If not nipped in the bud, the new wave of terror in J&K may prove costly and damaging, as happened many times. Indeed, our leaders, experts and planners would have learned lessons from the past and would not let another window of opportunity for installing lasting peace slip away from their hands
Post-August 5, 2019, Pakistan has tried different tricks to remain relevant in Kashmir. However, most of the Pakistani moves have either failed or backfired. But as far as Pak sponsored terror is concerned, it is once again threatening to thwart the Government of India’s desire to restore normalcy and bring everlasting peace in Kashmir. It is the last-ditch attempt of Pakistan, which is certain to fail but may succeed in delaying normalisation. A new wave of terror is emerging in Kashmir with indigenous flavor.
Roping in Locals
Having been recognised worldwide as the fountainhead of terror and the biggest promoter of cross-border terror, Pakistan is desperately trying for an image makeover by recruiting locals and giving them an image of homegrown resistance against the government’s forces. The lurking fear of being black-listed by the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog for terror funding and financing, has also compelled Pakistan to take a backseat and remain a latent promoter of cross-border terror.
The all familiar names of jihadi terror organisations active in Kashmir till recently, like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizbul Mujahidin (HM), are gradually being replaced by new tanzeems like The Resistance Force (TRF), Lashkar-e-Mustafa, Gaznavi Force and Al Badr. Most of the new tanzeems are like old wine in new bottles but is the majority cadre being locally recruited. Their operational and financial control remains with their akas (leaders) in Pakistan. These new terror outfits are not as well equipped as their parent tanzeems and rely mainly on the arms smuggled into the Valley through various means using overground network. The local youth is lured into militancy in the name of jihad after being radicalised through social media platforms and venomous speeches of the mullahs and anti-India leaders. They are not being trained in the jihadi training camps in POJK or Afghanistan but locally in South Kashmir’s jungles and blooded into terrorism by lobbing grenades at security forces pickets or crowded places. The focus is also shifting from rural insurgency to urban insurgency, with encounters taking place in and around Srinagar while Jammu is emerging as another preferred base of these terrorists. Target selection has also undergone a change while giving up of earlier modus of large scale attacks on security forces or suicidal (fidayeen) attacks on their camps and now concentrating more on targeted killings and use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Nizam-e-Mustafa and retaining the monolith character of Kashmir being the main motivator of the local terrorists. Minorities and police personnel form the main targets of the targeted and motivated killings. IEDs are used for mass casualties to the security forces.
Transporting Weapons from Bihar
Earlier, the weapons captured from the terrorists use to be a big give away of the Pakistan hand because all the weapons and ammunition either had Pakistani (POF) or Chinese (Norinco) markings. To overcome this, Pakistan is now encouraging Kashmiri terrorists to buy locally made weapons from Bihar. Smuggling through tunnels and dropping with drones’ help also continues since the supply from Bihar and its transportation all the way to J&K is prone to interception by various law enforcement agencies. Bihar, also being the major source of supply to the Maoists active in the red corridor, cannot meet the full requirement of Kashmiri terrorists.
Pakistan’s intention in all this is very clear and obvious. It wants Kashmir to remain as a flashpoint on the screen of international radar, keep Kashmir on the boil, discourage outside investment which is likely to generate employment as well as wean away the youth from militancy and also create a 1990s like environment of insecurity among the minorities so that the possible return of Kashmiri Pandits is thwarted or jeopardised. Ensuring the youth remains unemployed and frustrated Pakistan wants to ensure the readymade supply of fodder to the jihadi cadre is not affected so that the pot remains boiling in Kashmir. The image of an insecure environment will also keep tourists away from Kashmir and prevent revival of the tourism industry, the backbone of Kashmir’s economy. To this end, Pakistan has successfully sold a narrative of demographic invasion and minimised the Muslim-majority character of Kashmir and promoted the Hindutva agenda of RSS backed BJP Government at the centre. Unfortunately, many so-called nationalist mainstream leaders in Kashmir have been vociferously promoting the Pakistani narrative.
The deep state in Pakistan is not satisfied with the indigenous uprising being confined only to Kashmir, as this makes its case weak globally. A concerted effort post-August 5, 2019, has been diverted towards reviving the Jammu region’s militancy. A large number of sleeper cells have been created. Terrorists are also being trained for Lone Wolf attacks to disturb the communal harmony and flare it up into communal clashes. There are other reasons for shifting the focus towards Jammu by the ISI. Jammu’s location is close to the international border and its heterogeneous population with close proximity to Punjab, another ISI target, provides the ideal breeding ground for militancy. Also, the killings of local Kashmiri Muslims by the terrorists, both Pakistanis and locals, has created huge resentment among the common Kashmiri masses. The awam is not only fed up but is turning against the terrorists. They are not as forthcoming in providing them shelter as in the earlier days. They share information of their presence with security forces, as a result of which most of the top terrorist commanders have been killed by the security forces. Thus, safe havens in Jammu are considered more lucrative. But the latest successes of JKP in capturing top commanders of the TRF and Lashkar-e-Mustafa in Jammu have sent shockwaves not only to them but to their akas (masters) in Pakistan as well. Due to a very strong anti-infiltration grid on the Line of Control (LOC) by the Indian Army, terrorists and their handlers have been preferring the IB sector for infiltration; hence Jammu acts as a suitable base for their further despatch to Kashmir or Punjab. Similar is the argument for smuggling and distribution of narcotics. Thus Jammu has emerged as an ideal and suitable base for narco-terrorism.
Like Kashmir, the ISI also wants to send a signal of insecurity in the Jammu region as well so that future investors are discouraged. It has not gone down well with the ISI that the J&K government is planning not to confine the new industries to the Jammu-Kathua belt only but is encouraging the investors to set up industry in the far-flung districts with additional incentives.
Pak Supporters are Silent Spectators
If not nipped in the bud, the new wave of terror in J&K may prove costly and damaging, as happened many times. Indeed, our leaders, experts and planners would have learned lessons from the past and would not let another window of opportunity for installing lasting peace slip away from their hands. Terrorism, whether local or imported, is the enemy of peace and radicalised jihadi terrorists are the enemies of humanity. Unfortunately, the Pak apologists operating in the country continue to remain silent and hence accord their latent support to the madness. They refuse to condemn, name and shame Pakistan and take a firm stand against targeted killings of the minorities, quite similar to the manner they followed in the 1990s. Only a united approach would lead to eliminating the menace of terror and the return of much-needed peace.
(The writer is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed are entirely personnel)