PANIC OVER TROOPS’ DEPLOYMENT

Deployment of additional troops in Kashmir comes close on heels of claims of improvement in security situation
The extra-deployment of 10,000 security forces, including CRPF and BSF, in the Valley is a flawed step that will contribute to Kashmir’s further descent into chaos and push it into a more dangerous vortex. The announcement has already been met with criticism from all quarters within the Valley and is inducing a new level of panic. The most worrisome aspect is that while the people of Kashmir are gripped by panic, the government is only adding to the confusion. Some local police officials tried to allay the fears regarding additional deployment by stating that the announcement pertained to routine movement of forces which, they said, “would replace the personnel already deployed there in a phased manner”. However, reports in the national media, quoting unnamed government sources, linked the movement of troops to intelligence inputs of a major terrorist attack threat in Kashmir Valley. Lack of clarity on the matter coupled with the silence of the central government has deepened the panic, evoking strong reactions from all quarters including all political groups.

Even Peoples Conference chief, Sajad Lone, a major ally of the BJP, was forced to rap Centre for its penchant for “adventurism”. Besides, the additional deployment of troops is also out of sync with the repeated claims of the Central government and Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik about the “improving situation” and “breaking the back of militancy”. The official statistics, however, puncture such claims. 2018 was the bloodiest year in the Valley in the last one decade and the number of local boys picking up arms against the state also saw a surge, from 135 in 2017 to 201 in 2018. The perception of military success is based on the number of people kill;ed and does not take into account the higher number of youth picking up arms, the increasing acceptability among youth of far more rabid groups with al Qaeda and ISIS leanings or the high casualties of civilians and the security personnel. Earlier this month, the Minister of State (MoS) Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy informed the parliament that a total of 963 terrorists have been eliminated in Jammu and Kashmir between 2014 and 2019. He also informed that 413 security personnel have lost their lives. This means that for every two militants killed, the Indian state is losing two precious security personnel, a disproportionately high number for a good military strategy.

The military strategy in Kashmir has not worked primarily because Kashmir is a political dispute and there has been no attempt to supplement counter-insurgency with a political approach and a political reach-out to the people of Kashmir. On the contrary, the Bhartiya Janata Party, which is in power at the Centre, is constantly making attempts to further muddy the political waters of Kashmir by raking up contentious issues. Recently, BJP president Ram Madhav during his Kashmir visit averred that Article 370 would have to be scrapped. At the same time, the government is trying its best to marginalize the Kashmir based political groups by propping up allegations and cases of corruption and tax evasion against the members of various regional political parties. The extra troop deployment was preceded by rumours and selective media leaks about government departments and security force wings issuing circulars and advisories and calling for stocking essentials and gearing up for the next few months, hinting at some major trouble in the days ahead. The recent developments in the Valley are giving rise to perceptional fear and anxiety of revocation of Article 35A, a step-up in human rights abuse and further curtailment of civil liberties. The government’s silence over such anxieties further confirms a pre-meditated design to enhance panic and chaos. This could be aimed at either testing the waters of Kashmir for Article 35A revocation or reaping electoral benefits in Kashmir by encouraging low participation inspired by the ongoing panic. The BJP might also be hoping to use the ‘hardline Kashmir policy’ narrative as a tool with an eye on various state assembly elections later this year.