The war by militants in Kashmir has been stepped up. Over the past few days, a BSF soldier was killed in Hajin, north Kashmir, and a policeman in Awantipora in the south. And on Tuesday, suicide attackers got into the most secure location in the Valley, the security camp alongside the airport.
Most of these attacks were by foreign militants who have crossed the Line of Control. Meanwhile, at least in south Kashmir, fresh young local boys continue to leave home to join them. A few disappeared from Pulwama villages this past weekend.
There is no getting away from the fact that the militant war is going to get much worse, next year if not during the rest of this autumn and winter. Apart from the local and foreign militants, regular troops of inimical neighbouring countries could get more involved than they already are — perhaps less covertly.
Local soldiers in focus
Several recent attacks have systematically targeted Kashmiris who work in one or other of the armed forces or the police. There were repeated warnings that this pattern would emerge — even in the viral recordings of the late militant commander Burhan Wani, more than two years ago.
It is therefore obvious that a long-planned and intensely thought-out plan is unfolding. A major step in this plan is to drive a clear divide between the local population and the armed forces, including the state police.
Morale among these forces and their families has largely held firm so far, but those who have planned what is unfolding remain undeterred. As they step up their violence, they could target other 'mainstream' sections.
The government and the forces have shown a tendency to underestimate the challenge. They did so when mass unrest came up in 2010, more so in 2016, and again when street demonstrations complimented encounters from 2015-17. The tendency to underestimate, to pat themselves on the back, and become complacent, is visible again.
The most visible initiative of the state government over the past couple of weeks has been a tourism campaign on which vast amounts have evidently been spent. Those supporting the campaign do not seem to see the foolishness of trying to attract tourists at a time when conditions are extremely dangerous, even for locals.
Some people in south Kashmir say they try not to stir out after sunset and that, even during the day, families remain extremely tense about those who go out.
A large number of new armed forces camps have come up in south Kashmir over the past few months. Patrolling too has visibly increased. In fact, some residents of the area even say that large stretches have become akin to a cantonment.
The forces have no doubt had major successes in locating and killing most of the prominent local militants -- the kind that have a large price on their heads. On the other hand, scores of new recruits have been persuaded to return home. Yet, there is no avoiding the fact that large numbers of boys continue to join the militancy. Not just that, foreign militants have begun to show their hand in north Kashmir -- and now, even in the most secure parts of Srinagar. Large numbers of foreigners have lurked quietly in the north for the past few years.
Turning a blind eye
It is remarkable that, apart from army operations at the Line of Control to try and stop their ingress, the forces have generally not bothered with those who do get in. Now, they are not just showing their hand in north Kashmir, they are moving into Shopian and Budgam districts in south and central Kashmir. (Srinagar airport is in Budgam district.)
Their choice of those locations might turn out to be strategically significant, for Shopian and Budgam lie along the western mountain flank of the Valley -- the Pir Panjal range, which separates the Valley from the Chenab basin.
However, just like during the mass uprising that lasted for four months last year, the army and other forces’ brass seem to have turned Nelson’s eye to lurking strategic possibilities.
The country cannot afford this. Propaganda is worthwhile if it helps one to outflank the enemy. Deluding oneself is unforgivable.
Updated Date: Oct 03, 2017 20:04:23 IST