Despite the dedicated anti-terrorist efforts by the government and the security forces, the New Year began on a rather dismal note in the Kashmir Valley. Six civilians, including two children, were killed at Dangri Village of the Rajouri District in two interconnected militancy attacks. Many others have been seriously injured.
Disturbingly, the identity of the victims was ascertained beforehand through their Aadhar cards, suggesting that religion was the basis for the killings. Several political organizations and social groups came together to condemn the frequent incidents of targeted killings in Jammu-Kashmir. Protests have been held in various parts of the province, demanding befitting action against the brutal killers.
This is not an isolated incident related to the killing of minorities in Jammu-Kashmir. Official data suggests militants carried out around 29 targeted attacks in Kashmir last year, especially on civilians that, included non-local labourers and non-Muslim govt employees, and launched around 12 attacks, including grenade lobbing, on security forces posted in the Kashmir Valley.
The region has witnessed three major militancy-related incidents in the last month alone. Along with this, the threat perception has been ominously looming over the region as some terror groups are indulging in the circulation of ‘hitlists’. Not long ago, The Resistance Front (TRF), an infamous offshoot of the dreaded terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, issued threats and released two so-called ‘hitlists’ with the names of pro-India journalists, police personnel and government employees who got jobs under the Prime Minister special package for Kashmiri displaced persons. Further, this hitlist has brought to the surface some of the very crucial questions of data privacy breach and the connivance of government employees with terrorists.
While the forces have had plenty of success on the ground in reducing infiltration and gunning down terrorists in the last year, there are other repercussions of these ruthless attacks. The rise in psychological warfare in terms of terror groups circulating ‘hit lists’ and the spate of targeted killings in Kashmir is a matter of grave concern and a challenge to the security forces and the govt in their efforts towards peace and development. Additionally, the audacity with which the massacres have been wreaked suggests communal hatred at work.
The modus operandi of the perpetrators in issuing prior threats and later targeting minorities reveals their heinous, destructive mindsets and absolute disregard for human life and human rights. It appears that there is an intention to create a fear psychosis in the minds of the people propelling mass disharmony, thereby disrupting the peaceful situation. Understandably, the recent killings have triggered fears of another exodus as in the early 1990s.
After three decades of living in exile, the minority community was slowly and steadily coming to terms with the trauma, and many in the new generation had started unearthing and rediscovering their roots in the Valley. These targeted killings have derailed their plans.
People aspire to thrive in a safe and protected atmosphere where they have the freedom to pursue daily activities without fear of motivated, persistent, or large-scale violence causing danger to their life or limbs. Hence, it is both the responsibility and the priority of the state to ensure their safety. If the displaced Kashmiris are forced to flee from the Valley, then the designs of the terrorists and their handlers will succeed. Instead of leaving the field, and succumbing to the hysteria created by terrorists, attention must be paid to ensure the safety of displaced Kashmiri people and meeting their demands. It’s time to take serious cognizance of the open threats from terrorist outfits like TRF, identify their operators and kneel them down.
Although the Central Government, the Lieutenant Governor’s Administration and all the security agencies are working in tandem to make the situation in Kashmir normal, the way these lists are being released and minorities targeted is enough to raise hackles. The terror ecosystem comprising elements that aid, abet, and sustain the terrorist campaign to the detriment of the well-being of the common man requires to be immediately dismantled. Coordinated efforts through meticulous and well-planned counter-terrorism operations to wipe out terrorism and ensure the safety of the Kashmiri minorities are required. Local peace-loving Muslims must be taken into confidence, as their support could shield their Kashmiri Minorities brethren from bloodthirsty terrorists.
Provision of safe shelter to all is one such attribute of utmost importance and is vital for the all-round development of the minorities in the Valley. On the lines of the Uttar Pradesh Housing Development Council and Haryana Urban Development Authority, J&K Development Authority should be formed which will ensure construction of well-equipped residential and commercial complexes in every district of Jammu and Kashmir. Plots in these complexes should not only be allotted to displace Kashmiris but ex-personnel of armed forces and paramilitary forces should also be allotted at concessional rates. Any Indian living or working in JK should be given the right to buy a plot in theses complexes at subsidized rates.
Similarly, loans and subsidies should be granted on reduced interest to the shopkeepers, street vendors, etc. which will enable them to start their own employment by setting up small and big businesses there. Apart from free business insurance, they should also be ensured full life cover benefit. Arms should be made available swiftly at lower prices. As a result, the common man in the Valley will not have to depend solely on the security forces for their safety. There was a time in the mid-nineties when terrorism was at its peak and innocent people were being mercilessly killed.
At that time, with the efforts of Shri L.K. Advani, Village Defense Committees (VDCs) were constituted (by connecting with local civic authorities of villages) in all districts of Jammu Province with arms to counter-terrorism. Revival/ re-establishment of the empowered VDC’s by fully equipping them with means, resources and facilities, in the present scenario will not only boost security grid in the UT of J&K rather it will also form the basis of confidence-building measure for the minorities and migrants in the state.
Infiltration from across the border has been greatly reduced owing to the alertness of the Indian security forces. The government has also broken the back of hawala funding. But the last months have seen an emergence of a new problem in J&K. Thousands of youths in Kashmir are slipping into the dark alleys of drug addiction as the Valley has been flooded with huge quantity of heroin usage. The drug trade is brewing day and night in Jammu-Kashmir from Pakistan via Panjab. The strings of this drug trade are connected with the terrorists. It’s a sinister design to ruin the next generation and escalate criminal and terror activities in J-K. With the ever-increasing number of drug addicts and contraband seized, matter is serious enough and requires all-out effort to weed out this menace from the UT otherwise the days of ‘Udta Jammu-Kashmir’ are not far away.
The govt’s initiative of naming schools, colleges, squares, roads, bridges, bus stands, railway-stations, etc. after the actual heroes and heroines of Jammu and Kashmir, who lost their lives for India’s independence, unity, and integrity, is commendable. These people perhaps should be the icons of the young generation of Jammu and Kashmir. Previous governments have contributed enough to make terrorists like Bitta Karate and Burhan Wani as local heroes. Let bygones be bygones. Now presents an opportunity to revision this history and present it properly, so that the misconceptions of the society can be addressed, and they can be connected to the national stream. Slowly but surely, the local people have started accepting the truth that peace and prosperity will come in the Valley only by being part of the national stream.
Lakhs of displaced persons from Pakistan Occupied Jammu-Kashmir and China Occupied Jammu-Kashmir are still waiting for justice. Their problems and demands must be considered sympathetically. Till date they are not only deprived of their civil rights but also of the basic human rights. It is necessary to hear them, so that they too can lead a happy, peaceful, and dignified life like the rest of the Indians. Their proper participation in governance, administration, and in the Legislative Assembly should be ensured. There should be no haste to hold assembly elections until each Kashmiri displaced person safely ‘returns home’. Real democracy can be restored only by creating confidence in the minds of every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir to vote fearlessly. Once democratic institutions are fully set up in the Valley with Assembly elections, it will deal a fatal blow to their evil designs. As more and more people participate in the ballot process, the room for extremists & terrorists will only shrink further.
There can be no stability and peace until all communities contribute and peace dividend is equally shared by all stakeholders. The masses, especially majority of JK, i.e. Muslims must join in unity to defeat the nefarious design of the enemies of the Madre-Vatan and should step forward to uphold the flag of peace and communal harmony and achieve a stable progressive future.
(The author is Dean, Students’ Welfare, Central University of Jammu)