Perceptional flaws in assessments

While Kashmir situation cannot be assessed solely in terms of militancy statistics, the numbers show a rise not decline.The increasing incidents of insurgency are a cause for concern even as the security forces claim to have made remarkable successes in counter insurgency operations. The success factor is misleading because it is based on the number of killings of militants and not on the change in the ground situation. Over 190 militants are reported to have been killed in 2017 including foreign militants and those killed in alleged infiltration bids. However, at the same time, the Army’s admission that 200 militants are still operating in the Valley is an indication that step up in military operations, killings of militants or handful of surrenders are not quite making a change. Infact, the overall number of militants have registered an increase.

The government last year had put the number at 179. While the fresh infiltrations are continuing, there is also an increase in the number of local young boys mesmerized by the idea of joining the ranks of militants and volunteering to pick up arms. Despite the high number of killings, the number of militants operating in the Valley has not seen any major reduction and it is not known how many are actually in the sleeper cells and how many signing up for the various militant organizations. An assessment based on sheer numbers is flawed as it also does not take into account the increasing ferocity of the militant operations and the high casualty figures of the security forces as well as some civilians. Last week in major encounters in Hajin, Pulwama and Zakura, several security personnel also lost their lives. About 70 security personnel have been killed in various militancy related incidents in 2017. There has been rise in number of militant related activities in Kashmir where 301 incidents were recorded in 2017 as compared to 283 in 2016.

Besides, in terms of statistics alone, the number of militants operating and the size of infiltration or those enrolling to pick up arms are not too alarming. But numbers alone are not the apt yardstick for measuring the situation which is deteriorating by the day. What falsifies the claims of successes based on military operations is the increasing popularity of the new generation of militants, as revealed by well attended funerals and stone pelting mobs that try to get in the way of security forces during counter insurgency operations. These are trends that the best of military operations cannot combat. Even army officers have pointed to the need for backing up military operations with a political process. The situation therefore, needs to be assessed both from the military and political prism, more the latter because insurgency is understood primarily as an offshoot of unfulfilled political desires.

Militancy emanates and flows from the inability of the government to resolve a long pending political dispute and also due to excessive anger and alienation of the people in recent years, mostly stemming from gross human rights abuse, denial of justice and stamping of peaceful channels of dissent. The government’s bid to crackdown on Hurriyat, the most visible political formation that represents the sentiments of the angry masses created the vacuum in which militancy began to be re-glamourised and caught the fancy of the youth. As long as the government is unable to understand this trajectory of militancy and its political genesis, it will not be able to combat it effectively, at best it can suppress it after a prolonged period of military combats that are not only leading to elimination of militants but also loss of life of security personnel, who must not be treated like cannon fodder.

To weaken militancy requires a strategy that is not simply a military one but deals with the basic genesis of revival of militancy. The government has recently appointed an interlocutor for Kashmir. Much remains desirable in making this initiative appear serious and credible. So far, the initiative has not gone too well with the local population. There is need for government to strengthen the effort by spelling out the terms of engagement of its Kashmir representative and encourage opening of channels of communication with all segments of society including Hurriyat and alienated youth so that the due process of dialogue can be built on such efforts. Only a meaningful political process can take the sting out of the militancy which is becoming dangerous by the day.

News Updated at : Tuesday, November 21, 2017