FIVE security personnel including a junior commissioned officer lost his life in an encounter with militants in Rajouri on Monday. The gunfight started after a cordon-and-search operation was launched by the Indian Army on the basis of intelligence inputs in villages close to Dehra Ki Gali in the Surankote area of Poonch district. Security forces haven’t suffered such a huge loss in the ongoing violence since May 2020 when around thirteen security personnel lost their lives in a couple of encounters in Handwara and Kupwara districts. The killings of the security personnel followed immediately after the successive killings of the civilians - including that of the prominent chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo - across the Valley which pushed the Valley to the brink.
This shows a steeply rising graph of violence in Kashmir and doesn't augur well for the near future. The administration, in response, has reportedly arrested over 700 people in the Valley as part of its investigation to identify the militants responsible for the killings and to deter more attacks on civilians.
The fresh violence has blown up in our face at a time when militancy in Kashmir had been giving all indications of being in retreat. According to a police estimate, there are around 200 active militants in Kashmir. Over a hundred militants have been killed this year in encounters with the security forces. Besides, recent months have also reportedly witnessed a drop in Kashmiri youth taking to arms that was expected to lead to a progressive dwindling of the number of militants.
But Handwara violence has turned these calculations on their head. It has made it clear that the militancy is here to stay as the infiltration remains an ongoing phenomenon, the hi-tech border fencing notwithstanding. And the militants that are crossing over are highly trained and battle-hardened, This should be of serious concern for the security agencies.
Import of rising violence, however, goes beyond the heavy toll it has taken in terms of the lives of civilians and security personnel. Its significance lies in that the militancy in the Valley is not a lost cause that it was expected to be in the wake of nullification of J&K autonomy – doing so, may have, on the contrary, enhanced the rationale for an armed struggle. That infiltration is taking place regardless should make the authorities take note. And if the influx of militants continues, as looks likely, it could confront New Delhi with a formidable challenge in the months to come.
One way for New Delhi to tackle the unfolding situation is to go down the predictable route: kill more militants and suffer intermittent losses of security personnel and occasionally strike Pakistan too. We have run this gamut many a time and eventually, it ends up nowhere. The time for the Centre is to think out of box and try political outreach instead, something that in the past has opened up possibilities of peace in the region.
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