The first 10 days of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir saw security forces stepping up combing and combat operations. There were 20 Army operations, in which four civilians died and around 60 were injured. Nine militants were killed too.
On June 19, the State was brought under Governor’s rule — the eighth time since 1977 — after the BJP withdrew from the alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They had been in power since 2015. Till Ramzan this year, the allies tried various things to deal with the challenges, especially rising militancy after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen ‘commander’ Burhan Wani in 2016, and the increasing civilian casualties in clashes between security forces and locals.
Since the two parties entered office, divergent strategic approaches to containing alienation and street anger failed to work, and the situation almost spiralled out of control on the ground in the Valley.
What is the ground situation?
Official figures show 114 people (53 militants, 34 civilians and 27 securitymen) have died in encounters and clashes between locals and men of the cordon and search operations teams. It was in May last year that the BJP prevailed over the PDP to give Operation All-Out a chance to deal with militancy. The National Investigation Agency pursued old cases against second-rung separatists to bring an end to stone-throwing in the Valley.
By the end of 2017, around 220 militants, mainly locals, were killed. But, by January 2018, despite the operations, the number of militants was still at more than 150. Now, more locals are picking up arms. There has been no let-up in clashes in and around encounter sites. Kashmir witnessed 410 law and order incidents in the first four months this year, against 900 in the whole of 2017. In May this year, the then Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to declare cessation of operations for the month of Ramzan. She argued that with the burial of every militant’s body, at least two youngsters pledged to join militancy at the funeral itself.
But the ceasefire from May 16 did not get the response she hoped for from the separatist Hurriyat and militants. Pointing out that New Delhi’s offer was “ambiguous and unclear,” the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, said: “Any meaningful talks should be based on a clear agenda, underlined by sincerity among all the three stakeholders — India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.”
Why did ceasefire fail?
It was clear in the second week of Ramzan that the ceasefire was falling apart. Local militants increased grenade attacks, ambushes and rifle-snatching. At least, twelve grenades targeted forces in the first two weeks and left 56 people, including 39 civilians and 17 personnel, wounded.
As Ramzan drew to a close, 51 people, including 20 militants and 13 civilians, were killed in militancy-related incidents and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB). The ceasefire ended with the killing of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari and his two security officers. It was the last nail in the coffin of the PDP’s soft approach.
What lies ahead?
Director-General of Police S.P. Vaid said: “Fresh operations will now see less interferences,” hinting at the Centre’s move to go the whole way against militants and their civilian supporters. Governor N.N. Vohra has his task cut out. First, he has to use good governance to win back the people’s faith in the system and wean the youth off militancy. Two, he has to ensure no political games are played at the cost of democracy. With the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections approaching, the question is whether Governor’s rule will be able to create a conducive atmosphere.
(Adapted from The Hindu)