Infiltration down by 70 pc, recruitment down by 50 pc; funerals, gun salutes, stone pelting stopped first time after 2008
Ahmed Ali FayyazJAMMU: For about one week before the Jammu and Kashmir State was stripped of its special status and split into the two Union Territories (UTs) of J&K and Ladakh on 5th August 2019, officials in the top corridors of power from Srinagar to New Delhi had a question for all the ‘Kashmir experts’ they knew: “How many civilians would die if Article 370 and 35-A would be revoked?” Some of them put the number at 500 and others at 800-something.At an official gathering earlier this year, former J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, who is now Governor of Goa, revealed that a senior bureaucrat had feared “1,000 civilian killings”.According to well-placed official sources, even the Governor, Director General of Police and Additional DG CID, had no inkling of what exactly the Centre was up to when it abruptly ordered eviction of all the Amarnath pilgrims and tourists and began sending in convoys of paramilitary forces around 31st July 2019. Amid varied speculations, the Police hierarchy had consensus over 400-600 fatal casualties.On 5th August 2019, when over 300 political leaders and activists had been taken into custody overnight and all the telecommunication services snapped, millions of the Kashmiris watched the developments unfolding on TV. They saw the Union Home Minister Amit Shah rewriting the history. Shah piloted a Bill in the Parliament, seeking to withdraw J&K’s special status and breaking the State into the two UTs. Amid the Opposition’s uproar that Shah’s Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill had not come from the proper channel-the Constituent Assembly, which had expired over six decades back, or its successor, the J&K Legislative Assembly-it was passed with a thumping majority in both Houses of the Parliament.New Delhi’s argument, which is now under the legal and constitutional scrutiny at Supreme Court of India, was that the Parliament had competence during the President’s rule to apply or revoke such laws relating to Jammu and Kashmir.Curfew, of course, had been clamped over the valley and rumours were in high circulation. However, nobody was reported dead. As there were no major clashes, street eruptions, rallies or protest demonstrations, the Police or security forces did not open fire. Contrary to all apprehensions of a street turmoil of the higher intensity than the 2008, 2010 and 2016 clashes, not one civilian was killed in the Police or security forces’ action for the next nine months. It was for the first time after 1989.Curfew was gradually relaxed and completely lifted in the first two months. However, without a formal call from the separatist leaders, their followers and cadres enforced shutdown for the next three months. Killing of some defaulters spread a wave of terror and nobody dared to open businesses. Commercial transport did not operate for about 5 months and drivers refused to ferry students in the yellow school buses from their home to the educational institutions.What the world still knows as “lockdown of one year” was actually a composition of 2 months of government’s curfew, 3 months of the separatists’ shutdown, 2 months of severe winter and vacations and nearly 5 months of the Covid-19 lockdown.After the first 2 months, detention of political leaders and suspension of high-speed mobile internet were the only evidences of the ‘political lockdown’. From March to July 2020, all the political detainees, with exception of the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, were released. Landline and mobile telephone services, as also high-speed internet on fixed lines and 2G data services on mobile phones, were restored in a phased manner.Around the first anniversary on Wednesday, 5 August 2020, there was no curfew in Kashmir. Even Internet and telephone services were not snapped anywhere in the valley. Some mainstream parties, including NC and PDP, observed 5th of August as a ‘Black Day’. However, there were no clashes or an incident of firing.By the time educational institutions opened in February 2020, the people of Kashmir had either forgotten about 5 August 2019 or begun to reconcile to the new realities. But Kashmir was again jinxed. The Coronavirus pandemic forced closure of all government offices and private businesses, schools, colleges, universities and public services, with the exception of essential services, across Jammu and Kashmir since 22 March 2020.“Sadly one civilian got killed when he did not respond to the Police signal. Not a single civilian, who was not associated with terrorists, has died in the Police or security forces’ action in the last one year. This is for the first time since 1990. Credit goes to the people that after 5 August 2019 they did not clash with or attack the security forces at streets or during counterinsurgency operations as they used to do previously”, said a senior officer. He asserted that “only a few sporadic incidents” of low intensity occurred intermittently at certain places.According to the official statistics, not more than 70 ‘minor incidents’ had been reported in the last seven months of the year 2020. During the corresponding period in 2019, this number was up at 107. The outgoing Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu claimed that joining of fresh terrorist recruits had fallen by 50% after August 2019. The Police datasheets show that 219 youths had joined different terrorist outfits in 2018 and only 119 in 2019. Till 30 June, just 74 youths had joined terrorism. While over 30 were killed in encounters, about a dozen returned to home silently but with the knowledge of Police and armed forces.In all, 152 terrorists had been killed in different encounters in 2019. According to IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar, 148 terrorists have been killed in the last seven months of 2020-only 32 in the first three months but as many as 116 in April through July. All the prominent ‘commanders’, including Riyaz Naikoo ,Junaid Sehrai and Waleed Bhai of Hizbul Mujahideen, Qari Yasir of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Burhan Koka of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, have been eliminated, one after another, this year.Most of the officers in Police and security forces believe that total number of active terrorists in J&K had plummeted from 350 in August 2018 to just 150-180 in August 2020. They claim that most of the attempts of infiltration had failed due to Army’s alertness on the LoC. If these officers are to be believed, the terrorism would be completely finished by August 2021. For the first time in the last 30 years, authorities have stopped handing over bodies of the slain terrorists to their families. “They used to organise massive funeral processions under gun point. There used to be gun salutes on the graves and many youths in the age group of 15-25 used to join”, an IGP rank officer asserted.Parallel to official claim that the fear of the terrorists’ gun was receding fast after August 2019, terrorists have spread a wave of terror with the recent killing of two Sarpanches in South Kashmir and three BJP leaders in North Kashmir. “Such sporadic incidents could happen anywhere. We have successfully punctured all the conventional vehicles of terrorism and we are hopeful of wiping it out fully in two years after August 2019. For us, the intractable social media is the only challenge today. But in coordination with the Centre we are working on a plan to deal with it”, said an officer.
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