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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Shooting from the hip


With politiciansissuing provocative statements and militants upping the ante, New Delhi has reasons to worry, says Haroon Reshi
HAROON RESHI | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : Omar Abdullah | Jammu and Kashmir | Kashmir issues | Militancy | Article 370 |

Kashmir seems to be erupting again, and this time the instigator could well be Chief Minister Omar Abdullah himself. On July 7, at a public rally at Charar Sharief, he warned New Delhi against taking the anger in the Kashmir Valley ‘for granted’ and stop ‘believing that the peace in valley is permanent’.

For a chief minister of a state which has barely emerged from the shadows of a two-decade-long civil strife, the comments could not have been more inopportune. This was no stray instance either. Earlier on June 26, Omar warned those wanting Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives Jammu and Kashmir special powers within the Indian Union, repealed.

In the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, he said, ‘‘Article 370 can only be withdrawn upon our dead bodies”. The occasion was inauguration of the Banihal-Qazigund railway line which connects the valley with Jammu and beyond.

Interestingly, Omar is not the only one shooting from the hip. On July 6, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, patron of opposition PDP and former Union home minister, asked India and Pakistan to treat Kashmir as a priority issue in the bilateral talks between the two countries. “Kashmir should be priority and it should be discussed through humanitarian angle as residents of this region have faced the maximum brunt of enmity between the two countries,” he roared.

So just when peace had been obtained at heavy cost, state politicians appear keen to fan the ‘independent Kashmir’ theme. Analysts believe these fiery statements indicate that preparations for elections due in 2014 are already underway. Says Tahir Mohidin, editor and political commentator: ‘‘Since elections are near, these leaders are exploiting the sentiment of Kashmiris for their own interests.”

Apparently, the Kashmir issue and the anti-Indian sentiment will be kept alive by ‘pro-Indian’ leaders till elections are held. Not just is the political environment becoming hostile to New Delhi, there are also indications that militancy in the valley may also be intensified.

On June 25, a day before Manmohan and Sonia’s arrival, 8 army personnel and 14 others were wounded in a single attack by heavily armed militants in Srinagar at a time when security had been ‘beefed up’ ahead of the visit of high profile leaders from Delhi.

Analysts believe the attack was a grim reminder that even after 24 years of tough counter-insurgency campaign by India’s security forces, militants remain capable of striking at will.

Mustufa Kamal, senior leader of ruling National Conference and Omar Abdullah’s uncle, believes the security forces deployed in the state will not be able to eliminate militancy and there remains no other option but to tackle the issue politically.

Kamal told TSI: ‘‘No army succeeds against militancy. Americans were defeated in Vietnam. USSR lost the battle at the hands of Afghan rebels and in recent times the Americans have failed miserably in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe we should send our army back to their barracks and start a serious political process to solve the Kashmir issue.”

By all indications, Kashmiri militants are very active in the valley and have only stepped up their activities in recent weeks. Official statistics say more than 30 security personnel, including those from the army, have been killed by militants since March this year.

In a recent incident, three local militants including the district commander of Hizb ul Mujahideen, were killed in an encounter at Tral in south Kashmir. Public sympathy for militants can be gauged by the fact that thousands turned up at the funeral of the slain militants.

Analysts predict a rise in militancy after the withdrawal of NATO troops in Afghanistan in 2014. In early 1990’s, hundreds of Afghan militants had entered the valley after surviving the Afghan war against Soviet occupation.

Says Gul Muhammad Wani, who teaches Political Science at Kashmir University, ‘‘There is a possibility that Afghan militants will enter the valley after Americans leave.” However, Gul believes that the Indian Army is well prepared this time. ‘‘In 1989 and early 1990s, the army was taken by surprise but this time they are prepared and strong enough to fight back,’’ he told TSI.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has already announced its intention to wage war in Kashmir. In January this year, in a released video, a top TTP leader Wali Ur Rehman, pledged to send fighters to Kashmir and wage a struggle for the implementation of “Sharia rule” here.

With separatist leaders vigorously active in the valley and now mainstream leaders following them, things appear to be heating up. The question to be asked is this: is all this a pointer towards elections 2014 or are we returning to the days of renewed militancy?

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017