Conflict Alerts # 106, 10 June 2020
In the news
Last week, there were three sets of violence in J&K, most of them taking place within Kashmir Valley, focussed on South Kashmir.
First, was the killing of a Sarpanch on Sunday, 7 June, in the Anantnag district in South Kashmir. The Sarpanch belongs to the Pandit community and is affiliated with the Congress party.
Second was a series of encounters between the militants and the security forces during the week. On 7 June, five militants were killed in an encounter in Shopian district. Later, in the same district, four more militants were killed on 11 June, in another encounter. Shopian district is adjacent to Anantnag district in South Kashmir.
Third, violence across the LoC relating to infiltration in the Rajouri sector.
Issues at large
First, the violence with its geographic focus in South Kashmir. Geographically, the Valley has two regions – North and South Kashmir. During the peak of militancy in the 1990s and the following decade, South Kashmir has been a focal point for militancy led by local Kashmiri fighters. It appears that the pattern is getting repeated a decade later.
Second, the targeting of panchayat leaders. During the 1990s, the militants targeted the panchayat leaders – so that there is no local governance in place at the ground level. Since 2004 (establishment of Indo-Pak ceasefire along the LoC), one of the biggest success stories of the Indian democracy in J&K is the return of panchayat elections. According to a news report (The Tribune, 11 June 2020), in the panchayat elections held in December 2018, "a total of 22,214 panches and 3,459 sarpanches were elected out of a total of 33,592 panch and 4,290 sarpanch constituencies." The panches and sarpanches have always been an easy target for the militants, as they live in the villages and towns.
Third, the fear of communal aspect of terror targets, and its impact on the return of the Pandit community. The Sarpanch who lost his life in Anantnag belongs to the Pandit community; during the 1990s, the militants targeted the Pandit community resulting in an exodus of the minorities out of Kashmir valley. During the 2010s, there has been a debate on the return of the Kashmiri Pandits, a highlight of relating to return of normalcy inside the Kashmir Valley.
Fourth is the violence across the LoC – both in terms of infiltration and cross-LoC firing. This affects the peace along not only the LoC, but also the situation within Kashmir Valley. Both developments were linked in the 1990s; the mid-2000s, especially after the 2004 ceasefire, there was a reduction in infiltration, and also the situation within the Valley.
The BJP government has to relook at its present strategy to achieve stability in J&K. A muscular policy towards J&K is an option for New Delhi – at the political level in terms of working with the regional parties and leaders, and at the societal level, in terms of a security-first approach. But, a year later adopting such an approach, the government has to weigh the fallouts and implications and do a course correction.
Though the Indian government may have wanted to decouple its Kashmir strategy and its approaches towards Pakistan, the latter has worked against it and inter-twined it. Islamabad is also trying to internationalize the issue and paint India on the wrong side. New Delhi has to realize, it is working.
D Suba Chandran is a Professor and Dean at the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)