A timely reversal expected
In the wee hours of Monday, there was a fidayeen attack on the camp of the 45th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force at Sumbal in Bandipora, Kashmir. Heavily armed terrorists were aiming to repeat a Uri-like incident in Sumbal. However, the enemy failed in their nefarious designs. Thanks to an alert sentry who noticed them and soon raised the alarm, all the four fidayeen were immediately engaged in a fierce exchange of fire. After a gritty and tactically sound operation, the CRPF troops were able to neutralise all the four terrorists and recovered four AK series of rifles, one Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), large quantities of grenades and ammunition. The high point of the operation was that the home side suffered no casualties.
The CRPF leadership deserves a pat on the back for a successful operation. Tactically sound defences around the camp, alert sentries and quick response from the troops and officers who must be in a deep sleep when the intrusion was attempted, must make the Indian Army and all other security forces breathe a sigh of relief. In the recent past, Indian security personnel have been under a cloud of successful enemy penetrations in sensitive defence installations. The J&K Police also responded to the situation and made it impossible for the fidayeen to escape.
From a security man's perspective, this successful operation is a morale booster in an otherwise glum security atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley. The Valley, some say, is on a boil, which is certainly not correct. There are some mischief mongers on the payrolls of the separatists and Pakistan who have been testing the patience of the security forces and provoking them to do something seriously wrong which will ultimately alienate the common man, fan the flames of separatism and lay the foundation for a Wahabi order.
Peaceniks and some human rights activists may cry themselves hoarse over the situation, but it appears the current government at the Centre has a definite plan to resolve the K issue once for all. Several Central leaders and spokespersons have made it amply clear that the Indian state shall not hold parleys with those who have received large sums of funding from Pakistan and her deep state, the ISI. Several separatist leaders have been exposed accepting vast sums from Pakistani agents. The role of Dukhtaran – e-Millat in receiving napaak funds from Pakistan to destroy temples of learning and deny the right to education to thousands of impressionable students, while subsequently recruiting them as stone-pelters also stand exposed. The Central government deserves support from one and all in the country for its surgical financial strike on the Hurriyat and other terror proxies.
The National Investigation Agency and Enforcement Directorate have been unleashed to investigate the ill-gotten riches of the separatists and bring them to book. Historically the separatists have acted as double agents receiving financial patronage from both the Indian government and its adversary in Pakistan. The highly pampered Hurriyat leaders and other separatists had not expected such heavy punching from the Indian "soft state". Yasin Malik has been arrested and the other two bigwigs namely Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have been placed under house arrest. Some more stringent measures against other pro-Pakistan separatists will ease the situation in the Valley.
The Centre has enunciated its no-nonsense Kashmir policy through the Army Chief Bipin Rawat. His frequent appearances in the Valley indicate the steely resolve of the government to deal with infiltration and militancy with an iron fist. While the Army and BSF solely manage the LoC, the Valley operations are shared by all the security forces. The mandate is very clear – liquidate infiltrators and militants of all shades but maintain utmost restraint while dealing with people. The bullet for bullet for militants policy shifts to pellets only doctrine for stone pelters and the misguided youth. Ground level intelligence has also shown improvement. Recent operations to neutralise cohorts of Burhan Wani are a pointer towards that.
One worrying aspect of the Kashmir situation is the horrendous level of media discussion, particularly on the idiot box. One historian and economist sitting saat samundar paar and without first-hand knowledge of the situation has been economical with the truth in dubbing the recent 'human shield' incident as the 'General Dyer' moment in the Valley. Either he has no idea of the Jallianwala episode, or it is a deliberate attempt to add fuel to the fire. The debates on some channels on the telly are pathetic. Anchors are baying for blood, whipping up ultra-nationalism. The choice of their participants in the discussions is also worrisome. Most of them believe that the power of the argument lies only in the pitch of the voice! Deterioration in the use of diction can be seen all around.
The editors on such channels may claim that they are hosting an objective debate by inviting Pakistani hawks and the Kashmiri separatists on their shows. But they forget that they are affording free airtime to the separatists' views slamming the Indian state for human rights violations and the alleged occupation of Kashmir by the Indian troops. These channels unwittingly become platforms for propaganda and subversion. Pakistani commentators choose their words very carefully addressing the Kashmiri population and their support to the Azadi idiom. There is a need for these channels and a section of the print media to be wary of such contributors and exercise restraint and show sobriety and maturity in dealing with the Kashmir issue.
There is no denying the fact that the importance of dialogue can never be undermined. Spadework needs to be done before talks can be had with the real representatives of the people. Unfortunately, most of the political parties in Kashmir have conceded space to Islamist hardliners and to preserve their constituencies, and they are merely pedalling soft separatism. Whosoever is out of power is known to indulge in brinkmanship in Kashmir.
The governments at the state and Centre and intelligence agencies need to operate their back channels to access the common man to gauge his mood and then devise methods to manage the perceptions. The misdeeds of separatist leaders should be driven home to save the gen next from radicalisation. A timely reversal of fortunes at Sumbal needs to be built upon by aggressive outreach programme. At any cost, the Kashmir issue should not be allowed to degenerate into an ISIS campaign run by self - radicalised youth and Pak-orchestrated militancy.
(Somesh Goyal is Director General of Police. The views expressed are personal.)