The recent collapse of the PDP-BJP political coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, has once again led to the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the state. This is undoubtedly a combination of political gamesmanship and the deteriorating security situation in the Valley. The killing of the journalist, police personnel and the army soldier on his way home for Eid, were the proverbial ‘last nail in the coffin’. The timing of the abrogation of the alliance was to a great extent, influenced by the increased threats to the forthcoming Amarnath Yatra.
A lot has been said by the political leadership, but the security situation has been in a downward spiral for quite sometime. This, despite the effective implementation of the various social welfare schemes in the Valley. In addition, the availability of funds for the state of Jammu and Kashmir have seen an exponential improvement.
So why has improved governance not had an impact?
The primary reason is that there is a lack of synergy in the actions of the multiple stakeholders in the state. There is a need for concurrent action with respect to proactive administration to redress grievances, political engagement and relentless pressure on inimical elements. What it implies is that improved governance, retention of pressure on terrorists through kinetic application of force by the army and CPOs, engagement of separatist leadership by the political apparatus and innovative psychological initiatives to address the existing angst of the youth of the Valley, need to be ‘simultaneous, concurrent and consistent’.
Also, there is a need to review the colour and hue of the current ‘proxy war’ in the Valley. There is no doubt that there is an increase of the local element in the militant cadre, especially in South Kashmir. Continued denial by the officialdom in power of this reality of increasing shades of insurgency, will further exacerbate the situation on the ground and render ongoing efforts futile. A realistic reappraisal will ensure that the modulations are tailored appropriately.
To assess the impact on the security situation in the Valley in this changed paradigm of Governor’s Rule, there is a need to highlight the areas of concern from the security perspective. As the last two state governments in the state have been coalitions with one of the regional parties being the lead partner, there has been a systematic erosion of the dynamism of the local police and availability of the instruments required by the security forces to meet the counter-terrorism challenge.
The updated surrender and rehabilitation policy for weaning local militants has not been promulgated. The intelligence-gathering and support operations of the local police have been degraded over time. The special role and status of the SP (operations) of Jammu and Kashmir Police and his specialised team, has steadfastly been eroded by the political leaders, over the past few years. This has adversely impacted the capacity of the police to feel the pulse and provide hard intelligence. It has to be understood that ‘intelligence-based operations’ against the militant ensure minimal collateral damage and facilitate speedy completion of operations. The latter is essential in face of the pressure being created by the locals near the encounter site to support the militants and disrupt the actions of the forces.
There has correspondingly been an erosion in the synergy between the state police and other uniformed services. In addition, there is a reluctance in the state administration within the Valley — likely due to the pressure of regional parties, to promulgate curfews and restrictions on public movement during periods of heightened security alerts. The restriction on the use of ‘non-lethal’ weapons has further emboldened the stone-pelters and the partisan population in some parts of the Valley to interfere in the conduct of operations, by providing diversions for the terrorist to escape security cordons.
Lastly, the race for TRPs by the media and fake news on social media has resulted in avoidable publicity and polarisation of the anti-India/anti-establishment stance in parts of the Valley. On the political front, there is a need for a consistent policy on engagement with the present separatist leadership that has at its helm Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik. However, over a period of time the standing and following of these leaders has diminished and there is an element of doubt if the trio actually represents the sentiment of the majority. So there is a need to go deeper into society, to identify and engage with a larger canvas of local leaders from different parts of the Valley. This will help in creating ‘islands of peace’ and these can then be enlarged by replication and dynamic engagement.
Therefore, in this period of Governor’s Rule, the local police and security forces will not be restricted by political pressure in carrying out their functions. The approval and promulgation of an updated surrender and rehabilitation policy will be a key facilitator to wean local elements off this path of militancy. The civil administration can be directed to have greater visibility and engagement with the public and be innovative in swiftly redressing their grievances.
In conclusion, it must be noted that there is a euphoria even in the people of the Valley. They feel that the improved security situation under Central rule, will revive trade and commercial activity, increase the tourist footfall and give them an opportunity to increase their earnings. Even the people in Jammu and Ladakh are excited because there will now be due attention given to their development and infrastructure requirements. The government needs to use this time to once again look at formalising an ‘all-party long-term strategy’ for the state.