have grown up in an of fear, mistrust and hatred. They have also been witness to the power politics played in Kashmir and the dubious role played by the power brokers, misuse of funds meant for development, unending list of broken promises by both the state and central governments, perceived excesses committed by Security Forces and exploitation of the common masses by the power brokers and fundamentalists in the name of religion. They have first-hand experience of Pak-sponsored proxy war including terrorism. Upward trend in number of drug addicts is also a worrying factor. Due to the prevailing security environment there is no investment leading to unprecedented unemployment which is the main cause of frustration among the youth. In nutshell, the modern Kashmiri youth is frustrated, angry, emotionally hardened and determined. They are no more willing to be exploited by the power brokers and seek a bright and dignified future for the Kashmiris and are willing to go to any extent for that. The government on its part has failed to recognise the youth as the Centre of Gravity for resolution of the ongoing turmoil in the Valley. Resultantly, it has made no sincere and concrete efforts to reach out the Kashmiri youth not only to assuage their hurt pride but also to address their problems which are unique due to the environment in which they have grown up. During my visits to the Valley and interaction with the Kashmiri youth I have found no dearth of those willing to join the mainstream and be part of “New India” envisaged by Prime Minister Modi. The unprecedented number of the young men who turned up for the recent army recruitment rally and growing number of Kashmiri children seeking admission in educational institutions in Jammu for undisturbed are pointers to this effect.   They want to get rid from the clutches of those power brokers and so-called champions of “azadi” who have merely used them as cannon-fodder by radicalising them to the extent that they are willing to getting killed, exploited their sentiments to push them into “Jihad”, misled them to pick up a gun instead of a book or pen but at the same time ensured their own kith and kin remain safe and isolated from the happenings in the Valley. They are yearning for peace and looking for genuine leaders who are interested in bringing an end to the turmoil in Kashmir. Despite its best efforts Mehbooba Mufti led coalition government has not been able to cut much ice with the youth and disconnect continues leading to status quo. Like the older generation which had pinned their hopes on the Vajpayee government, the present generation of Kashmiri youth look up to Narendra Modi as a panacea of all their woes and are hoping for the Prime Minister to take the initiative earliest.

The security forces will be faced with new challenges and changed strategy adopted by the terrorists. The biggest cause of worry for the security forces is the public support enjoyed by the terrorists and counter measures they need to evolve to meet the challenge of public resistance. There is every likelihood of stone-pelting being complimented with use of “petrol bombs”. Recent reports indicate heavy demand of used bottles in both urban and rural Kashmir. Use of “petrol bombs” can hinder smooth move of army logistics convoys as well as the Amarnath Yatra. “Lone Wolf” attack is another challenge, the security forces are likely to face this summer. Weapon snatching and looting of armouries to meet the critical deficiency of arms and ammunition will become more frequent. Security forces apart from strengthening the anti-infiltration and counter terrorism grid will need to boost ground level intelligence. Concrete measures will need to be taken to ensure that militants are not able to target the families of police personnel. Smooth movement of winter stocking convoys will be a major challenge for the Army.

Civil administration and the government will also have their hands full. Smooth conduct of parliamentary bye elections, local bodies and municipal corporations' elections and the Amarnath Yatra will be the challenges to cope with. The major challenge will be to thwart all attempts of the disruptive forces to replay the previous summer and throw the Valley back into a turmoil bringing to a grinding halt all development related ambitious plans of the coalition government. They will look for a small trigger to spark off the unrest. The government will need to use all its might and collective intellect to deny such triggers. A greater coordination between the alliance partners and strict “hold fire” orders to loose cannons will be needed to achieve the same. The government may also consider forming crisis management groups at district levels. These groups should be headed a political leader and have important district level functionaries as its members. Village/Mohalla level police committees need to be formed to ensure that evil designs of the “disruptive forces” do not fructify. No time should be lost in reaching out to the youth and addressing their genuine grievances including unemployment. Another issue annoying the youth is the denial of passport to the wards of surrendered militants. If anti- leaders of Hurriyat can be given passports why should be deny them to those young Kashmiris whose parents at one time realised their mistakes, surrendered and join the mainstream. Why should their past now haunt their next generation?  It is one of the measures to win over the frustrated youth and the government should address it with earnest.

By now the security forces and the civil administration have got used to meeting the challenges. However, the approach has been to thwart the immediate threat and not look for a long lasting solution but I refer to as a “fire-fighting approach.” This approach seldom leads to a solution but leaves it simmering.  The need of the hour is “Sledge Hammer” approach. This approach is needed for a decisive end to the Kashmir turmoil. The key elements of this approach are; an all-out offensive against the divisive and Pak sponsored terrorist forces augmented with a focussed policy to bring into the mainstream the Kashmiri youth. Incidentally, the youth unlike the power brokers is not interested in appeasement and huge financial dole from the central government but is looking forward to an outreach from the government without hurting their pride. The coming summer is going to be an acid test of the political acumen of the ruling class, administrative skills of the bureaucracy and professional competence of the security forces including their synergy. It will make or mar the ongoing resistance movement.

(The author is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at anil5457@gmail.com)

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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