Challenges for security forces
The security forces can only do their job flawlessly with the support of Governments: That requires putting aside petty politics and coming together on the issue, deciding a course for the wholesome change of perspective of the youth of Kashmir
The separatists as well as their handlers in Pakistan are worried, because now, security forces are getting actionable intelligence about the terrorists and encircling the area, exterminating the terrorists; reducing their numbes significantly. The Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu & Kashmir police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), all are working as a cohesive unit against the terrorists in the State along with the intelligence organisations which provide actionable intelligence on whose basis, security forces launch combing operations. Then they eliminate terrorists, recover arms and ammunition and either arrest or exterminate support agents.
In view of the stringent operations of security forces against hardcore terrorists, the Pakistan-sponsored ones are mobilising the youth to stand against security forces, when they are involved in operations.The separatists eulogise the stone-pelters and paint them as heroes. They tactfully use young people for stone-pelting and hurling abuses against security forces and when the security forces retaliate and in the process two or three young Kashmiris die the anti-Indian forces make a big issue and resort to processions, strikes and attacks to propagate concocted stories of the oppression
On March 28, security forces surrounded a house in Chadoora in Budgam district, where one terrorist was hiding. The separatists who are vigorously using social media, immediately flashed the information about the encircled house and in no time a stone-pelting and abuse hurling crowd gathered with the ulterior motive to distract the security forces so that the hidden terrorist could escape. The security forces controlled the crowd while exchanging fire with the holed-up terrorist. The encounter killed one terrorist; however in stone-pelting, about 60 security personnel were injured, and three young stone-pelters were killed, which is highest in an encounter in 2017.
Before the Chadoora encounter, security forces eliminated two terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen, when they attempted to ambush three police officers in Pulwama district. One terrorist of Jaish-e-Mohammed at Tral area and two Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorists were also neutralised by security forces in Padgampora a few days back. Small successes are being achieved because of actionable intelligence as well as the political leadership’s resolve to handle the issue
Director General of Police (DGP), Jammu & Kashmir Police, SP Vaid, also warned Kashmiri youths, in a Press conference on March 30, that they should not gather at the encounter site as it equates to commiting suicide. He stated that “In the encounter, even security forces and police take cover of a bulletproof vehicle or a house”, while the stone pelting misguided youths remained in the open.
The stone-pelters are not innocent children; they are hired by the ISI agents and are paid between Rs5,000 to Rs7,000 per month. The payment depends on their strength of throwing stones. However, the organisers are paid about Rs20,000 per month as they organise the crowd through internet and social sights. The DGP of Jammu and Kashmir reiterated that “the moment an encounter starts; they activate around 300 WhatsApp groups, each having more than 250 members, and other social sites like Facebook; instigating young boys to reach the encounter site and throw stones so that terrorists escape from the spot”. He also mentioned that few sites are operated from across the borders.
Both Union Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in separate statements criticised Pakistan for assisting terrorism in the State. The Home Minster also mentioned the vigorous use of social media in inciting youths of neighbouring villages for gathering crowd for stone-pelting. These young stone-pelters are gathered at the encounter site with the ulterior motive to assist the terrorists to escape. They did not adhere to the instructions given by the security forces. Hence, there should not be any compassion towards them and must be punished under the law. Although the death of civilians at Budgam encounter is unfortunate, the security forces cannot be blamed for it, as they were performing their duty while the people killed were obstructing them, knowing well the consequences.
The resistance from stone-pelting helped a few terrorists escape which is regrettable, but their families should see their moral growth as well, so they do not indulge in this high-risk adventures. If they are allowed from their homes then only they can be blamed for their misfortune.There are about three lakh registered and unemployed people in Kashmir; hence it will not be difficult to employ youths including children to throw stones on the security forces.
Employment opportunities may also be created for young Kashmiris as separatists yearn for developing a generation of anti-India and anti-nationals.Involvement of young children in stone-pelting is a dangerous trend as they would become felonious and would become anti-social, which would be treacherous in the long run.
The young stone-pelters are clearly working for money. After demonetisation, as ready cash was not available to distribute to the stone-pelters the, action had reduced significantly.
The security forces must deal with stone-pelters stringently, and if the latter are not controlled by ordinary laws, then they must be charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA) under which the culprit can be imprisoned without a trial for up to two years.
The Army and the Border Security Force should enhance the vigil at the border because with the advent of summer, Pakistani troops have already started the violations of ceasefire and incessantly shelling mortar bombs to facilitate the infiltration of terrorists in India. Political leaders should refrain from criticising security forces and should stop shedding crocodile tears on the death of stone-pelters just for show. Unfortunately, Farooq Abdullah, president of Jammu & Kashmir National Conference; glorified stone-pelters and mentioned that they are fighting for their nation. These type of statements are severely counterproductive.
Nonetheless, the Government should also chalk out a long-term strategy to handle the Kashmir problem as the alienation is increasing in the State, which would be dangerous in the long run. The Government should also identify Facebook and WhatsApp accounts which are spreading separatism, and they should be closed and people operating these accounts must be punished severely.
The Sufi culture of Jammu & Kashmir must be restored and Kashmiri Pandits should be persuaded to return to their homes. An open minded debate on Article 370 should help. The State Government and the Centre, well intentioned intellectuals and NGOs should work together to reduce the hostility of the masses and take them into confidence.
(The writer is member, United Services Institute of India, and associated with the Institute for Defence Studiesand Analyses)
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