For the past many months, Indian media was full of news of normalcy in the Valley. But the opposite was the ground reality. Sudden spurt in targeted killings by terrorists in Kashmir has created panic and induced tremendous fear of their safety among minorities and thrown a serious challenge to the security forces.
Killing of Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent and popular pharmacist of Srinagar, followed by a Sikh lady Principal and a Hindu teacher, few Bihari hawkers and 9 soldiers has compelled the security forces to undertake similar targeted retaliation resulting in killing of many perpetrators.
The anti-terror operations are still on and have been on and off as per the situation earlier; which indeed is a battle of wits, which India seems to be losing in the valley having successfully fought it in the Northeast, Punjab and Srilanka.
Many people have been entering Bindroo pharmacy every day and yet the owner, Pandit by caste and Hindu by religion, was not identified as a potential target of terrorists, at the least, for sensational news, shows that militants are a step ahead. Mr. Bindroo was shot at point blank range. Least he could have been wearing a bullet proof jacket.
Despite the gruesome killing, no attention was diverted on the minority community employees, later moved to safer places as an afterthought. Question arises why not the day Mr. Bindroo was killed, migrant employees were considered as potential targets? Some lessons should have been learnt and action taken rather than rhetoric. This is the street talk as of now.
Focusing on reaction, which is the case every time, is the reason why the militants have a field day every time they pounce. After all, someone who is responsible for providing security to the minority committee whom the government is settling in disturbed areas, must be held responsible and taken to task. No dearth of security forces in the valley, yet the wanton killings continues, is also another question.
People from minority communities, majority of the Hindu employees as well as the migrant labourers/hawkers have already left the valley out of fear of life. It is now obvious that minority killings in the Valley were to scare them and hinder government plans to return Kashmiri Pandits to their homes and hearth.
The al-Qaeda official statement on 31 August 2021, talking of liberating ‘Levant, Somalia, Yemen, Kashmir and the rest of the Islamic lands from clutches of the enemies of Islam’, obviously meant at fueling militancy in Kashmir which manifested now after a long gap is to continue for long.
Silver lining is that the administration has moved remaining Hindu and Sikh families to safer locations because of rumours that terrorists have been given a hit list. Not that it will reverse the outflow of migration but will instill some confidence in those who want to stay put and face the dangers boldly.
After the abrogation of contentious Articles, a sense of normalcy and calm was visible in the streets. Local militancy had starting dragging its feet raising hopes and aspirations of the government and public. Administration thus put its best foot forward to enable return of persecuted minorities.
Harsh and hurried measures were initiated to get their properties, illegally occupied by majority community fellows, vacated at fast pace and restore to the owners. That is now considered an overreach. Perhaps what looks obvious at the hindsight was not obvious at that time.
Tourism also picked up speed giving a new festive look to the valley. While the terrorism afflicted Kashmir was settling down to new phase of life, it was worrying Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Surprisingly Afghanistan stabilized sooner than expected enabling ISI to push outside Jihadists into the valley for carrying out the targeted killings to keep the pot boiling and derail the return process.
Intelligence agencies failed to foresee such probability enabling security forces to lower their guards, thereby subjecting innocents as sacrificial goats, one after the other, instead of preempting such dangers.
Recent killings have shown that we have not been able to develop requisites deterrence against Pakistan, leave aside against China, in this war of wits. Hence we need to acknowledge that we are lacking in intelligence inputs, monitoring Over Ground Workers (OGW) and radicalization, which should have been a continuous process. Rather than focusing on ISI and foreign militants, focus should have been on home grown militants during the lull.
However now the large-scale anti-terrorist operations and National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids are on in the Valley to hunt down both, the OGWs, local & foreign terrorists. With the rounding up of various OGWs, many terrorists are being identified and eliminated. Home Minister’s visit on 23 October is seen as extension and reinforcement of the same anti militancy drive.
For decades we have shied away from taking the sub-conventional war into the enemy territory and develop the capability to react fast, in double/triple measure, to any such like acts of terrorism, except an odd surgical/air strike preceding elections.
Ironically, we have not gone beyond full throttle rhetoric such as ‘kisi ko bhi baksha nahin jae ga’ etc etc. Hence the induction of foreign terrorists, weapons, ammunition and narcotics by land, by air (Drones) and underground tunnels is going on unabated.
The adversary is inventing new methods to bleed Kashmir. We are still on the beaten track. Why are we not using Drones/armed helicopters in dense forests which terrorists are using as safe havens. Why aren’t the separatists and radical elements in society being handled sternly? Unless that is done forcefully, not much change can be brought about on the ground.
Moreover it is high time to stop being soft on anti-national statements coming out from the valley. The majority community has yet not risen to the occasion to stand by the minorities and denounce killings. It is also a cause of concern. That calls for review of appeasement policy.
Enough is enough, now this sub-conventional war must be fought across the Line of Control (LoC). Change in strategy is as important as the change in tactics. This is the call of the hour as per my understanding.
About the Author
Col J P Singh (Retd) is Jammu based freelance Columnist. He is Veteran of 1971 Indo-Pak War, Op Pawan (Srilanka) and Kargil War 1999. He is a fond reader of Dogra history, which is the history of J&K. Also a keen observer of local political developments. He is member of Maharaja Gulab Singh Memorial Trust, ‘Dogra Sadar Sabha’ & Co-Chairman of Maharaja Gulab Singh Coronation Memorial Committee and a promoter of Dogra History. He can be reached on Email: [email protected]
(Views expressed by the author are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mission Victory India)