‘Situation In Kashmir Deteriorated, Jammu Being Communalised’

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New Delhi:  The Concerned Citizens’ Group (CCG), led by former Union Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, on Thursday said its members were disconcerted to find “the situation in Kashmir deteriorated” and “Jammu being communalised” during their latest visit to the State.

 “Within the Valley, despite security forces’ successes, recruitment to the militant ranks was on the rise with even highly educated youngsters choosing to pick up the gun,” said the report, drafted by the group’s members, which include security expert Kapil Kak, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist Sushobha Barve.

Jammu was being communalised for narrow political gains, the report said. “The rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim was being used to fan communal passions by local politicians,” it noted.

During their visit to the border areas, the group observed: “Year 2017 saw a six-fold increase in ceasefire violation compared to 2015. On the Indian side alone, over 40,000 civilians had to be evacuated in the areas near the International Border and the Line of Control.”

It said the “hopes of the Kashmiris in Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to have been dashed.”

 “They had thought that he [Mr. Modi] would carry forward the initiatives of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, now they felt that he has brought nothing but despair and disappointment in Kashmir,” the report said.

The primary rationale of the visit was the escalation of cross-border shelling which assumed a new intensity since the beginning of this year. The cease-fire understanding reached between the two countries in 2003 was violated with impunity with small arms fire giving way to heavy mortar and finally, even artillery.

The unusual escalation resulted in a high death toll – the casualties in January 2018 alone equalledthe figure for the entire 2017. And 2017 itself was an exceptional year for cease-fire violations, as they represented a six-foldincrease compared to 2015.  People have been making a connection between the heating up of the LoC and terrorist attacks in the state by terrorist proxies of the Pakistan Army. The argument goes that by using terrorist proxies, the Pakistan Army distances itself from terrorist attacks and pays no price for its subterfuge. The ‘robust’ response of the Indian Army this time around, it is said, is meant to punish the other side by specifically targeting Pakistani Army posts.

“The militancy in the Valley, however, also seems to have developed an autonomous raison d’etre in the absence of any political dialogue. The group wanted to understand the changes that had taken place in the Valley since its last visit and understand whether there were any moderating influences that could prevent youngsters from taking up the gun.”

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The huge collateral damage to civilians living on both sides of the border was therefore also not unsurprising. On the Indian side alone more than 40,000 civilians had to be evacuated, make-shift camps set up to house them at a safe distance, economic activities disrupted and schools closed in the areas adjoining the IB/LoC. Besides the loss of human lives, houses were destroyed and damaged, cattle killed and injured and local water and electricity infrastructure disrupted.”

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