Amarnath Yatra attack: Kashmir will see spike in violence as militancy statistics defy truth on ground

The death of a militant from downtown Srinagar has confirmed the theory that militants lurk all over the Valley, even in areas which the forces insisted are clear. What's more, friends from the state capital say there are several more militants in downtown Srinagar.

The one killed in Budgam was a criminal even before he took up a gun. Before he led a mob to lynch a police officer on 22 June, he had murderously assaulted others he accused of being "informers". One of those was a news cameraman from the area, who was recording footage for his channel.

That criminals have joined the militancy is only one among several disturbing trends, all of which point to a quantum leap in violence. Those who are pushing it have made enormous preparations. And they continue to get an enthusiastic response locally.

Downtown Srinagar has far more militants than was initially thought. PTI file image

Militancy in downtown Srinagar is far worse than was initially thought. PTI file image

It is therefore better to be prepared for hits than to find oneself reeling from the shocks. The Amarnath Yatra will go on until the beginning of August.

Ironically, the immense resources of the state and the security establishment that are deployed here leave other parts of the Valley more exposed. Plus, as Monday's attacks showed, it is impossible to completely isolate the yatris. It is a good thing that relatively few yatris are registered this year, and very few of them engage in the sightseeing — a day or two in Gulmarg and the Dal Lake — that has been the norm following darshan in past years.

The numbers being bandied about regarding the numbers of militants on the field are all underestimates. According to villagers in south Kashmir, a dozen or so new recruits have gone underground since the last week of June.

Plus, security establishment wonks still seem to be overly focused on south Kashmir. According to the grapevine, large numbers of Pakistani militants lurk in the north. These have been trained in Pakistan, in areas where Chinese troops and other functionaries are also billeted.

The worst thing policymakers can do is base their assessments and responses on what they remember — or have heard — of the 90s. That was a different time, a different militancy, a different public mood, a different world altogether. An important change is that it is tougher to draw a line between combatants and non-combatants.

There are many teenagers in south Kashmir ready and willing to fight, except they lack arms. Until arms become available, they are dedicated to doing whatever they can for the militants in the field. Since there could be a quantum leap in the number of militants if more arms were to become available, one of the chief priorities of those in charge of security should be to further increase the protection around armouries and ammunition dumps.

Another significant change is that large swathes of rural areas have become epicentres of militancy. This is particularly true of south Kashmir areas like Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts dominated by the Jamaat-e-Islami. From 1990-92, when a large number of Kashmiri groups were active, most of the groups were based in the old town of Srinagar. Hizbul, backed by Jamaat-e-Islami, dominated from 1993 on.

Mercenaries and other locals assisted the forces when troops were initially deployed in vast numbers in rural Kashmir. By the time foreign militants, mainly from Lashkar-e-Taiba, took the lead, mostly from 1997 on, their battles were largely with the army and the BSF. By then, mercenaries, the army and the BSF had alienated Kashmiris again. So most Kashmiris were little more than spectators.

The patterns have changed radically from those phases. This is a far more sophisticated war. Pakistan is again in the forefront of supporting it, but to analyse it through that prism is inadequate. Other world powers, including China, are also in play.

Those who have planned and coordinated what is now unfolding have done their homework far more meticulously than those should have been putting together strategies to ensure that an insurgency or proxy war did not arise again. Instead, the latter (Indian policymakers and administrators) have actually helped to prepare the ground for what is unfolding. The worst part is that they are still doing it.

The seniormost Kashmiri politician, who has deeply imbibed the idea of India, has stoked the fires for months, ably aided and abetted by one who has "handled" Kashmir for the Centre for the longest time. They and everyone else must understand that this is war-time, not time to seek political office.

Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 18:43 PM

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