By K.N. Pandita
Terrorists have augmented their activities in the valley. Frequency of attacks on security forces and establishment in various parts of North as well as South Kashmir has increased. Encounters between the terrorists and security forces take place almost every week.
Along with this, jihadis are making renewed bids for infiltration at various vulnerable points across the LoC. According to some reports, infiltrators are equipped with more sophisticated weapons and transmission equipment. It is also believed that they have received advanced training in guerrilla war tactics in Pakistani training camps. LeT supremo and his associates are paying frequent visits to PoK bolstering the morale of young boys recruited for training to become suicide bombers.
External jihadis are now better briefed on the importance of fraternizing with local moles and conduits whose services are crucial to the success of their mission. For quite some time, Hafiz Saeed, the chief mentor of anti-India jihadis, has been saying that his jihadi legions have upgraded their skills in proxy war and are better poised to take on Indian paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir. The signal is that militancy- related activities have received spurt in recent months.
People and the press in the valley show no relent in their endemic antagonism and hostility towards anything that has pro-Indian orientation. However, there is reduced interest among the people in bringing out mass demonstrations and protest rallies on even mundane issues as was the case at the height of insurgency. Nevertheless, a stray case of accidental killing does work as fuel to fire. Bringing out protest demonstrations against gunning down of jihadis in their encounters with the security forces, is a regular feature wherever such happening takes place.
Ever since PDP-BJP coalition government assumed reins of power, ground situation in the valley is on a downslide. The “balm for wounds” theory has flopped. Mufti Sayeed has to do tight-rope walk while BJP stands a mute spectator incapable of taking a stand on crucial issues.
ISSI flags were openly waved twice in downtown Srinagar. Pakistani flag was first waved in a public rally organized to welcome separatist leader Ali Shah Geelani back home. Then the supporters of Hurriyat (M) leader Mirwaiz brandished it in public. Only recently Shabir Shah, another separatist leader, refusing to lag behind, followed suite in Anantnag. These events received considerable hype in local vernacular media. In response to Home Minister’s assertion that hoisting of Pakistani flags will not be tolerated, the local media asked the innocuous question whether half a yard of cloth with crescent sign poses real threat to the Indian State?
Anti-government demonstrations in Jammu on the issue of shifting of AIIMS to Srinagar received scant rather negligible coverage in local vernacular press of Kashmir. BJP, the coalition partner, is conspicuous by its invisibility on the ground, in the media and in the administration. Except for being in their ministerial or legislative seats, they seem to have no utility for the people who catapulted them into the seats of power. No wonder if the anesthetized group is denied even the second fiddle. They have no opinion on the cancellation of Tawi Lake project by their government or rejection of funding of the Chenab Valley Drinking Water Project by the Asian Development Bank.
In the valley, traditional Kashmiri culture is fast yielding its place to Arabism. Life style, dress, idiom, behaviour and mindset all are going through metamorphic change. Kashmiri Muslim Diaspora in Saudi Arabia and littoral States has contributed massively to this phenomenon. A large number of Kashmiri Muslim families visit their relatives in the Gulf countries, stay with them for most of the winter and get fully acclimatized to Arabism. They consider it the maturing of their religious-cultural profile that had remained either not formed or deformed. More educated and informed among well-to-do Kashmiris do understand the shift of their cultural contour from eight centuries-old Iranian to nascent Arab frame.
Militants in the valley are changing their disruptive tactics. Lately, they have initiated disruption of telecommunication infrastructure in the valley. For this purpose they have chalked out three-pronged strategy. It is as this: (i) hurling grenades and other explosive devices on telecom towers to render them incapable of transmission (ii) threaten telecom dealers with dire consequences if they do not stop recharging and pulling down the shatters of their shops, and (iii) handing over life threat to persons who have lent their premises for installation of telecom towers.
Political fallout of this newly introduced strategy is quite interesting. The first instance of jihadi attack on telecom tower happened in Sopore. Militants barged into a cellular unit and gunned down two young persons, wounding the third one. They had allegedly removed the device uploaded by the militants on a nearby tower which had given them wider range of connectivity. They suspected their victims of removing the device. Scores of cellular mobile recharging units had to shut down their shops owing to severe warning issued by the militants. The wave of forcibly closing down the recharging shops spread in entire Baramulla district rendering thousands of families deprived of their daily bread.
Reacting to this situation, Ali Shah Geelani came out with a dubious statement saying he could not understand the logic behind this wanton activity. Lashkar-i-Islam, a hitherto unknown organization, claimed responsibility for attacks on telecom infrastructure. Geelani questioned the truth about Lashkar-i-Islam outfit obviously from Salahu’d- Din the chairman of Jihad Council in Muzaffarabad, who denied its recognition as an approved organization. Geelani and Salahu’d-Din, both found it handy to say that these subversive acts were the handiwork of India to disconnect Kashmiris from the rest of the world. A commentator in Srinagar asked if India found it in her interest to disrupt Kashmir’s connectivity as alleged by Geelani, she had no need to damage the towers since she could achieve the purpose just by switching off the system “as she does on 15 August and 27 January every year.”
The point is that ISI has something more sinister up its sleeves in Kashmir. It is unhappy with its Kashmir chapters for two reasons; one is that they could not stonewall assembly elections (don’t forget Mufti’s very sarcastic remark on assumption of office) and secondly in accepting coalition with BJP. Lashkar-i-Islam is integral to LeT, HM and other outfits. It could be the precursor of ISSI, which has recently surfaced in Afghanistan and is weighing its wings for flight to Kashmir. In their opinion those who have fought and won elections several times in the past after swearing allegiance to the Indian Constitution, cannot be trusted to become custodians of true Islam.
In conclusion, we are apprehensive that keeping in mind current security, political and psychological scenario in Kashmir besides the semi-paralyzed stance of known nationalist forces, things do not bode well for the Sate. The fierce opposition to the return proposal of internally displaced Pandit community and the grave-like silence adopted by the coalition partner of PDP to this phenomenon are very dangerous symptoms.