2011 assessment by SATP. Posting in full:http://satp.org/satporgtp/sair/index.htm
J&K: A Tentative Peace
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management
The steep and continuous decline in terrorist violence in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) continued through 2011, bringing fatalities to a new and dramatic low. 2010 had been described as the “most peaceful year” in over two decades of insurgency in the State, with 375 terrorism-related fatalities. 2011 witnessed a further consolidation, with just 183 killed in the State. Crucially, despite continuous efforts by the separatist constituency in State to replicate the militant-backed summer unrest of 2010, street demonstrations and violence failed to secure significant traction through 2011.
34 civilians, 30 Security Forces (SFs), and 119 terrorist fatalities were recorded in 2011, down from 36 civilians, 69 SF personnel and 270 terrorists in 2010. Terrorism related incidents, at 189 in 2011, dropped to just over a third of their number in 2010 (488).
Jammu and Kashmir: Key Indicators - 2006-2012*
Years Incidents** Civilian Fatalities SF Fatalities Terrorist Fatalities Total Fatalities Explosions Infiltration Attempts**
2006 1667 349 168 599 1116 215 573
2007 1092 164 121 492 777 109 535
2008 708 69 90 382 541 43 342
2009 499 55 78 242 375 13 485
2010 488 36 69 270 375 36 489
2011 189 34 30 119 183 42 NA
2012* NA 4 0 3 7 2 NA
Source: SATP, *Data till February 19, 2012
** Source: State Home Ministry
Significantly, by end of 2011, at least seven Districts in the State had been declared completely free of militancy. These included Leh and Kargil, which had never seen significant militancy, as well as Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Reasi and Doda. 13 Districts, according to the State Home Ministry, had reported militancy related incidents ‘in single digits’: Budgam, Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Kishtwar, Ramban, Doda, Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Jammu (Jammu recorded just one incident in the year, though it had been declared militancy free). This left just four Districts with double-digit incidence of insurgency: Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara and Pulwama. Sopore, in the Baramulla District, remained the terrorist-extremist heartland, as one intelligence officer noted in June 2011, “The day support for militancy ends here, it’s finished. Sopore is the key.” As if to underline this reality, in the first terrorist attack in 2012, on January 7, terrorists launched coordinated attacks on the Sopore Police Station, killing one civilian. Three civilians, three SF troopers and one militant were also injured in the attack. In January 2012, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs asked the State Government to take measures to free more Districts from militancy through 2012.
The sharp decline in militant fatalities was substantially a consequence of an increasing reluctance on their part to engage with the SFs, heightened sharply by the continuous loss of leadership. Among top militants killed in 2011 were: Lashkar-e-Toiba’s (LeT) ‘operational commander’ for North Kashmir Abdullah Uni; LeT ‘divisional commander’ Abdul Rehman alias Rehman Bhai, who had been nominated as ‘operational commander’ of LeT (North Kashmir) after the death of Abdullah Uni; Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) ‘divisional commander’ Qari Zubair; Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) ‘commander’ Ahsan Bhai; LeT Kishtwar ‘chief’ Habib Gujjar alias Salman; JeM ‘commander-in-chief’ Sajjad Afghani alias Qari Hamaad, LeT ‘divisional commander’ Mohammad Aiyaz Malik alias Abu Moosa.
The SFs also arrested 166 militants and made recoveries of arms, ammunitions and other materials on at least 115 occasions through 2011. State Government data indicated that 19 militants had surrendered in 2011 (till November) as compared to 20 in 2010. A total of 4,080 terrorists, including 276 ‘commanders’, had surrendered over the past 22 years. The State Government had also received some 800 applications in response to its November 23, 2010, surrender and rehabilitation policy, which was intended to facilitate the return of its estimated 3000 to 3500 youth who had crossed over into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan, for training, but had now given up the idea of joining the militancy, and sought an opportunity to the State. However, on July 6, 2011, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had acknowledged that there were “practical issues” in implementing the rehabilitation policy for militants.
Despite isolated pools of continuing, low grade violence, the improved security scenario led to a huge rush of tourists into the State, with 2011 recording an estimated one million visitors, significantly outstripping the pre-militancy record of 700,000. Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora observed, “In the history of Kashmir, we have not witnessed so many tourists.”
Increasing electoral participation has also provided grounds for further encouragement. The 2002 Assembly Elections had recorded a 43.7 per cent voter turnout, despite enveloping terrorist threats and calls for boycott. By 2008, participation in the Assembly Elections had risen to 63 per cent of registered voters. The 2011 Panchayat (village local self-government institutions) Elections recorded a 79 per cent voter turnout. Elections to various Corporations and Urban Committees in the State are due to be held in March 2012.
Nevertheless, areas of profound concern persist.
Sporadic terrorist violence continued, with strong indications that the terrorists were being directed by their handlers in Pakistan to kill more political, religious and dissenting separatist leaders. Four politicians were killed in eight attacks on politicians across the State through 2011. These included the April 8, 2011, killing of the Wahabi cleric Maulana Showkat Shah. The terrorists also threatened to continue such attacks against mainstream political parties. An August 27, 2011, report noted that Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik had been identified as the ‘next target’ for assassination by LeT in Kashmir. Again, on January 29, 2012, SFs neutralized a LeT module in the Pattan area of Baramulla District, which had been tasked to target South Kashmir's Sufi scholar Maulana Abdul Rashid Dawoodi.
An estimated 350 to 370 militants were still believed to be operating in the State. Union Minister of State for Home, Jitendra Singh, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), on September 6, 2011, stated that “about 350-370 (militants) are assessed to be operating in Jammu and Kashmir. Out of which approximately 38 per cent are foreign militants, primarily Pakistani." Reports also indicate that militants continued to work towards recruiting local youth in certain areas of the State.
Camps in PoK and Pakistan were also believed to have between 2,000 and 2,500 terrorists, according to Army sources. Reports indicated that 900 to 1,000 militants were in readiness to cross over into J&K from PoK, up from an estimated 500 to 600 militants in October 2010.
Despite a ‘multi-pronged approach’ to contain border infiltration, which included, inter alia, strengthening of border management and multi-tiered and multi-modal deployment along international borders/ LoC and infiltration routes, construction of border fencing, improved technology, weapons and equipment for SFs, a total of 235 Pakistan-based terrorists attempted to infiltrate in 2011 (till November 30) in at least 85 infiltration bids. This figure was, however, significantly lower than the 495 militants who attempted to infiltrate in 2010; 480 in 2009; and 342 in 2008.
Regrettably, Pakistan continued to violate the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) of November 26, 2003, which had held without major incident till General Pervez Musharraf’s departure in 2008. According to the Government data, 198 cease-fire violations have been reported along the Line of Control (LoC), of which 77 were in 2008; 28 in 2009; 44 in 2010; and 45 between January and November 2011. The violations are ordinarily initiated by Pakistani Forces to facilitate terrorist infiltration across the border and LoC.
Terror funding also continued to flow into J&K. Disclosures of arrestees revealed linkages between cross-LoC traders, Pakistan-based militant ‘commanders’ and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has disclosed that the HM-backed and PoK-based Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Fund Trust (JKART) had been funding terror in J&K. Investigators allege that JKART had pumped more than INR 800 million into the Valley in the name of relief and rehabilitation work, but diverted this amount to finance terror. Further, security agencies had arrested 98 persons and seized INR 12.3 million since 2009, as part of their efforts to check the flow of hawala (illegally transferred) money into J&K for funding secessionism and militancy, the State Government informed the Legislative Assembly on September 27, 2011. 17 persons had been arrested in this connection in 2011, till July, and INR 3.61 million had been recovered from them. This compared to 15 arrests and nearly INR 1 million recovered in 2010. Notably, a Delhi court, on February 18, 2012, framed charges against Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, said to be a close associate of All Party Hurriyat Conference-Geelani (APHC-G) leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and others, in an alleged hawala racket. In its charge sheet filed on August 2011, the NIA alleged that Bhat collected over INR 45.7 million over three years, commencing January 2008, through hawala channels for terrorist activities. Bhat was arrested from Kashmir in January 2011 by a joint team of the Delhi and J&K Police, and INR 2.1 million was recovered from him.
Crucially, sustained separatist efforts to engineer an Intifada-type movement – street mobilization backed by calibrated terrorist violence – continued, though with little success, despite apprehensions of a recurrence of the summer of 2010. There is, however, a latent residual danger here. Indeed, before the escalation of 2010, years 2009 and 2008, had recorded 250 and 350 stone pelting incidents, respectively. With the escalation of 2010, this number had increased, abruptly, to 2,213 incidents, with 112 civilians and one Policemen killed in the troubles, and another 1,049 civilians and over 4,000 SF personnel injured. According to sources, some 369 incidents of stone pelting were recorded in 2011. Authorities insist that a major flare-up was averted as a result of improved responses on their part. One unnamed Police official asserted, "Use of non-lethal equipment and body protectors by Police have resulted in zero death of civilian or security personnel and injuries to only 58 persons in law and order disturbances this year . The arrest of more than 5,255 stone pelters, between January 1, 2010, and February 28, 2011, also worked as a deterrent. However, in a surprising move on August 28, 2011, Chief Minister (CM) Omar Abdullah announced an amnesty package for nearly 1,200 youth arrested during the 2010 summer agitation in the Valley. While the unrest in the past may have substantially been the result of the Government's ‘mishandling’, there is reason to believe that public exhaustion and disillusionment with the separatist agenda has also contributed to the failure of the protests to secure wider traction. Nevertheless, three major protests have already been reported from the State in 2012, with one civilian killed so far.
Amidst these concerns, the premature demands and proposals for further troop cuts and the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) raised temperatures in the Valley. Despite the withdrawal of 10 battalions of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and nearly 30 battalions of the Indian Army from the State in 2009, demands for the further dilution of Force were raised stridently through the year, both by separatists and by the mainstream political parties. The State Government has also sought a more structured phased removal of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) from the State. On January 1, 2012, official sources stated, “In the first phase, the Government has asked for sanction for raising five Police battalions comprising 5,000 Police personnel. However, as a long term measure, the State has sought the creation of a total of 50 Police battalions to gradually replace paramilitary and security personnel with the Police Force.”
Similarly, despite the Army’s opposition to the withdrawal of AFSPA on the grounds that this could result in the "emergence of terror sanctuaries and safe havens", Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, on several occasions, reiterated the separatist and popular demand for partial removal of AFSPA. Those opposing AFSPA allege that it has been misused by the SFs. In what can only be an embarrassing response, Defence Minister A.K. Antony disclosed in Parliament, on December 20, 2011, “24 cases seeking sanction for prosecution under AFSPA have been received from Jammu and Kashmir Home Department during the last five years, from 2007 to December 15 this year. In 19 cases, the requests for prosecution sanction were rejected, as it was found on examination that no prima facie case was made out against the accused Army personnel. Five cases were still under examination.” Meanwhile, the Valley-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), admitted that militants were responsible for more enforced disappearances than the SFs. It claimed that, of the 132 cases it had documented, militant groups were responsible for 24 cases of enforced disappearances compared to 22 by the SFs, including the Police (the remaining cases remained indeterminate).
In the meanwhile, the Centre’s 2010 initiative to appoint three Interlocutors on Kashmir ended a damp squib, with a pro forma report submitted to the Minister of Home Affairs, on October 12, 2011. This is yet to be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in toto.
The State Cabinet, on October 28, 2011, approved amendments to the Public Safety Act (PSA). One of the major amendments reduced the detention period of one year to three months in cases where the accused was arrested for disturbing public order. The amendments also included a provision prohibiting the detention of a minor under the PSA.
J&K is at crossroad. Though these measures, in addition to several others, have helped in improving the situation, any slackness on the part of State Government as well as New Delhi to fulfill their political goals will devoid the State of an opportunity to return to permanent peace sooner than later.
Dramatic and continuous improvements have, no doubt, been registered in the security environment in the terror-wracked State of J&K over the past years. Nevertheless, residual dangers continue to exist, seeking an opportunity to re-open the wide wounds inflicted over 23 years of terrorism. Processes of radicalization, and well funded programmes for the expansion of Salafi Islamist ideologies and institutions, continue across the Valley, suggesting the possibility of a future conflagration. Worse, the entire political spectrum in the Valley ranges from soft, through hard, to militant separatism. Systematic distortions continue to undermine democratic legitimacy and frameworks, discount and discredit elected leaderships, privilege violence, and appease the most intractable constituencies in the State. Across the border, while the impetus of support to terrorism has waned due to strategic pulls and pressures, the intent remains unchanged, and a destabilizing shift in the enveloping geo-political environment – particularly as a result of a premature withdrawal of Western Forces from Afghanistan – could easily destroy the tentative, hard-won, and still imperfect peace in J&K.