Kashmir is seeing a fresh wave of terrorist activity in a bid to revive the flagging militancy in the state. Thus the post Mumbai 26/11 restraint on the Lashkar e Taiyyaba (LeT) by the Pakistani Establishment has lasted for just three months as the terrorist group directed by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and extensively supported by the Pakistani military has launched a fresh campaign to revive militancy in the Valley.
The multi pronged approach being coordinated by the ISI has also roped in separatists as Geelani who are calling for continuing the struggle through violent means rather than civil strife. 'Our issue is internationally acclaimed because of the sacrifice of its martyrs' he stated recently in South Kashmir as per a report by Praveen Swami in the Hindu. Significantly Geelani along with fellow separatists Mirwaiz attended the Pakistan Day function in New Delhi on 23 March after a gap of many years.
However the key arm of the new strategy is the LeT contrary to Pakistani assurance of not allowing the group to operate from its territory, the pattern of infiltration during the month indicated that the LeT was attempting a major push to boost up its strength in the Valley. More over these groups are expected to be well trained and tougher than their counter parts in the Valley having been trained to infiltrate in the winter-spring interregnum with snow not having fully melted and the possibilities of avalanches reducing vigilance by security forces to an extent.
With militants increasing the tempo of violence Geelani is expected to again raise the call for, 'separatism' as the state faces general elections during the forthcoming months. With a fresh but inexperienced Chief Minister Mr Omar Abdullah and reported pull back of some army formations from the Valley after improvement of the situation over the past few years, there would be scope for these newly inducted militants to strike with impunity as the security grid is weakened in the interim period.
The beginning of this new stratagem appears to have been softening of the security grid with Bommai and other incidents of civilian casualties providing momentum to the call for removal of posts from critical areas in Sopore and other parts of the Valley. The Army finally withdrew the, 'Rajinder Post' after a protracted agitation by the locals due to alleged killing of two civilians in a firing incident on February 21. In a similar incident in South Kashmir a 35-year-old carpenter Ghulam Mohiudin Malik in the Pakharpora was alleged to have died in firing by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). This again raised cry in the locals for removal of the CRPF post from the area.
A junior commissioned officer and two soldiers were indicted for "various lapses" in connection with the firing incident on February 21 by a high level Army court of inquiry headed by a brigadier. This was in the best traditions of response to allegations of deaths of civilians against the Army. This will set a right precedent with justice been seen to be done by the civil population. At the same time this would send the right signals to security forces to exercise caution for avoiding collateral damage remains one of the key principles.
Given improvement in the situation, the civil administration also wants reduction of security forces presence in the area. 'We have assured the people that the camp will be removed or relocated within the stipulated time. People have assured me to suspend the agitation after this assurance,' said the deputy commissioner, Varmul, Lateef-u-Zaman Deva. 'Huge concentration of troopers in the area has made life difficult for the locals,' he added.
The issue of death of civilians in cases of alleged firing will have to be taken with a great degree of seriousness by the security forces. The temptation to target terrorists when the number of militants has gone down invariably results in such situations, moreover terrorist groups also attempt to lure soldiers by placing innocents in their line of fire. Commanders in the field would have to be trained to make split second judgments and when in doubt it is better to allow the opportunity to go by even if it results in escape of terrorists. This model is invariably necessitated when the level of militancy goes down in an area.
The death of civilians in firing also resulted in another familiar trend of demand for removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which has been in force for nearly two decades in the state. The chief minister Omar Abdullah assured the public that he would ensure that the AFSPA is taken off during his tenure as the Chief Minister. "I am the first chief minister who has assured on the floor of state assembly that AFSPA will be withdrawn. Things are changing fast towards normalisation and I can assure that this Act will come to an end during the tenure of National Conference-Congress government," Omar said.
A new pattern in agitations is also evident with the formation of Coordination Committee Bomai for sustaining civil protest on the lines of that seen during the Amarnath Agitation. Coagulation of local public opinion through such committees will increase the level of pressure from civil society where security forces are alleged to have carried out unprovoked firing.
These inter related activities denote that the Lashkar on the instructions of its masters the ISI is again on the path of reviving militancy in the Valley. This is the nth attempt by the group to do so, now it remains to be seen how long it takes to suppress the same this time around, or could be the Indian government gathers enough courage to excise this threat altogether.