Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kashmir: End of Militancy but not of Militarisation

A decade back, More people were dying every month in militancy-countermilitancy associated violence in J&K than there are now in entire year! Total casualties have fallen to the level when militancy began (1988-89) and  unlike the bad old days, most casualties nowadays are of the militants (and not civilians).


'
Incidents
Civilians
Security Force Personnel
Terrorists
Total
1988
390
29
1
1
31
1989
2154
79
13
0
92
1990
3905
862
132
183
1177
1991
3122
594
185
614
1393
1992
4971
859
177
873
1909
1993
4457
1023
216
1328
2567
1994
4484
1012
236
1651
2899
1995
4479
1161
297
1338
2796
1996
4224
1333
376
1194
2903
1997
3004
840
355
1177
2372
1998
2993
877
339
1045
2261
1999
2938
799
555
1184
2538
2000
2835
842
638
1808
3288
2001
3278
1067
590
2850
4507
2002
NA
839
469
1714
3022
2003
NA
658
338
1546
2542
2004
NA
534
325
951
1810
2005
NA
521
218
1000
1739
2006
NA
349
168
599
1116
2007
NA
164
121
492
777
2008
NA
69
90
382
541
2009
NA
55
78
242
375
2010
NA
36
69
270
375
2011
NA
34
30
119
183
2012
NA
16
17
84
117
2013
NA
20
61
100
181
2014
NA
10
16
42
68
Total*
47234
14682
6110
22787
43579
*Data till June 22, 2014 (Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal) 



In an ideal scenario, end of militant violence ought to be followed by demilitarisation and a political settlement with the weakened militant elements. The script has been played out in Bodoland, Nagaland and Mizoram with decent results (though inter-ethnic/tribal violence is yet end in Nagaland and Bodoland). There has indeed been less visible military presence in Valley's cities. But, right now, prospects of complete demilitarisation or any significant 'drawdown' from Valley's internal cities seem dim for several reasons:
  1. Elections and a cautious Indian State: Kashmir Valley recorded the lowest regional turnout in Indian Parliamentary elections. Barring Kupwara district and a few Shia/Gujjar dominated pockets; Separatists largely succeeded in ensuring a boycott in Valley- at places (Srinagar's Bemian, Sopore) through genuine sympathy for Hurriyat's call; and at other places (rural South Kashmir) through assassination of Panches & creating a fear-psychosis. This has been a slap on the face for Indian State. Now, the State assembly elections are due later this year. Usually, State and Panchayat (unlike National) elections, record decent turnout in Valley. Given the ignominy faced in Parliamentary polls, Indian state would not like to do anything radical, that holds the potential to spoil the state elections (and discredit itself further).
  2. BJP in Centre: With BJP in Power, even Article 370, is no longer a holy cow.  Defence Minister Jaitley has already made trips to Srinagar, mainly to assess the Security preparedness against Terrorist threats. Modi will do the same in early July.  
  3. Kashmiri Pandit Repatriation: There have been some overtures by Central and State Government, for resettling Kashmiri Pandits in Valley. Whether these overtures materialise or not, talk for the same means there will have to be Central security forces in valley to reassure Pandit community.
  4. Af-Pak muddle next door and ISIL, Al-Shabab, Boko-Haram adventures in far off lands: Requires no further elaboration.

There is little doubt that in past, Central Governments in Delhi have acted in a autocratic manner (spark for insurgency itself was started by a rigged state assembly election in 1987) and there exists a really huge and horrible laundry list of rights violation by the security forces stationed there with virtually no convictions. At times, Kashmiri students have also been attacked by their hypernationalist college mates in North India.

Having said that, It has to be recognised that (unlike her esteemed neighbors) as of today; Kashmir is free of polio, and (unlike Syrians, Afghans, Sri Lanka's Tamilians and Pakistan's Ahmedis/Shias) Kashmiris are not jumping onto overcrowded boats in Indian ocean or crossing over to neighboring countries for political or religious asylum (infact many who did cross LoC, at peak of militancy, now wish to return home). Nor do Kashmiris go around blowing themselves in mainland Indian cities. Also despite out-migration of Valley's Pandits and multiple attacks by separatist militants in Jammu's temples and pilgrims in past, by and large, Jammu region's communal harmony has been retained (leaving aside 1947 killings). Things could have been a lot  worse. Credit (be it to the local culture or the Security forces) must be given, where it is due.

Or is it a case of Confirmation Bias? I am no longer in immediate demilitarisation camp
A year back, I would have backed complete demilitarisation of Valley and handing law and order entirely to Local Police. But events in Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan have turned me into an agnostic inclined towards holding one's ground. Given the existing popular disenchantment amongst the Sunni Kashmiri majority and presence of significant Islamist firepower in region; there is a very realistic chance of many a cities falling into the hands of Islamist militants as soon as Central military/para-military forces withdraws- assuming here that J&K State police is no better than State Police elsewhere in India and like Iraq- if push comes to the shove, Police may very well switch sides or simply run away

This, in my view, will not be followed by any dawn of Azadi. Instead like Waziristan, Northern Sri Lanka, and now Tikrit; Fighter Jets and heavy artillery may end up bombing the entire place to retake cities, causing major civilian casualties and mass migrations. Kashmiri separatists, even with Pakistani assistance, are too small a lot to defeat India by force. How all of this will impact with Jammu's (if not rest of India's) multireligious settlements is anybody's guess. What looks certain is that, end result could very well be far far worse than the present ground situation and would take decades to heal. For long-lasting peace and prosperity in Kashmir Valley, A popular political reconciliation/settlement in a hate free environment has to be the goal; but at the moment, priority, has to be not allowing Kashmir to descend into a Syria/Afghan level hellhole.