Conflict Alerts # 81, 6 May 2020
In the news
Last week, the Valley witnessed a series of violence relating to militancy and counter operations – in both - North and South Kashmir. It all started last Friday, with a clash between the security forces and a group of militants in North Kashmir. On Saturday, there was a counter-militancy operation in Handwara district; five security personnel were killed including a Colonel and a Major, and a Sub-Inspector of the J&K Police. Two militants were killed subsequently.
On Monday (4 May 2020), three men belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed by the militants in Handwara district again.
On Wednesday (6 May 2020), Riyaz Naikoo, one of the Hizbul Mujahideen commanders, who have been on the run since he became a militant in 2012, was killed in his home village in South Kashmir. One more militant was killed along with him.
In another operation in Pulawama, two more unidentified militants were also killed.
Separately, the Chief of Indian Army Gen Naravane warned Pakistan on a proportionate response to supporting violence in J&K. According to the Tribune, "I would like to emphasise that the Indian Army will give a proportionate response to all acts of infringement of ceasefire and its (Pakistan's) support to terrorism. The onus remains with Pakistan to bring peace in the region."
Issues at large
First, there has been an increase during the last few months. It is easy to link the recent violence as the first spike of the summer and the snow melting. Or, see the violence through a cause-effect framework – violence as an effect, with the failure of politics as a primary cause.
Second, the attack on military and paramilitary forces – whether it is a part of a deliberate strategy by the militants or a result of a chance encounter? If it is former, it will highlight the violent summer that is awaiting the security forces. If it is the latter, then the security forces have to get ready to contain/eliminate them, without incurring losses.
Third, the killing of Riyaz Naikoo, a former school teacher, who decided to pick up the gun. Is he a lone wolf, or is he an expression of a larger problem, where the educated youths in the Valley or picking up the guns? Available statistics would point to the latter.
Fourth, the cross-LoC firing during the recent weeks, and the statement by the Indian Army Chief. The Indian security establishment believes that the cross-LoC firing is a smokescreen under which the militants infiltrate into Kashmir Valley. The warning also highlights a more substantial regional danger of violence inside the Valley.
If politics create a vacuum in a conflict theatre, violence will fill in. Militants and their supporters – inside and outside, will always find ways to fish, when the political pond is muddled.
The security forces have worked hard during the last two decades to bring the violence under control. New Delhi should pursue a political strategy to ensure it before it gets totally out of hand.
Pakistan has been looking forward to internationalising the issue. Violence in Kashmir valley would give them an opportunity.
D Suba Chandran is a Professor and Dean at the School of Conflict and Security, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore. His primary focus areas are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Armed Conflicts and Peace Processes in South Asia.