As BJP-PDP Split, Security Forces Hope to Bring Peace to J&K Soon

With no more political patronage to mobsters & militants, security forces hope to restore peace in J&K in 6 months .

Updated
India
5 min read
In the last three years, security forces saw the coalition partners pull in opposite directions.
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The downfall of the grotesquely conjoined PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir doesn’t appear to have led to the mass turmoil that was witnessed on termination of Farooq Abdullah’s government in 1984 and 1990, or even Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government in 2008.

All the three times, governors took over smoothly from the civil regimes but invariably landed in a whirlpool. It took months or years to restore order.

Mehbooba Mufti government’s breakdown due to withdrawal of support by BJP on 19 June comes at a time when the bureaucracy, administration, police and security forces have already been grappling with turbulence of the coalition’s own making. This is completely different from the many that Kashmir witnessed in the last 70 years.

“The security establishment has never been in this kind of confusion post-1990. There has always been clarity. Every one of us knew what was to be done and what not to,” said a retired officer of Jammu and Kashmir Police.

“In the last three years, we saw the coalition partners pull in opposite directions. While the right-wing hardliner BJP wanted to deal with militants, stone-pelters and separatists with an iron hand, PDP offered them velvet gloves. Neither of them contested the separatists politically.”

The officer, not inclined to identify himself in media, observed that neither releasing the stone pelters (and withdrawing criminal cases against them) nor felling the militants and protesters with bullets would restore stability.

Martyrs, Brothers and the Civilian Shield

“Previously, there used to be either demonstrators or guerrillas. We are today confronted with an unprecedented blend. While the militants address rallies and congregations like politicians and clerics, civilian protestors swarm to encounter sites to create cover and rescue passage to holed up militants,” said a serving J&K police officer. He added:

Essentially, there has to be some camaraderie between the police/security forces and the peoples’ elected representatives. As long as this is absent, every strategy is destined to fail.
A serving J&K police officer

This is what has happened, particularly after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy Burhan Wani in July 2016. As the Valley reeled under months of curfew and separatist-sponsored shutdown, almost all the regional political parties, including the ruling PDP, have stuck to the turf of competitive separatism.

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It has had a perceptible impact. The last of the unequivocal pro-India leaders, namely Farooq Abdullah, was heard last year asking his National Conference cadres to “remember the sacrifices of these youths (read militants) who are up in arms for our nation.”

Understandably, even some of the ruling PDP leaders have given out an impression that they were competing with Farooq Abdullah’s pseudo-separatist rhetoric, albeit one-off. Some of them were heard calling the militants as “martyrs” and “our brothers”.

Notwithstanding their subdued support to security forces, BJP’s leaders and ministers have failed to prevent the rot of resultant demoralisation in the ranks of police and security forces.

Registration of criminal cases by name against two CRPF drivers lately, around the time when the paramilitaries survived a terrible mob attack and one of the attackers got crushed under the wheel, is being quoted and interpreted as an act of the government’s “appeasement to separatists”.

According to senior officers of police and security forces, as many as 30 cordon-and-search operations have failed due to stone pelting and slogans at the encounter sites in the current year even as over 20 ‘protestors’ got killed in retaliatory action.

Some or all of the holed up militants are said to have escaped from these failed operations. Once Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, threatened of treating the stone-pelters at par with terrorists. None of such statements, including one from union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, worked.

Failed Negotiations and the Month of Ramzan

If some well-connected politicians in the BJP are to be believed, Narendra Modi government at the Centre was under tremendous pressure from several quarters all over the country and, consequently, too fed up with the PDP that it strategically manufactured a way out. Ostensibly obliging the coalition partner by offering a unilateral ceasefire with militants and calling upon the separatists to come forward for a dialogue process, New Delhi knew the consequences unmistakeably.

The militants as well as the separatist leaders turned down both the offers, laying conditions not acceptable to New Delhi. Through the month of Ramzan, militants attacked police and security forces camps, kidnapped, killed and left injured civilians.

Towards the end, they brutally killed a captured soldier and carried out an unprecedented daredevil attack at Srinagar’s Press Enclave, killing high profile journalist Shujaat Bukhari along with two personal security officers. That turned out to be the turning point.

Neutralising Militancy

Within days of the two horrible incidents of violence, Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the end of the unilateral ceasefire. The buck stopped where the PDP was left with no room to resist the Centre’s decision. In quick succession, orders were flashed to security forces to deal firmly with all stone pelters and militants and ensure that there was no attack on the annual Amarnath pilgrimage.

A senior Army official revealed to The Quint that the security and intelligence agencies had accessed information about a major terror strike on pilgrims by Jaish-e-Mohammad anywhere from Srinagar to Baltal.

“We are pretty sure that the graph of violence will come down drastically as the mobsters and terrorists will no more enjoy support from the system. Previously, SPs would remain flooded with orders and requests from political leaders to release militants and stone pelters,” said the senior officer who is not authorised to speak to media.

...Now that this support structure will cease to exist, you will see few of the youths holding demonstrations, attempting to disrupt our operations or pelting stones. But we will increase our operations and neutralise all the 200-odd militants in the next 6 to 8 months.
A senior Army Officer

He asserted that the security forces would leave no stone unturned to crush “terrorists and their supporters” on all fronts, including social media, but, at the same time attempt to build better rapprochement with the peaceful civilian populations.

“The change is already perceptible. Our cavalcades would normally come under stone pelting almost daily. As an experiment, we plied a single Gypsy from Hazratbal to Qamarwari through downtown Srinagar in the evening today. Nobody threw a stone on it,” said a middle ranking officer of CRPF.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)

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