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Do renewed attacks on police, increase in civilian killings belie govt claims of ‘all is well’ in Kashmir?

Kashmiris clash with Indian Police on February, 2020. | Picture: AFP

For the citizens of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, notwithstanding the perception of an increase or decrease in violence, the situation has seen little improvement in the last two years. 

Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net 

SRINAGAR – If one goes by the statistics of killings, violence, and militant attacks in Kashmir valley – nothing is hunky-dory as claimed by the ruling government in Jammu and Kashmir. Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Government of India abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two centrally-ruled Union Territories in August 2019, the region has been on edge. 

Violence in the region, as per the government’s data, hasn’t stemmed. The violence has intensified in the last two years, especially this year, the data reveals. 

Over 40 civilians have been killed and 72 injured in the region in different incidents till November 15 this year, the government informed Parliament on November 30.

On December 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that over 37-40 civilians were killed in J&K every year on an average during the last five years. Such a figure does little to improve the tall talk by the BJP, who have continuously maintained that all is well in Jammu and Kashmir. 

While calling for the abrogation of Article 370, the BJP had claimed that the so-called special status of the erstwhile state was “promoting separatism and helping anti-nationals and militants for the past seven decades.” 

However, these claims made by the BJP-led Central government have not yielded much, as the region “still faces militancy, separatism, destruction and injustice,” the regional political parties of Jammu and Kashmir state. 

“If we compare the current violence in Kashmir with the years before abrogation, it has of course gone up,” Professor Noor Ahmad Baba, a political scientist told TwoCircles.net

Noor argues the government’s claims that “everything will be normal in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article-370,” has proved otherwise. 

Noor’s assessment is corroborated by the data released by MHA. According to MHA data, over 96 civilians and 81 security personnel have been killed since August 5, 2019, in J&K. 

The civilian casualties seems to be at an all-time high in the valley as over 40 civilians were killed in this year alone, the data revealed. 

According to reports, the last time the region witnessed 40 civilian deaths due to militant activities was in 2017. Since then, the number has remained less, with 39 civilian deaths being reported in the year 2018 and 2019 and 37 in the year 2020.

Responding to the disclosure of the increase in violence in the region, the regional political parties in Kashmir criticized the Modi led government for “faking normalcy” claims post abrogation of Article 370.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on December 14 said that peace in Kashmir remains elusive as ever with the footprint of forces personnel increasing and new security bunkers being constructed across Srinagar.

“Post abrogation of Art 370, we were told that peace will return to J&K. However the situation on the ground completely belies that claim,” Omar said, while addressing workers convention at the Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir.

For some observers in the Valley, it is the right time to start a political process with the inclusion of the Valley’s regional political groupings like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC).

“It is the time to start the political activities in Kashmir,” senior journalist Riyaz Malik told TwoCircles.net

Malik argues that the graph of violence has remained up and down for the last three decades “but it has always been there.”

“The iron fist policy that was employed in August 2019 and afterwards seems to be not working as there is rise in violence,” Malik said. 

Malik said the government of India “needs to engage the people and start the confidence-building measures to win the hearts and minds of the people.”

Killings of non-locals and renewed security build-up
Earlier in October, hundreds of non-locals left the Valley after the killing of five labourers. Following the killings, Home Minister Amit Shah rushed to the violence-hit region and reviewed the security scenario.

“Senseless violence in Kashmir should stop,” targeted killings create wave of fear, migration

On Shah’s instructions, five companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed in the Valley mainly in Srinagar city in addition to 25 companies of the force sent last month.

The security forces set up additional bunkers and checkpoints in Srinagar and intensified the frisking in the city – drawing ire from the local population. However, despite these measures and the presence of increased military boots, the militants have still managed to sneak in and carry out attacks. 

“Srinagar has become an open-air prison,” restrictions back to Kashmir capital after decades

Recently on December 13, three policemen were killed and 14 others were injured after suspected militants fired at a police bus in Zewan, Pantha Chowk area of Srinagar outskirts. The area is considered a high-security zone. This was a major militant attack on the security forces in recent days and took place in a highly fortified area with the presence of many military camps. 

Intensified attacks on JK Police
The December 13 attack came three days after suspected militants shot dead two cops in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district. With this attack, the targeted killing of Jammu and Kashmir policemen has intensified this year. 

The two cops who were killed in Bandipora on December 10 were identified as Mohammad Sultan Dar, a Selection Grade Constable (SgCt) and Constable Fayaz Ahmad Lone. Sultan is survived by four kids—all aged below 10, while Lone is survived by four children. 

While constable Rameez Ahmad Baba, who was killed in Zewan was the sole bread earner of his family and is survived by aged parents, three unmarried sisters and a younger brother.

Data from JK police reveals that over 17 cops were killed in different militancy attacks across the Kashmir Valley in 2021, while dozens were injured. 

Since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, the police have lost over 35 personnel in different militant attacks. Over 1600 JK police personnel have been killed ever since the armed insurgency erupted in the region in the late eighties, the data by police notes.

Govt’s constant line of ‘normalcy’
The government, however, has maintained that the number of militant incidents in the region has shown a significant decline since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

In a written response to a question, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai gave data showing that only 206 militant incidents were reported in Jammu and Kashmir this year till December 5 as against 417 in 2018.

According to the data, 255 militant incidents were reported in 2019 and 244 in 2020.

According to government reports, the infiltration figures also showed a decline with only 28 incidents being reported till October 31 this year as against 143 in 2018. In 2019 and 2020, the minister said, 138 and 51 such incidents were reported respectively.

“Security grid has been further strengthened and infiltration of terrorists from across the border has also come down significantly,” the minister said.

These government figures, however, are interpreted differently in Kashmir. Observers highlight that the violence hasn’t died down, and “violence has remained there,” in Kashmir throughout the last two years. 

For Jammu and Kashmir’s Director-General of Police, Dilbag Singh, “the situation (in the region) is “progressively improving.” 

Responding to the renewed attacks against police, Singh said, “J&K police have successfully faced challenges in the past.” 

Contextualizing the attacks against JK Police, Singh said, “Attempts are being made to cause damage to the peace and every such attempt would be foiled with fortitude.” 

For the citizens of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, notwithstanding the perception of an increase or decrease in violence, the situation has seen little improvement in the last two years. 

Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed.