Change Tack On Kashmir

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THERE have been 111 successful infiltration attempts into J&K over the last year, the parliament was told on Tuesday by Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy. Reddy also revealed that 138 militants were killed by security forces between March and August this year. During this period also, 50 security force personnel died in J&K militancy-related incidents, ceasefire violations and cross border firings.

If anything, these figures show that the militancy in the Valley has gone nowhere following the revocation of Article 370 last year. This despite the fact that in recent past the security forces have achieved greater success in the operations against militants.  In June alone, 48 militants were killed in 17 gunfights, highest such number in a decade.

With the police estimate of the total number of militants in the Valley at around 190 – of which 90 are foreigners – it might seem the militancy in the region is staring at its potential demise.  Also, at the current rate of militant killings, that works over 23 militants a month, the militancy appears set to be wiped out by the close of this year or may be sooner. More so, at a time when the police has already declared Tral, Srinagar and Doda as militant-free.

But going by the rise and fall of militancy over the past three decades, such a prospect is unlikely to come about. The militancy in Kashmir has often risen from the ashes. Never had it come so close to extinction as by 2013 when the Valley had a little over hundred militants, only a small number of them locals. But from 2014 onwards the number started rising again. In 2018, the most violent year in a decade, 271 militants were killed.

Going forward, there is little indication that the situation would change. The simultaneous recruitment of the local youth in the militant ranks and the infiltration from across the border invariably replenishes the shortfall created by the killings of the militants. And it will continue to do so unless the dynamic that animates the militancy is addressed. And this redressal is not in the killing of the militants but in a meaningful political outreach to the people of J&K.  And this outreach has been more or less absent over the past six years. The rationale for such an approach was that a hardline security centric approach will quell the militancy, something that has not happened. It is therefore time that the union government changes tack.

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