Sunday, August 16, 2020
 
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Political vacuum in Jammu and Kashmir
Security forces face a daunting task of restoring peace in Kashmir valley




Dr Ashok Bhan




The Constitutional changes of August 2019 and reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir distended the role of Police and security forces (SFs). Besides intensifying the counter-insurgency operations, there were new challenges of ensuring strict enforcement of lockdown restrictions and preventing protests. To be fair to the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the SFs, they have done a commendable job. The law and order situation, despite being fragile, was not allowed to go out of hands. There were notable successes in counter-terrorist operations with over one hundred terrorists, including top commanders of HM, JeM and LeT, neutralized during the current year.

The heavy footprint of uniformed forces, in the absence of civilian overreach, has sharpened the mistrust created by the defanging of Art 370. Frequent contacts while restraining people to observe lockdown, and during cordon and search operations, has increased hostility towards the Government. Routine summons to the Police Stations, arrests, releases and re-arrests of youth have added to anger and alienation. Unfettered use of SFs also endangers erosion of the civil face of the local police. An increased dependence on SFs to the exclusion of other measures has begun to become counterproductive.

There is seething anger, increased resilience and suppressed defiance among the youth in the valley. The prolonged lockdown, curbs and arrests and detentions, including those of mainstream leaders, has increased disaffection. Instead of remedial political and administrative measures to reach out to the people, the Government has curtly gone about formalizing constitutional changes by bringing the domicile law and setting up of a delimitation commission. The adjournments of petitions challenging validity of the constitutional changes; as well as hesitation in holding the executive accountable in habeas corpus petitions, restrictions on media and internet, are being perceived as denial of legitimate legal remedies. This loss of hope increases vulnerability to overtures by radical and anti-national elements.

Pakistan never misses an opportunity to exploit discontent in J&K. The terrorist camps and launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) are reported to be full. The interception and killing of 13 infiltrating terrorists in Mendher and Nowshera sectors of Jammu on May 31 are clear indicators of the Pak intent. The recent killing of Ajay Pandita, a Sarpanch from minority community, raises serious doubts on the claims of improvement in the security situation. In coming weeks and months, therefore, the hands of SFs will be full in maintaining law and order, checking infiltration and carrying out operations in the hinterland.

In the ensuing political vacuum, the state administration is expected to address day to day grievances as well as initiate confidence building measures including developmental activities. True, the fallout of COVID 19 has shifted the focus of the administration. They can’t be faulted on that but the developing security situation in the valley can’t be remotely handled from the safe environs of Jammu. Kashmir valley accounts for three quarters of COVID 19 cases and most of the deaths reported in the UT. The ‘theatre of activity’, reeling under a political vacuum, has been left to the care of uniformed forces. Most of the Government functionaries operate from Jammu after a token re-opening of the winter capital at Srinagar. Curiously, the deployment of employees, even when Secretariat opens on July 6, will continue on ‘as is where is’ basis. Some influential quarters, have succeeded in using the COVID 19 as a cover to truncate the operation of “Darbar” from Srinagar during this summer.

In a political and administrative void, the mosques will naturally fill the vacuum. This trust deficit is well illustrated by a Mohalla committee collecting donations of Rs 3 Crores in a week, instead of seeking Government relief, to rehabilitate nineteen families, whose houses were damaged in a recent anti-terrorist operation in Nawakadal area of Srinagar. There are many more instances of lack of faith in the administration.

The trade and industry in the entire UT has immensely suffered since August 2019. COVID has also brought to a grinding halt the tourism and pilgrimage related economy. The partial restrictions on internet have seriously impaired trade and the functioning of health infrastructure and educational institutions in the entire UT. In a largely peaceful Jammu province such restrictions are incomprehensible. It is time to work towards fulfilling the promise of citizen centric governance and all round development made at the time of reorganization. The administration will need to pro-actively allay the growing perception of neglect of Kashmir valley. The Lt Gov and his team must be given a free hand in day to day decision making based on situation on ground. LG must also remain the single point contact with the centre to avoid confusing signals.

There is a surge in local recruitment to terrorist ranks in south Kashmir. An overwhelming majority of terrorists killed in the hinterland are local youth, some of them having joined terrorist ranks in the last few weeks or months. They are ‘gravely hurt’ at the loss of special status and consequent changes. Such misgivings and trust deficit need to be discounted and reversed. Leaving this for the uniformed forces to handle alone through restrictions, arrests and detentions is fraught with dangerous consequences.

There is a menacing disquiet in the air in Kashmir valley. This is time to redeem the situation through political and administrative outreach. In a political vacuum and in the absence of a vibrant civil back-up, SFs face a daunting challenge. The SFs can only bring terrorist violence down to manageable levels and make the situation conducive for an administrative and political outreach. Peace will remain elusive if these measures are not taken and the task is solely left to the SFs.




(The author is Former Director General of Police and former Member, National Security Advisory Board)





(Disclaimer: The views, observations and opinions expressed in above write up of Scoop News are strictly author's own. Scoop News does not take any onus or liability for the veracity, accuracy, validity, completeness, suitability of any of information in the above given write up. The information, facts or figures appearing in the write up in no way manifest the position, standpoint or stance of Scoop News and the Scoop News does not assume any encumbrance or answerability of the same. All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of competent Courts and Forums in Jammu City Only)


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