Spate of civilian killings in J&K recently marks the return of strategy employed by terrorist groups in the 1990s. This also highlights change in the strategy of terrorist organisations following abrogation of Article 370, which gave special status to J&K. This has increased fear and insecurity in the minds of local population.
Elements of This new Strategy
- Members of minority community in J&K are being targeted. Even some of the migrant workers who play an important role in J&K economy are also being targeted.
- Attacks are being carried out by newly recruited terrorists using pistols.
- No use of fidayeen attacks such as in Pulwama attack.
- Little photographs of terrorist associated with the group are available.
- Choose soft targets through a broad base network of ground workers.
- A new militant group ‘The Resistance Front’ is at forefront of these attacks. However, militants involved often belong to Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen and Lashkar-i-Taiba.
- Frustration of terrorist handlers following a destruction of their support structures and effective maintenance of law & order in post Article 370 era.
- Use of small arms which have often been transported across the border using drones.
- Efforts of terror groups to communalise the valley.
- The Terror group’s name ‘The Resistance Front’ does not have Islamic reference; this is an attempt to secularise terrorism in Kashmir and show it as a political cause rather than religious war.
- Part time terrorists are under the radar and difficult to track as opposed to full time terrorists who are well identified and tracked by security agencies. For ex. Burhan Wani was well publicised.
- To gain traction and attract youngsters, TRF uploads videos from live encounters to show off its deadly capabilities.
- Concentration of security forces in the valley have reduced due to deployment of security forces along the India China border in Ladakh.
- Lost generation of youth who failed to access education and lack employment opportunities and are witness to bloodshed in the valley and susceptibility to radicalisation.
- Government’s plan to rehabilitate and resettlement of Kashmiri pandits has created unease among residents of Valley, that the properties they acquired during the 90s can be taken back.
- Shrinking political space and resentment post the abrogation of Article 370.
- Special measures to increase the security and patrolling in areas where minority community lives in Kashmir Valley.
- Registration of migrant workers working in J&K.
- Capacity building of security forces to tackle such attacks by using more surveillance, tools, and protocols.
- Effective border management with a particular focus on checking arms and drones from across the border.
Use of technology:
- Using social media to spread a message of peace in Kashmir.
- Identify the terror handlers and their sources of funding.
De – radicalisation of Youth:
- Education and gainful employment.
- Promoting a liberal version of Sufi Islam in Kashmir with the help of religious scholars in Kashmir.
- Rejuvenating the political process through the newly created District development Councils.
- Awareness on social media – invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology to discourage extremist content and should also find creative ways where Kashmiris can consume the narratives produced by the Indian state and army.
- Justice – cases against the extrajudicial conduct of the armed forces have been denied/dismissed for trial by the Centre or suspended by the armed forces tribunal.
- Education and employment: In the long term, the state should start reemphasising on education, which will be crucial in narrative-building—especially the social sciences. Special Industry Initiative (SII J&K) ‘UdDAAN. Himayat – skills to dropouts.
- Prime Minister Development Package for J&K – 2015 Prime Minister announced a package of Rs. 80,068 crores towards Special Assistance to J&K for development of Infrastructure.
Long term reforms:
- Consensus building by talking to all sections of political opinion in J&K.
- Early return of statehood to J&K.
- Early consensus and resolution of the property problem of Kashmiri Pandits.
Some measures to De – Radicalise in J&K
- District Development Councils: After J&K lost its statehood, political focus in Kashmir shifted to District Development Councils and grassroots development.
- Kashmiris have long had to deal with bureaucratic red tape can find new hope with elected local leaders who can ensure good governance and local development.
- Representatives in these bodies shielded from being targeted and must attempt to empower them, in terms of political and financial jurisdictions. It is only with perception of “efficient good governance” and “governed by us” that the violent narratives can be countered.
- Social media has become a pivotal source of information, misinformation, and propaganda in times of new militancy.
- Although government has used reactive tactics such as blanket bans, monitoring, censoring, and reporting extremist profiles and content, it has been unable to deter the spread of extremist content through social media. Such content and narratives must be contradicted with consistent counter-narratives.
- The state will still need to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology to discourage extremist content and should also find creative ways where Kashmiris can consume the narratives produced by the Indian state and army.
- Justice: Narratives of humiliation, shame, and injustice from India have been strongly entrenched amongst the Kashmiris. In the past, cases against the extrajudicial conduct of the armed forces have been denied/dismissed for trial by the Centre or suspended by the armed forces tribunal.
- This has presumably happened to avoid the morale damage of the deployed troops that could impact the conduct of counter-militancy operations. However, with the need for enhancing stronger narratives, the state must find a delicate balance between building narratives and not impacting their anti-militancy operations.
- Technology: Certain narratives of Kashmiris, such as India being an ‘occupier’ or ‘colonizer,’ emerge from fact that India has adopted a policy of mass deployment in the region.
- As India cannot afford to demilitarize the Valley, it can start focusing on smart rather than hard, it can invest more in technologies such as UAVs or drone technology and deploy them in peaceful areas. These technological tools can be used to conduct surveillance, maintain law and order, and deter the use of drones by militants and militant supporters.
- Education: State should start re-emphasising on education, which will be crucial in narrative-building—especially social sciences.
- There is a need to facilitate education through the virtual space, using for instance, pre-recorded educational videos; this can help ensure that the disruption of education during times of unrest does not create space for radicalisation.
All steps should be taken to ensure safety and security for the lives of citizens by boost security and capacity of security agencies. Also, at the same time, steps should be taken to de radicalise the youth of Kashmir, along with more political engagement to create a sustainable environment of peace.