Since August 5, 2019, many leading newspapers, news channels and think tanks within India and abroad unleashed a campaign upon Government of India. The abrogation of Article 370 was severely criticized without sufficient analysis of the ground realities.
Scores of fact finding committees landed upon Kashmir to supposedly assess the situation across Kashmir. It is saddening to note that these fact finding committees looked at the situation through a jaundiced lens. They did not take into cognizance the terror eco system embedded and funded by Pakistan in Kashmir. They did not take into cognizance the heavy and systematic radicalization by the religious clerics and others who are Pakistan’s strategic assets in Kashmir.
Finally, a reputed international think tank has come forward with its assessment of the ground situation in an honest, impartial manner. Observer Research Foundation, an independent global think tank based in Delhi, has recently released its special report titled ‘Jammu and Kashmir: On the Cusp of Change, But Challenges Remain’.
The thorough analysis has been done by Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation.
Sareen observes in the report: “The current security situation in the Valley is arguably better than it has been in years. The worst scenarios anticipated in the aftermath of the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019 have not come to pass.”
With this observation, Sareen makes the important point that the gloom and doom that was being predicted for Kashmir nationally and internationally was intentional propaganda by vested interests. Kashmir is significantly better after the abrogation of Article 370. This is reflected at ground level in various ways.
Here are excerpts from the special report by Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
On Targeted Killings
While there have been several incidents of targeted killings of Hindu and Sikh citizens and off-duty policemen and army personnel, the security forces have managed to capture or kill the assassins in almost all these cases. Since the 2019 Constitutional reforms, many terrorist organisations have mushroomed under secular-sounding names, such as the Resistance Front, Anti-Fascist Force, and Kashmir Tigers, while others have more Islamist names—Al Qisaas, Al Jehad, Muslim Janbaz Force, and Markazul wal Arshad. Notably, all of these are fronts for existing terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen. Still, Indian security forces have had some success in identifying and eliminating terrorists associated with these groups. For instance, 31 terrorists, including five commanders from the Resistance Front have been killed so far. Although the organisation still exists and operates, it is restricted to low-level attacks against soft targets.
On Hybrid Militants
Unlike in the past when recruits took to social media and announced their rebellion wearing guerrilla outfits and with a gun in hand, the new recruits are more discreet and operate in anonymity. They are generally discovered either because someone informs on them or with the help of technical information. Most of the new recruits are not well-trained; their training is limited to firing a handgun and escaping. Typically, they ambush ‘soft’ targets (unarmed civilians or off-duty security personnel), and they are not capable of launching complex attacks.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) describes this new phenomenon as ‘hybrid terrorism’. The people involved ostensibly lead normal lives—they may be students, hold jobs, and live with their families—and often do not have a police record. They get activated for an operation and after carrying it out go back to their lives. Since they are not on the radar of the security agencies, identifying them becomes difficult.
On The Terror Ecosystem That Supports Hybrid Militants
According to a senior security official, the new hybrid terrorist modules are supported by white-collared overground workers—such as teachers, civil servants, lawyers, professionals, journalists, and businessmen—who provide the ideological support and finances, and wage the information warfare on their behalf.
The ban on the radical Jamaat Islami has proven to be useful, but it has not degraded, dismantled, and demolished the radicalisation that exists in the Valley. In other words, the action against the Jamaat has proved to be only a necessary condition and not a sufficient condition to combat radicalisation. The move against the Jamaat was necessary because the group had infiltrated virtually every sphere of life in Kashmir. Its cadres and loyalists were said to be running around 500 schools (many of which are still functioning, albeit under a different label), teaching in universities, and in government and private schools. They were also said to be present in the bureaucracy, police, district administration, media, bar associations, and the judiciary. The Jamaat network was not only able to sabotage government efforts to normalise the situation, but also had a terror finance network that played a big role in mobilising street protests.
On Why Stone Pelting Has Stopped
Officials believe that one of the reasons why stone-pelting has stopped almost completely is because the funding that fuelled it has dried. But stone-pelting was also curbed by stringent policing to identify and book the key instigators. National Investigation Agency probes into terror financing is also proving popular and effective—popular because, for the first time in decades, ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ who have profited at the expense of law-abiding citizens are in the cross-hairs of the investigation agencies; and effective because with funds drying up, sponsoring civil disturbances has become more difficult.
Why Strict Action Against Terror Ecosystem Must Continue
The formation of the Terror Monitoring Group comprising the Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate, CBI, JKP, Research and Analysis Wing, and Intelligence Bureau has allowed these agencies to work in tandem against the terror finance networks. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has also become very active in countering terror finance (CFT) operations. The authorities appear to have finally recognised the importance of dismantling the ecosystem that sustains terrorism, both ideologically and financially. Even as the crackdown on money laundering and terror finance continues, the punitive action needs to be scaled up significantly.
On Why Continued Action Against Jamaat Loyalists Is Important
The move to sack government staff with links to Jamaat and other separatist organisations has had some impact. But the government is somewhat diffident in completely cleansing the ecosystem of separatism inside its own ranks. The general expectation is that a few symbolic sackings of Jamaat’s people in government service will have a ripple effect and force others to fall in line and/or sever their connections with the group. Sacking large numbers of government employees with dubious links could evoke an outcry. Even though the Jamaat has been forced to down its shutters, it continues to operate, albeit in a somewhat diminished manner, and is contesting the ban imposed on it. But its efficacy in farming out government contracts and jobs to its loyalists is said to now be seriously affected.
The move against the Jamaat was necessary because the group had infiltrated virtually every sphere of life in Kashmir… running around 500 schools (many of which are still functioning, albeit under a different label), teaching in universities, and in government and private schools…present in the bureaucracy, police, district administration, media, bar associations, judiciary
Stone pelting was also curbed by stringent policing to identify and book the key instigators…The move to sack government staff with links to Jamaat and other separatist organisations has had some impact. But the government is somewhat diffident in completely cleansing the ecosystem of separatism inside its own ranks