Demonitization and Kashmir

On November 8, India observed the first anniversary of the demonitization. It was on this day last year that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared 500 and 1000 currency notes as illegal tender. The move, he said, was aimed at breaking “the grip of corruption and black money” in the country. However, the USP of the extraordinary measure was that it would hit hard the “anti-national and anti-social elements” which chiefly included the militant and the separatists organizations active in Kashmir. If the former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement in the wake of the terror funding is anything to go by, the demonitization was expected to have choked the terror funding and stone pelting in Kashmir.  In fact, he famously even declared the end of stone pelting in Kashmir as a result of demonitzation, and even congratulated the Prime Minister for thinking up such an innovative and a swift mechanism to do it. 

But a year after, it is true that there is little that has changed in and about Kashmir. The situation has more or less gone on regardless. Despite a record number of around 160 militant killings this year, militancy remains a force to reckon with. What is more, an estimated 94 more local youth have joined the ranks of  Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-i-Toiba. Besides, this year has witnessed more infiltration. In an estimate attributed to Multi-Agency Centre, a nodal agency comprising security and intelligence officials, around 70 militants have infiltrated this year.

One result of this was that the Jaish-e-Mohammad, otherwise wiped out for the umpteenth time last year has revived again. The outfit carried out two sensational attacks: one on the police lines at Pulwama in which 8 security personnel were killed and another on the BSF camp near Srinagar airport in which one ASI was killed and two other personnel injured.  

Has stone-throwing ended? It hasn’t. Have determined bids by the people to save the trapped militants stopped? They haven’t. Latest instance of this was the encounter at Aglar Kandi in Pulwama where one civilian received a bullet injury when the villagers unsuccessfully tried to help the three trapped militants flee, one of them identified as Talha Rashid was the nephew of Jaish Muhammad chief Azhar Masood.  According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, this year has by far been the most violent year in the last seven years with 290 killings so far, 69 of them security personnel and 49 civilians

Ironically, one of the overriding rationales of the demonitization was that it will deal a setback to militancy and restore peace in Kashmir.Other aspect of the demonitization fallout in Kashmir was the complete absence of chaos in the streets so visible in other parts of the country. There was also little palpable panic in air.  Only a week later, the Kashmir Valley was more or less back to normal. In Srinagar, the rush at the banks and the ATMs had drastically ebbed. This turn of events was surprising considering it was at variance with the official narrative about Kashmir being a hub of the unaccounted terror money. A year on, as India takes stock of the demonitization and a majority of the people lament its pointlessness, it is also important to highlight its zero impact on the troubled political situation in Kashmir, ironically one of measure’s validating contentions.

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