Militants On The Run?
3 February 2008
Srinagar: On the central and state authorities own admission the level of militancy in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir has considerably declined and even the infiltration of armed men from across the Line of Control has come down to a great extent. The army spokespersons have been asserting that there have been very few cases of infiltration and in a few cases the armed forces have aborted such attempts by the militants. The State authorities too have been claiming a steep decline in militants attacks and acts of militancy. While claiming that the militants in South Kashmir 'are on the run' and several of them have been eliminated the IG Police in Kashmir told mediapersons that ' we have cleared the area of local militants.' If the level of infiltration has gone down considerably and even the militants attacks have decreased to a great extent and they are on the run then why is it that the State and central authorities are still opposing the demand for reduction of troops atleast in proportion to the decrease in the level of violence. The number of armed forces and para-military forces deployed in the State is much more today than it was during the peak years of militancy when the militants strength was described in thousands and even large-scale infiltration was taking place. At that time the Pakistan authorities including ISI and Pak army was fully backing the militants, giving them training, providing them arms and other logistic support to cross over to the Indian side. After the beginning of peace process the Pak support for the ultras has almost ceased. Then what prevents the Indian authorities to review the situation, withdraw troops from most of the unaffected civilian areas and remove the bunkers. Similarly there is a strong case for scrapping of the Draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPC) and releasing of a number of those languishing in jails for years. Even the working group set up by the Prime Minister himself during the roundtable conference of mainstream political parties and elements has recommended scrapping of AFSPA. Still nothing is officially heard about the action taken on that basis. Clearly New Delhi still believes that strong-arm methods are the only way to fight militancy, despite the fact that such a policy in the past have proved counter-productive. Instead of winning the hearts and minds of the alienated people it has only further alienated them. Such an attitude flows from a mindset that does not trust the people of Kashmir. Apart from further widening the gulf between New Delhi and the people of the State the policy of repression has also contributed to the subversion of the India-Pakistan peace process. The demand for demilitarization and scrapping of repressive laws is not only being voiced by the separatists and human rights activists but even a powerful section of the mainstream parties too are raising such demands. In particular the PDP, a constituent of the present ruling coalition, has been asking for demilitarisation and scrapping of AFSPA but New Delhi has so far rejected this demand thus making it clear that it is not even prepared to listen to the voice of the people and reason. The PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti had even threatened to part with the ruling coalition if thew party's demand is not accepted. The unceremonious manner in which New Delhi has rejected such a demand should have made the PDP to quit the government. But it seems the party is more concerned with sharing the crumbs of office than to honour its commitments and promises. For PDP the demand for demilitarisation and revocation of draconian laws may be a matter of political convenience but for the common man it is a question of life and death. The repressive policies, denial of political and civic liberties, searching and combing operations and increased level of human rights abuses have made their lives miserable.