Stone-pelting can’t turn into a full-blown bloody militancy in Kashmir so easily.
This is how the BBC’s Soutik Biswas concludes his latest blogpost on the recent turmoil in Jammu & Kashmir:
But for the moment, India needs to show initiative and come up with some guarantees and time-bound plans to foster political reconciliation and sow the seeds of a political solution. Without this, the stone-throwing protesters may give way to Kalashnikov-wielding rebels from within the valley and across the border, in a return to full-blown bloody militancy.[BBC]
There is no disputing the fact that India needs to restore peace and normalcy in Kashmir. But return of peace and normalcy to Kashmir can not be an event; it has to be a process. The nuances of the process and the nature of its start-point can be debated but that is not the point of contention here. It is the implicit and unintended threat of stone-pelting transitioning into a full-blown insurgency that strikes a discordant note.
The armed insurgency has seen a steady decline in Kashmir since 2004 not because it was a wilful choice made by the Kashmiri populace or there was a change of heart in the Pakistani military-jehadi complex. It happened with the declaration of the cease-fire between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control(LoC) in 2003 wherein Pakistani posts could no longer provide the cover of firing to facilitate infiltration; construction of a formidable physical barrier in the shape of a border fencing on the LoC in 2004; increased availability of surveillance and detection equipment with the army; and the evolved three-tier deployment of the Indian army and Rashtriya Rifles which leveraged the institutional experience of the preceding 15 years to thwart the infiltrators’ plans.
It is also important to remember that by the mid-1990s, the insurgency in Kashmir was manned majorly (almost 80-85%) by jehadis from Pakistan, with a sprinkling of terrorists of other nationalities. The small percentage of indigenous Kashmiri youth who were picking guns also had to exfiltrate across the LoC for training and logistics before infiltrating into the Valley again. While the security forces eliminated terrorists in the rural and semi-urban areas of Kashmir, the supply line to replenish the declining numbers had turned into a trickle with every passing year. It is thus that the number of terrorists inside Jammu & Kashmir came down from an estimated high of 3500 in 2004 to an estimated 350-500 this year.
Two other points merit attention here. Firstly, stone-pelting in the Kashmir valley is mainly an urban phenomenon whereas the insurgency was — and whatever remains of it is — a rural enterprise. It will not be that easy for the urban stone-pelter to metamorphose into an AK-wielding terrorist. Secondly, post-9/11, Islamist or jehadi terror stands completely discredited as an expression of political grievances and a reversion to full-blown insurgency would only further strengthen India’s case. Moreover, the Indian state is struggling with handling the current means of violent protests whereas it has the resources, experience and the capability to take on militancy in a far more effective manner.
This endearing throw-away line that India’s inability to tackle the stone-pelters could lead to rebooting of the jehadi militancy in Kashmir doesn’t actually hold good under a closer scrutiny. That, however, doesn’t imply that Indian state can continue with the current state of drift and not make serious, earnest and even unpopular attempts to bring the situation under control. But these actions must be taken by the state for the right reason.
And that reason is simple: because it is the primary constitutional duty of the Indian state to establish the rule of law and ensure safety and security of all its citizens, including in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.