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Terror targets minorities in Kashmir

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There is a sudden increase in the killings of innocent residents belonging to the minority communities in Kashmir valley. The security establishment is on its toes to ensure that Jammu and Kashmir’s journey towards normalcy is not sabotaged by the terrorists.

By NITIN KESAR


The terrifying killing of seven persons in the past few days in Jammu and Kashmir has somewhat put brakes on the process of stabilization as the minorities – mainly the Hindus and the Sikhs– have begun to pack their bags and move out of the valley because of the fear. Six of the dead belonged to the minority communities which include– a senior citizen who ran a chemist shop, a poor hawker from Bihar and two school teachers.

Security experts are saying that the present situation is a struggle between the terror outfits and the government in which the latter wants to ensure that the valley returns to normalcy where development activities could reach new heights in peace and tranquility while the former wants to see disturbance, separatism and fear to continue in the state.

The Resistance Front

What is astonishing is that the name of a new terror outfit has emerged in the public domain. An organization that calls itself ‘The Resistance Front’ or TRF has immediately claimed responsibility for these killings. Sources say that this organisation is just a misnomer. It’s a tactic by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to ensure that Pakistan’s name doesn’t come up in the matter as the country is already facing strict global scrutiny and acute surveillance of the Financial Assistance Task Force (FATF) for terror financing. Already many terror organisations are funded and supported by the ISI. The Jammu and Kashmir police have said that the TRF is a local front for Lashkar-e-Toiba whose objective is to merge all of Kashmir with Pakistan.

Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister of the state, came out heavily on the killings, “We have to fight these beasts. Kashmir will never become Pakistan, remember it. We are a part of India and we will remain a part of India come what may. They cannot change it even if they shoot me.” 

Why spurt in isolated killings

Experts hold some key reasons for a sudden rise in erratic killings of individuals, mainly the minorities. First they say that after the abrogation of Article 370, terrorists were combed out quite successfully by the security forces but the travesty is that the over ground workers’ network continued to thrive. These networks helped the terror apparatus to continue in the valley. On one hand when the terrorists were regularly eliminated, such networks continued to support the creation and functioning of replacements. Recruitment and infiltration continued without much hindrance. 

Experts also point out that such networks are not without academic, financial, media, ideological and legal linkages. The morale of this network was getting weaker as high profile targets and bigger violent activities became impossible after the abrogation of Article 370. Hence, the ISI is now looking for soft targets to keep the spirit alive among the separatists and the militants.

Another reason is that the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan and that has provided inspiration to the terror outfits based out of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. Many radical Islamist organizations are also attempting revival.

Analysts also say that whenever a new campaign is needed some high impact target is looked for. Since, a high impact target is unavailable now, soft murders of innocents is to give whatever wings to future terror movements in the region. Not just the minorities are soft targets but policemen and armymen on leave have been attacked increasingly for a year. 

Such attacks are also carried to pressurize the minorities to leave the valley. Disturbance is confined to the five districts that have Muslim majority. And the immediate impact of the targeting of minorities in Kashmir is to create a social pressure wherein many begin to leave their home and hearth. If an exodus happens now, the perpetrators would claim it as their victory.

Congress leader Saifuddin Soz, who has been quite a hardliner and has a history showing soft corner for militants-separatists in the valley, has rocked the boat of the Congress again when he said, “We should create a space wherein the voice of those kids holding the gun in their hands should also be heard.”

Former Chief Minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, not unexpectedly, criticised the government by saying, “With the recent spate of civilian killings in Kashmir, Government of India’s fake narrative of normalcy lies in tatters. An utterly desensitised government that has devalued human lives & pushed J&K into further peril & chaos by its ruthless policies of collective punishment all in the garb of security.” As expected, she didn’t find much support from the rest of the political class.

Will terror revive in the valley?

After the exodus of the religious minorities in the 1990s more than 800 families stayed back in the region. In the last two decades, erratic attacks on them continued by the militants and many Sikhs and Hindus were killed. In March 2000, militants shot dead more than 35 Sikhs in a single village of Anantnag. Similar incident took place in 2003 when 20 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in a village of Pulwama district.

This year only 28 persons are killed by the militants. Experts say that it is impossible for the state to provide personalized security for all minorities in the valley. Hence the ecosystem that allows stemming up of it should have to be dismantled.

NC leader and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah condemned the terror attacks and offered his support to the minorities, “Yes it’s true that the majority of civilian deaths in Kashmir have been Muslim but that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to do everything in our power to help those who belong to religious minorities feel secure.”

Just as the individual murders rose sharply, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha was called by New Delhi to discuss the future path. Even the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took a suo moto cognizance of the matter and issued notices to the civil administration of the Union Territory. 

Massive crackdown

Just as Sinha returned to Srinagar, a major crackdown happened in which more than 900 over-ground workers of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Al-Badr and The Resistance Front (TRF) were taken under detention in Kashmir alone. They are in the custody of NIA and J&K police.

Sources say that different agencies are involved in keeping a close watch on these workers. The object of the detention is not to investigate the brutal killings but beyond that. The security agencies are looking to understand the support structure of the militant groups across the border.

A joint interrogation of different investigating agencies has begun which is aimed to discover the working model of the new kind of militancy. It has been learnt that all of the 900 persons work for LeT, JeM and Al Badar and provide logistics support to the militants.

Security apparatus powerful

Intelligence gathering is quite powerful in entire J&K; the arrest of 900 over ground workers is a direct evidence of that. Powerful combing measures by the security forces has ensured that the average shelf life of a terrorist is just a few months and it is decreasing increasingly.

“Whenever militants are unable to carry out major attacks, they simply target the soft ones. It’s asign that the terror infrastructure is badly hit after the abrogation of Article 370,” says Abhay Kaul, a Delhi based Kashmiri Pandit.

Minorities have been targeted for the past three decades in the valley but the key difference this time is that nobody is celebrating these killings. This might be an omen that the end of terrorism is near.

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