Conflict Alerts # 133, 29 July 2020
In the news
On 26 July, the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir announced the neutralization of all militants from Srinagar. The Hindu quoted him: "Five encounters took place in the city this year. Of 10 terrorists killed in these gunfights, four were from Srinagar. Now, no resident of Srinagar district is in any terrorist rank." According to the Hindu, "Over 137 militants have been killed in anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir so far this year, mostly in south Kashmir's Shopian, Kulgam and Awantipora."
On 28 July 2020, in an interview to the Hindu, Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of the J&K State, underlining that the removal of Article 370 has left no space for mainstream leaders, also said: "Just because you cannot see protests don't confuse it to mean there is no anger and a sense of hurt that prevails here over what happened on 5 August. Don't punish and demean Kashmiris further."
Another former Chief Minister – Mehbooba Mufti, has been under detention. Her party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while observing its foundation day on 28 July, in a statement said: "5 August marks a black day in the constitutional history of J&K, when the solemn commitments made by the Parliament and the Constitution were annulled for a majoritarian goal of bulldozing the country into one saffron colour. We reiterate to fight for the restoration of honour and dignity of people of J&K."
Issues at large
First, the big difference between the political leadership and security approaches. Across South Asia, the State pursues a security approach to a political issue and considers the absence of violence and the neutralization of militants would lead to the return of peace. In J&K, the security forces have been tasked by the State to ensure that there is no violence in the streets; the former is pursuing it. Recently, the Director-General of Police also announced the high number of militants who got killed during the recent period.
Second, the continuation of militant activities and encounters between them and the State forces in Kashmir Valley. During the last few months, despite the encounters and the neutralization of militants, violence led by the militants has been continuing.
Third, the absence of politics. Omar Abdullah has been released recently; the PDP leaders, including Mehbooba Mufti, are still under detention. Without political leaders, there cannot be any politics, which is essential for the democratic process. The politics and the democratic process is important to address the "anger and a sense of hurt" that Omar Abdullah talked about in his interview.
The State has to pursue a strong measure to address militancy and violence. It also has to ensure that there is also a strong political process, led by the political parties – national and more importantly, the regional parties.
In J&K, parties like the National Conference and the PDP, and leaders like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have a role. The State should encourage that role and not undermine it.