A sudden spurt in attacks by militants in Kashmir has raised eye brows in the security grid. However, many believe that it was on expected lines as militancy is not completely out, though surely on the decline.
Last week militants registered their presence by attacking three places in a single day. The major attack took place in South Kashmir’s Shopian district where three policemen were killed in an ambush.
What made these attacks different was that in two cases they targeted policemen and in the third one a former militant was shot at. Given the history of militant presence in Kashmir, these attacks are not unusual. But they have taken place at the time a new government headed by Peoples Democratic Party’s patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is in place.
Sayeed, who returned to power for the second time after leading a PDP-Congress coalition from 2003 to 2005 is seen as soft towards separatists and an advocate of reconciliation with Pakistan.
That might not make him acceptable to militants, who espouse their cause on a different track. But making reconciliation and peace as the centre of his politics and advocating talks with Pakistan gives him some leverage on the ground.
Though PDP’s alliance with right wing BJP was seen as “near betrayal”on part of PDP by the people in Kashmir, Sayeed tried to change the discourse by taking some steps, which are not digestible to BJP.
For example release of hard-line separatist leader Masarrat Alam put the BJP on the back foot but Sayeed did not relent. This helped him change the perception in the Valley.
It is difficult to anticipate whether a soft approach towards separatism will bring any legitimacy to the government in Kashmir. But the fact is that militant activities may not see a let up since the snow is melting on borders in the state.
According to both the Army and police, militants were ready across the border to infiltrate and their presence in the Valley had not waned. “There are around 200 militants operating in the Valley so you should expect some kind of activity” said Lt Gen Subrata Saha Commander of Srinagar based 15 Corps.
Interestingly the number of local militants has increased in the past two years. This makes the game more complicated. If at all the militancy had been on a decline in past 10 years it was because of the fact that local involvement was less. “People were fed up with violence so the sanction to militancy at societal level was down” said an analyst adding “but local Kashmiri youth joining the militancy is a not only disturbing but it means that they do enjoy some kind of support”.
He pointed towards the large number of people joining the funeral processions of militants. It is pertinent to mention that during the 2010 public unrest the Jammu and Kashmir Police was at the forefront of trouble and 120 people mostly youth were killed in police and CRPF firing.
So militants directing their ire towards the police could be seen in the backdrop of the distance they have with the general public. But Inspector General of the Police Kashmir zone S J MGillani does not agree with the view saying that police enjoyed excellent rapport with people. “Those killed in Shopian ambush were unarmed thus became soft targets” he explains.
In the absence of any serious political engagement, the space is used by militants and extremists to further their own agenda.
As long as Delhi refuses to engage with Kashmiris for resolving the larger political problem, the vaccum will be filled by forces like them.
(Shujaat Bukhari is a senior journalist based in Srinagar)