Uncertain Normalcy

JAMMU and Kashmir has seen nine-fold increase in police encounters in 2021-22, highest in the country, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai told Lok Sabha on Tuesday. This was followed by Assam where such cases rose by over four times against the previous year. According to the data tabled in Lok Sabha, there were just five police encounters in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020-21 but in 2021-22, the number has increased to 45.

If anything, this reveals the renewed surge in violence in the union territory, most of it concentrated in the Valley. Militants have escalated their attacks on minorities and outsiders as the figures tabled in Lok Sabha reveal. What is more, there is now evidence of more foreign militants infiltrating in Kashmir and that too with an array of arms left behind in Afghanistan by the US.

Several attacks in recent weeks have made the situation very challenging for the security forces.  The surge in violence has come despite the fact that the number of militants has dwindled under 200 over the last year, the first time this has happened since 2015 when the slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani reinvigorated the then flagging militancy. Ever since the withdrawal of J&K autonomy in August 2019, around 500 militants have been killed in the UT, most of them local youth. Though this has reduced the number of militants, the violence has continued unchanged. And over the last year, the violence has increased as militants have chosen to attack soft targets – civilians, panchayat workers, J&K police personnel visiting home, outsiders and minorities – instead of engaging security personnel. Security forces, as a result, now not only have to combat militancy but also protect a large section of population including many from among their own ranks.

The resurgence in violence hasn’t, however, dented the larger drift of normalcy in the Valley yet. While the violence has become more conspicuous in recent months, it is still on the margins in so far as its impact on the daily life. Tourism is at an all time high after many years. Between January and May 15 of 2022, the tourist arrivals in the Valley have jumped to 700,000 – over four times the 125,0000 seen in the same period during pandemic-hit last year – according to the data from the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department and the Union Tourism Ministry. Here’s hoping that the situation further improves in the coming months and tourism continues to grow.

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