Kashmir Politics

Profile of Changing Situation - 1993-94

The situation continued to be marked by an increase in violent actvities owing to the induction of foreign Muslim mercenaries, better weapons and growing criminalisation. Increasing use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), landmines, booby traps and ambushes by militants resulted in a large number of casualties amongst the security forces. Induction of sophisticated and heavier weapons like Pika machine guns, grenade launching guns, mortars particularly 60 mm mortars and missiles added teeth to the militant attacks. There was a greater thrust by Pakistani agencies to infiltrate foreign mercenaries and Kashmiri militants stranded across the LoC and as a result, more infiltrating groups were intercepted on the border in 1993 as compared to the previous year. It was estimated that over 1200 foreign mercenaries had infiltrated into the State. As a result of sustained operations by the security forces, several strongholds of militants including Kashmir University and Regional Engineering College in Srinagar and Sopore in Baramulla, were cleared and there was some improvement in the situation in Srinagar town. The successful termination of the 31-day long seige of Hazratbal shrine on 16 November, brought wide-spread public relief and boosted the morale of the State Administration and security forces. It also defeated the ISI's designs to cause a major conflagration in J&K and consequent embarassment to the Government at the international level. The interrogation of surrendered militants brought out that the crisis at Hazratbal was precipitated (15 October) on account of an inter-tanzeem struggle between HuM and JKLF, when the former made an unsuccessful bid to take control of the shrine which had traditionally been a JKLF strong hold. The surrender was condemned by pro-Pakistan groups particularly HuM, which led to an increase in inter-group clashes between the JKLF and HuM.

After a long drawn effort by the ISI and diverse secessionist groups, the 'Kul Jamaat Hurriyat Conference' was launched (3 September 1993) as a joint political platform. Ideological differences among the constituent members, personality conflicts and personal ambitions of various leaders hampered its evolution, as so far it was not able to finalise its own constitution. It was also unable to play any positive role in the Hazratbal episode. The genuine moves by the Government of India to initiate the political process in the State, frequent visits of Dr. Farooq Abdullah caused serious concern in secessionist and militant circles, who resisted them. HuM militants shot dead several political personalities including Wali Mohd Ittoo (18 March 1994) in order to send a warning signal to all politicians making such moves. While an element of fatigue and disenchantment with militancy was discernible in the public mind, the level of alienation with India continued to remain high. People wanted normalcy to return and openly expressed resentment against militants. To maintain their sway on the population, militants increasingly resorted to terror tactics.

Developing a political cover for the militancy, giving it an ostensible colour of a mass based movement, qualitatively upgrading the violence and building up of international pressure on India on the Human Rights issue were the cornerstones of continued Pakistani offensive in J&K. Its efforts at the international level, however, received a set back when it withdrew (9 March 1994) the resolution on Kashmir at Geneva during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission. This move of Pakistan also created disillusionment in the secessionist and militant circles. The increasing international interest particularly the US stand on Kashmir had bolstered the morale of secessionist and militant leaders. With the change in Government policy, a large number of senior level delegations including Ambassadors were sent to the State to assess for themselves the ground situation and the magnitude of the problem being faced. These visits had an overall positive impact at the international level.