ASSESSING KASHMIR SITUATION

Ground realities are a complete mismatch from Governor’s optimism.The existing trends in the Valley, where violence is increasing, muscular policy is at an all-time high, cordons, raids and unjustifiable arrests are the norm, have immense potential to push the most peaceful of civilians towards joining the ranks of militants.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik’s confidence about changing the situation in the Valley within four to six months and making conditions conducive for dialogue sound good but appear to stem more from political convenience rather than an assessment based on ground realities. Much against his assertion of an improved scenario in Kashmir, ever since he took over the reins of the government violence levels are phenomenally on the rise. According to official data, 360 persons were killed in militancy related violence this year till October and October itself turned out to be the bloodiest with over 59 killings including 31 militants, 14 civilians, 14 security force personnel.

The statistics compiled by Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society which has been documenting the Kashmir conflict for years is much higher at 472. Malik took charge of the state in latter half of August and his claims of having been able to effect a drastic change in the situation in the last two months are punctured by such glaring statistics. That 45 people were killed in the month of September and an equal number in August. A cursory look at the graph of violence since the beginning of this year shows a steady rise in casualties from 21 in January to 42 in June. The only time there was a slight decline in the casualties was July with 27, which was also the period that coincided with the unilateral ceasefire announced by the central government. If some officials choose to explain the increase in casualties as necessary offshoots of strikes aimed at militant neutralization, the success of such operations is equally questionable as statistics reveal also an increasing graph of number of soldiers and policemen being killed in the bargain. Among the people who have died in encounters and clashes in Jammu and Kashmir this year, 132 are security personnel, revealing a 24 percent increase in casualties. Clearly from talking about the worsening situation of the Valley and the spiraling increase in militancy, the Governor’s Rule has changed the tactic to being in denial of the situation, for whatever political gains he believes this would deliver.

If indeed his assertion that no fresh militants have been recruited in the last two months was true, why is it that the number of militant strikes and counter insurgency operations have been stepped up, why is it that number of people attending funerals of militants is swelling more and more or why is it that people still rush in hordes to save the militants from encounter sites? An improving situation should be able to stand the litmus test on the ground and its signs should have been visible rather than be imposed through rhetoric that does not match the ground reality. An improving situation should automatically have resulted in relief to the people not in exacerbation of the government’s muscular policy exercised from the barrel of the gun and brute power. The rising number of civilian deaths in incidents of violence, the continued spate of arrests and illegal detentions, the daily dose of crackdowns, cordons and raids conducted in the most whimsical manner as well as the tendency to treat every civilian with suspicion should have seen a decrease if indeed the situation was improving. As head of the state, the Governor is supposed to act responsibly and measure his words before he speaks. A seasoned man like him must be aware of this imperative and also of the larger impact of what he utters. Is he misled by his officers and security officers under his command or is it just some wishful thinking that he believes could yield positive political impact? There is no analytical data to counter his claims that no fresh militants are being recruited.

But correspondingly he offers none to substantiate these either. However, the existing trends in the Valley, where violence is increasing, muscular policy is at an all-time high, cordons, raids and unjustifiable arrests are the norm, have immense potential to push the most peaceful of civilians towards joining the ranks of militants. It is common understanding in any conflict region that a continuum of such policies and methods of trying to fight insurgency do not only not help create conducive conditions for dialogue, they further queer the pitch for any chance of reconciliation. While words alone cannot impact any change on the ground, rhetoric of normalcy in the face of increasing abnormality of the situation and its distressing signals have the potential of worsening the psychological and physical wounds of the people, which Malik professed he wanted to address.