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   International Peace Research Initiative (IPRI)
Conflict Resolution and Peace Research Programme
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
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With the appointment of a new Lieutenant Governor and the completion of one year, it is time to make a few bold moves. Restoration of 4G in two districts, Committee on economic recovery, withdrawal of 10,000 troops should be a beginning. The Starters have been served. J&K needs a full meal. Perhaps, a Wazwan.

 

Also in the series (Friday Backgrounder)

IPRI # 91, 14 August 2020
J&K: Integration and Assimilation are not synonymous

IPRI # 89, 7 August 2020
J&K: One year later, is it time to change gears?

IPRI # 86, 31 July 2020
J&K: Omar Abdullah complains, there is no space for mainstream leaders. Should there be one?

IPRI # 83, 24 July 2020
J&K: After the Hurriyat, is the PDP relevant in Kashmir politics today?

IPRI # 79, 10 July 2020
J&K: Four years after Burhan Wani

IPRI # 77, 3 July 2020
The Rise, Fall and Irrelevance of Geelani. And the Hurriyat

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IPRI # 93, 21 August 2020

The Friday Backgrounder
J&K: Baby steps taken. Now, time to introduce a few big-ticket items

  D. Suba Chandran

During this week, there were four positive developments. Though they were baby steps, given the enormity of the situation in J&K, it is a beginning. The restoration of 4G in two districts (each in Jammu region and in Kashmir Valley), decision to form a committee to revive the economy, withdrawal of 10,000 troops of the paramilitary forces from the UT, and more importantly, a bold decision to constitute an inquiry into a July counter by the Army – all these highlights significant steps in different sectors that need a larger pursuit.

I
Facts on the ground

Restoration of 4G

On 16 August 2020, in a positive development, the government has announced to restore 4G services in J&K for the first time since they were snapped in August 2019. While the government subsequently restored last year, it was limited to only 2G. One of the most popular demands from J&K has been to restore the internet connectivity at 4G speed.

The government has announced the restoration of 4G, but only limited to two districts in Ganderbal (in Kashmir) and Udhampur (in Jammu region). Rest of J&K would continue to access the internet with 2G.

The restoration is based on the recommendation of a special committee appointed by the Supreme Court on the issue. The Committee is headed by the Union Home Secretary and met on 10 August 2020. (“Jammu and Kashmir to get limited 4G access,” The Hindu, 11 August 2020)

New Delhi orders withdrawal of 10,000 paramilitary troops

On 19 August, the Union Government decided to withdraw 10,000 paramilitary troops from J&K. According to a news report in the Hindu, “ the Union Home Ministry has ordered the immediate withdrawal of 100 companies or around 10,000 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel from Jammu and Kashmir.” (“Centre orders withdrawal of 10,000 paramilitary troops from J&K,” The Hindu, 19 August 2020)

The government rushed in more paramilitary troops into J&K on the eve of 5 August 2019. In December 2019, it withdrew 7000 of the same.

New Committee to restore Economy

On 18 August, the newly appointed Lieutenant General of J&K – Manoj Sinha, announced a new committee that would work towards measures to revive the economy of the Union Territory. He met with representatives of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) led by its president Sheikh Ashiq in Srinagar at Raj Bhavan. (“Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha forms committee for the economic revival of J&K,” The Hindu, 18 August 2020)

According to a report published in the Hindu, the Committee will “make an assessment of the overall economic scenario and propose fresh measures to ensure its revival, extension of power amnesty scheme and taking a holistic view of policy/guidelines for registration, renewal/operation of house boats.”

The committee is to be headed by an advisor to the Lt Governor and include the following: Financial Commissioner, Commissioner secretary of the Industries and Commerce department, Secretary of Tourism and the Chairman J&K Bank.Another report in the Tribune mentioned, the Jammu and Kashmir’s Industries and Commerce Department allocating “a land-bank of over 6,000 acres for creating modern age industrial estates to help the business grow in identified sectors.” (“J&K allocates 6,000 acre land-bank for establishing 37 new industrial estates,” The Tribune, 19 August 2020)

Farooq Abdullah meets his party leaders

On 20 August 2020, Farooq Abdullah, the President of the National Conference met with four senior members of the party. Though many leaders have been released, they were not allowed to meet. This is the first time, that Farooq Abdullah could meet with other senior leaders of the party, since August 2019.

At the end of the meeting, Abdullah was quoted saying: “Once all the leaders are set free, we will sit together and discuss the issues properly. We will have the all-party meeting on the Gupkar declaration…I am concerned about her (Mehbooba Mufti) prolonged detention. We do want to see her free and other leaders of Jammu and Kashmir.” (“Farooq Abdullah allowed to meet National Conference leaders,” The Hindu, 20 August 2020)

Army orders a high level inquiry into an encounter in July 2020 in Shopian

As a part of ensuring accountability, the Army made a positive step in announcing a  high-level Court of Inquiry (CoI) regarding an encounter that took place earlier. On 18 July, it was reported that in an encounter in Shopian three unidentified militants were killed. According to an earlier report published by the Hindu, “a joint team of Police, Army’s 62 RR and CRPF was part of the operation. The identity and the affiliations of the slain militants could not be ascertained immediately.” (“3 militants killed in Shopian operation in Jammu and Kashmir,” The Hindu, 18 July 2020)

Later, based on the photographs, those three who were killed were identified by their families in Rajouri. The families have filed a missing report and claimed that those three were labourers and not militants. According to the families, the three were in touch with until 17 July.

Based on the statements from the family members, the police sent a team on 13 August to collect the DNA samples from the three families. According to an earlier report published on 11 August 2020, the Army had started an investigation into the killing. Finally this week, it has announced the CoI to look into the encounter. According to the Army, “Additional civil witnesses are being asked to depose before the CoI. Concurrently, DNA samples have been collected from Rajouri under the aegis of the J&K police and sent for matching with the terrorists killed on 18 July 2020.” (“High-level Court of Inquiry ordered into Shopian encounter: Army,” The Hindu, 18 August 2020)

Continuing Militancy 

On 17 August, in the Baramulla district in north Kashmir, three militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed, when they attacked a checkpoint from a nearby orchard. Three personnel of the security forces (two from the CRPF and one SPO) were killed during the gunfight. Of the three militants, two were reported to be local (from Baramulla) and one from Pakistan. (“3 CRPF jawans, 3 LeT militants killed in Baramulla gunfight,” The Hindu, 17 August 2020).

On 18 August, a fourth militant who was hiding in the orchard after the above attack was also killed. In the process, two soldiers belonging to the Army were killed. According to the Police, the militants who were neutralised in the above exchange were behind the killing of a BJP leader and his family in Bandipora. (“Security forces kill hiding militants in Baramulla,” The Hindu, 18 August 2020)

Much to the dismay of the local police, the video of the militants firing at the security forces was uploaded in the social media, by the People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF). (“Militants ‘glamourising terrorism’ by releasing Baramulla attack video: J&K police,” The Hindu, 21 August 2020)

On 19 August, in Handwara in north Kashmir, two militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba were killed in operation led by the security forces. The Hindu quoted a police source to inform the militants killed in Handwara were “involved in the killing of three CRPF in Sopore on 18 April and three CRPF jawans in Handwara on 4 May this year.” (“Two militants killed in Handwara operation,” The Hindu, 19 August 2020)

Pakistan discusses Kashmir with China

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during his two days visit to China, met China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Hainan province. A press release from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed to have discussed J&K.

According to the release, quoted by the Hindu: “The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, including its concerns, position and current urgent issues. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between India and Pakistan, which is an objective fact, and that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and properly through the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.” (“Kashmir figures in China, Pakistan dialogue,” The Hindu, 21 August 2020)

 

II
Focus Questions in the background
What about the Big Ticket Items in J&K?

Undoubtedly the measures taken last week were positive. They have been taken by three different arms of the State. The first one, by the administration of J&K led by the Lt General towards the revival of the economy. The second one by the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi to restore 4G in J&K, and also withdraw 10,000 troops from the UT. And the third one by the Army to order a high-level inquiry into an encounter, where its soldiers were involved in killing three.

The economic recovery is important. The fact that the administration has constituted one with secretaries from Finance, Industry and Tourism, along with the Chairman of the J&K Bank should underline the importance of a comprehensive recovery addressing multiple sectors. One of the primary position of the Union government of removing Article 370 is on the economic development of the erstwhile State, now a UT. Many within J&K today ask: What has been the progress so far on this sector?

For J&K, there is an additional problem – the COVID. With restrictions on the movement of people, and the security situation compounding it, not only tourism but also the investment and movement of goods have dried up. During the last few years – tourism, whether pilgrimage or otherwise have picked up in both the regions. From cab drivers to hoteliers, the travel and tourism industry has taken a huge hit.

Second, the restoration of high-speed internet. For security reasons, the Union Government has banned the internet and allowed only 2G. Many in Kashmir Valley complain that even 2G has been intermittent. In today's world, high-speed internet is not a luxury; but an essential infrastructure and should form a part of the right to live. The Union Government fears that high-speed internet would impact on internal security, especially in Kashmir valley, and would allow them to communicate, thereby leading to more protests. The larger fear also has been – that internet would allow the miscreants to reach out to rest of the world, with a select or projecting a particular narrative from Kashmir Valley.

The issue is being discussed in the Supreme Court. And the decision to restore 4G based on the recommendations of a select committee constituted by the judiciary and led by the Union Home Secretary is a positive one. The government’s decision should not be guided by face-saving strategy in front of the Supreme Court and restricting the same to only two districts, but a part of a larger plan to restore services.

Third, the decision by the Army to constitute an inquiry into an encounter. It is not only a bold decision but also a welcome one. In a conflict theatre, one will have to understand the environment in which the security forces operate. Across the world, the situation is the same; the security forces are forced into a conflict situation, that they would like to avoid. It is extremely unfortunate that fake encounters do happen, or armed forces involve in killings, where innocent lives are lost.

An inquiry like the one that has been constituted would help the forces and also the people’s faith in the system. In a conflict environment, it is imperative that people have faith in the system. It would also help the armed forces to address external complaints regarding human rights violations.

Fourth, the decision of the Union government to withdraw more troops from J&K. The process should not be symbolic; it should be substantial as well if it has to create a positive perception within the conflict region.

But, what about the Big Ticket items?

An earlier analysis in this series (See “J&K: One year later, is it time to change gears?,” 7 August 2020) proposed that it is time to change gears in J&K.

With the appointment of a new Lieutenant Governor and the completion of one year, it is time to make a few bold moves. Restoration of 4G in two districts, Committee on economic recovery, withdrawal of 10,000 troops should be a beginning.

The Starters have been served. J&K needs a full meal. Perhaps, a Wazwan.

Bringing an end to political detentions could be one big-ticket item. While the Farooq and Omar Abdullahs have been released, there is still a big-ticket item on this – Mehbooba Mufti. Not only the leaders but also all other party members.

Second, there is no point in bringing an end to detention, but not allowing politicking. It has to start. Big federal democracies like India cannot prevent this process. Allowing Farooq Abdullah to meet with his party members is a beginning. This process should gain momentum. Release of Mehbooba Mufti will help this.

Third, a dialogue between the regional leadership and New Delhi, on the future of J&K.

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IPRI Comments

Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh Iyer

Yemen: Will Sa'nna fall?

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China and Islam
February 2019 | IPRI # 3
IPRI Comments

Harini Madhusudhan

Sinicizing the Minorities

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Terrorism
January 2019 | IPRI # 2
IPRI Comments

Sourina Bej

Maghreb: What makes al Shahab Resilient?

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Global Politics
January 2019 | IPRI # 1
IPRI Comments

Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Myanmar: Will 2019 be better for the Rohingya?

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