Ups and downs of Kashmir militancy: Anatomy and changing trends

By Mudasir Nazar. Dated: 7/5/2013 12:38:34 AM

No event had brought such transformation in the nature, capability and operation of militancy in Kashmir, than the 9/11 attacks on United States. Following the attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, militancy naturally began to crumble in Kashmir. This happened because of Pakistan's hard-line position visa-via Kashmiri focused militant groups, which caused whole sale march on the militant training campus in Pakistan. From 2002 to 2012 though some militants were present in valley but mostly remained silent and meager incidents took place. Infact their support base both internally and externally declined to a large extent during this period. This raises two important questions, firstly, why militancy waned from 2002 and where these militants went to conduct their activities and secondly, why there is increasing revival of militancy since mid 2012 and what its reasons are. Meanwhile, it is also pertinent to know what impact took place on the public perception of militancy and what changes had come in the new phase of militancy.
Before 2002, militants had the patronage of Pakistani government and enjoyed widespread legitimacy for attacking hostile India and Pakistani government used them as proxies to pursue their interests in the south Asian region. But the international security paradigm underwent a dramatic change as a result of 9/11 attack and the post war response came in a form of war on terror in which Pakistan soon found itself engulfed and its foreign policy towards its important neighbours, India and Afghanistan, underwent a strategic change. Since Afghanistan was providing strategic depth and safe corridor for future energy needs, Pakistan was faced with dilemma when it was asked to join US in its war on terror. The Taliban was of so much importance to Pakistan's interests in the region that it was not prepared to abandon them in Afghanistan. But the US policy following 9/11 attacks turned the posture of this policy and allied Pakistan on the condition of cutting the roots of Taliban elements in Pakistan. Pakistan decided to sacrifice Afghanistan for the sake of maintaining its position on Kashmir. However, when Pakistan failed to erode support of Kashmiri focused militants to Taliban, US put pressure on Pakistan to take action against Kashmiri focused militants, which Pakistan infact did. In order to neutralise al-Qaida, the Bush administration reportedly placed enormous pressure on Pakistan to stop its support of anti-Indian fighters, defuse the crisis with India, and refocus military efforts on its western border. On January 12, 2002, president Musharraf delivered a land mark speech in which he banned both Jaish Mohammad and Lashkare-e-Taiba. He assured that "no group will be allowed to wage Jihad in the name of Kashmir".
US invasion on Afghanistan and Pakistan's support to America departed militants and Pakistani state apparatus first time in history and provided a unified agenda to both Taliban and Kashmiri focused militants to free Afghanistan and attack even Pakistani forces, whom they believed were 'supporting infidels'. Kashmiri oriented training campus were used to train Taliban elements. Taliban and militants cooperated with each other to attack US-led forces in Afghanistan. When Pakistan, under US pressure, wiped out militant training camps on its territory, most of the Kashmiri focused militants went to tribal areas like Swat to serve in Afghanistan. With these two developments, a sense to free Afghanistan and bifurcation of Kashmiri militants due to destroying of training campus, militancy naturally began to decline in Kashmir. Even their major support base, Jammat-e-Islami, failed to provide them logistical support. Pakistan relied on US to solve and maintain their position on Kashmir conflict in return to its action against militants. In June 2002, the US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, paid a visit to General Musharraf, to pledge him to halt infiltration across the Line of Cntrol (LOC), which Musharaf agreed, in return for meaningless US pledge offer that United States would stay engaged to resolve the Kashmir conflict. However, at the end of 2011, along with several developments in Kashmir, Pakistani based organizations left hope to solve Kashmir issue through negotiations, became fed-up with American promises and considered India as reluctant actor to negotiate.
When the Pakistani support to militant organizations ended, Kashmir separatist organizations like Hurriyat Conference found themselves high and dry in the changing policy of Pakistan. The fake encounters by Indian forces and the Amaranth Shrine board land issue provided opportunity to them to mould the direction of movement from armed to unarmed struggle and got widespread support from people. The phenomenon of stone pelting and 'hartal' culture developed, people went on strikes upon strikes, which to some extent still continues and which ultimately resulted in appointment of interlocutors to look upon the grievances of Kashmiri populace. Along with it, the progressive consciousness among Kashmiris developed that violence gives nothing and their engagement with development eroded support base to militants. All actors including Kashmiri people placed their benediction upon negotiation and peace process already started since 2008 and were hoping that negotiation would maintain peace and solve Kashmir conflict peacefully, but such thing hardly happens. However, interlocutors report dissatisfied both separatists as well as common masses of Kashmir. The report failed to provide justice to the families of 120 persons killed and did not represent grievances of Kashmiris in any meaningful sense.
The peace process went on and Indo-Pak composite dialogue hardly made both countries to compromise on their static positions and each time of deal, some or the other incident hampered peace process. This usually is thought of either Indian reluctance or of militants to solve Kashmir through peace process. At the end, all actors particularly Pakistan and Kashmiri people became fed up with peace process. No progressive step was taken by dialogue; as huge armed forces are still present, draconian laws like AFSPA still operate in the state. Human rights violations still continue. This is usually considered failure of peace process.
Why revival of militancy took place? It has many reasons. Firstly, the peace process and efforts like interlocutors report dissatisfied people. Due to dissatisfaction emerging from the impracticable interlocutors report, militants regained much of their eroded legitimacy and support from people. Secondly, the Pakistani perception of India as a reluctant actor in peace process to solve Kashmir conflict, led Pakistan again to become soft on Kashmiri based militant groups. Thirdly, Pakistan considers India's increasing role in Afghanistan as a security threat to it and started internally feeding Kashmiri focused militants to use as proxies. Fourthly, the presence of armed forces and AFSPA like laws is still maintaining a feeling of colonisation among the Kashmiris and this feeling will always inspire youth to either take guns in their hand or support militancy. The continuous human rights violations by Indian forces acts as a fuel for militancy.
There are widespread differences between earlier phase of militancy and in its present form. While earlier militants used to be fully trained and were mature but present militants are less trained and immature, consisting mostly of very young teens ranging from 15-20 years of age. Secondly, few Kashmiris are now involved in militancy but mostly are the children of either suicide bombers of Pakistan or ex-killed Pakistani militants, who due to economic compulsions become motivated to come to Kashmir for conducting activities sponsored by cross-border organizations. Unlike the past, only one militant organization Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is working in Kashmir now. While earlier Afghan elements were involved in Kashmiri militancy, yet this time though there might be cooperation between Kashmiri focused militants and Taliban. However, this time Afghan elements are not present in Kashmir, they have now their own enemies.
There is widespread transformation of militancy in the public domain too now. While earlier people were giving militants' active support and shelter but presently people mostly refuse to provide their houses as shelter to militants, due to the fearful consequences. If they are providing any support to them but mostly outside their homes and militants have to suffer a tough situation this time. The most important is that this time militants do not try to kill military informers who are among the common masses, because it erodes their legitimacy. Kashmir police is now usually attacked along with Indian forces, while earlier militants were avoiding attacking Kashmiri police. Militants now, while entering any house, are recording the names of the persons of the house concerned, using it as a threat tool for their protection.
However, it is now evident that militancy is again on the rise and increasing its influence in Kashmir valley, and this might cause severe damage to human lives. However, it is to be seen what militants had learned from earlier mistakes and what could be their strategy in the present phase. The significant similarity between militancy of 1990s and present is that attacks went along public demonstrations and the ruthless action against public demonstrations strengthens the roots of militancy and sets a pattern for terrible movement in Kashmir for future. Situation might turn worse after 2014.
*(The author is M.Phil student of South Asian studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be reached at )



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