No safe zones, forces set to intensify hot pursuit of militants in Kashmir

The PDP-BJP government in Jammu & Kashmir believes that hot pursuit of militants, roaming mostly in the hinterlands of south Kashmir, is an immediate panacea and also part of the final solution to this protracted conflict that’s dogging the Valley.

The state, which has already recorded over 170 killings in the first half of this year, including 97 militants, 39 army, paramilitary and police personnel and 35 civilians, continues to mark at least one killing almost every day. And if a senior BJP functionary and some state police officials are to be believed, the operations against the militants and their sympathisers are likely to increase after the President’s election on July 17, with New Delhi’s renewed focus on the state.

Terrorists killed in Kashmir, File Photo ANI

The recent attack on a highway in Botengo area of Anantnag in south Kashmir in which eight Amarnath yatris were killed and 19 others injured, has a given another ‘solid reason’ to act tough and go after the armed non-state actors ‘full throttle’, said sources in the police, adding that operations will escalate once the yatra ends in the first week of August.

“The military and operational engagement in south Kashmir for the past two months is less fearful of reprisals, not divided in priorities, and most importantly, keen on taking risks, where collateral damage cannot be a deterrent. Otherwise you would not see a cordon happening in a village only a day after the encounter,” a senior police official told ET.

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In this month alone, 14 militants were killed. Most of the famous commanders of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which includes Sabzar, Junaid Matoo, BashirLaskhkari, and Majid were killed in the past two months. This year, according to police statistics, 58 youngsters joined the militant ranks till now, out of which 45 were from south Kashmir. Five of them have already been killed and seven arrested.

The operations against the militants, who enjoy the support of locals, risk further deepening of the divide between the pro-India politicians and people. This would also undermine any political process, more so in south Kashmir, the home of the ruling PDP, from where chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also hails.

However, latent stability in the PDP-BJP government despite a series of overt contradictions in a volatile atmosphere suggests that the alliance partners have an understanding and share a common wisdom about alliance management to complete a six-year term, which for many in and outside the state, was a mirage.

Terrorists killed in Kashmir, File Photo ANI

Terrorists killed in Kashmir, File Photo ANI

“After Presidential Order on GST, we have been reassured about Agenda of Alliance (the working document between the two parties),” a senior PDP minister told ET. He blames the incapacity of the state administration to use the funds and ‘bad situation’ on the ground for all problems the state faces right now. “Smart city was given to us. Toto ground, which was under the forces, is ready for public use. But the situation is very different here. The money that has been released in February has not been spent till May 31, the departments have shown just one percent expenditure,” the minister explained.

Both PDP and BJP express contrarian views in public almost on every issue but consciously stop short of criticising or even referring to each other. For instance, BJP state president Sat Paul Sharma, during the celebration of birthday of Shayama Prasad Mukherjee earlier this month, stated that implementation of GST in the state was the first step towards fulfilling Mukherjee’s dream of complete integration of J&K with India, a position that’s clearly against the ‘status quo on article 370’ BJP has agreed upon in Agenda of Alliance.

“Every BJP worker will sacrifice last drop of his blood to fulfil his dreams,” said Sharma. On the contrary, Mufti’s public claim was that the special GST has ensured protection of the special status of the state and thus keeping the promise made in AoA, which has also not been rebutted by the BJP.

In another verbal duel, few days after Union Minister Jitender Singh stated that militancy was the only problem in the state and wiping it out is the ‘final solution’, J&K chief minister met Rajnath Singh in New Delhi and said after the meeting that Kashmir is not a ‘law and order issue’ and even China is now meddling in its affairs, exposing the vulnerability of the state.

Both have again not rebutted each other, which was the norm during the early days of the coalition. The absence of BJP and presence of PDP at the government function commemorating martyrs of 1931 killed by the then Dogra ruler also reflects the clear ‘functional understanding’ of the alliance partners.

“I have realized BJP with its decisive mandate, if convinced on any issue, supports you fully. I cannot imagine this happening with any other regime in New Delhi,” another senior PDP minister told ET, adding, “Action is being taken against the militants and things will settle soon, even though the situation is bad now.”

The Army also reiterated that the operations against the militants will continue unabated and the situation would improve soon.

“The Amarnath attack has been one reversal, but we will continue the operations and target the terrorists. In fact, the assessment is that there would be an improvement in the situation,” General officer Commanding (GoC) of Srinagar based 15 Corps, Lt General J S Sandhu, told reporters here.

Tags:Kashmir