Subversive Blinkers: Sustaining separatism by emasculating common sense – II
by Ajay Chrungoo on 19 Apr 2014 4 Comments

This increasing conformity to the dictates of the fundamentalists and separatists is either an expression of the extent of coercion which the terrorist regimes are capable of exercising on the public mind or an endorsement of the agenda which terrorist regimes are pursuing. In an atmosphere of fading militancy, conformity should also fade away.


3)   If the terrorist acts and the number of active terrorists have decreased, then has there been decrease in radicalisation of society?


Radical Islamist organizations in Jammu and Kashmir have been in the forefront of a relentless campaign of indoctrination of the people. Radicalisation has yielded recruits for terrorist regimes operating on the ground. This has been true of the entire region extending from Jammu & Kashmir right up to Afghanistan. In fact radicalisation is a reliable measure of the potential of militarization of the social milieu in this region.


Decrease in terrorism leads to decrease in coercion. In the normal course, the decrease in coercion should lead to widening of liberal space and manifestation of liberal behaviour in society and erosion of the regimentalised attitude.


Despite a decrease in militancy in Jammu & Kashmir we have been witnessing fast growing pan-Islamic radicalisation in Kashmir valley and Muslim majority areas of Jammu and a regimentalised behaviour. Pan-Islamic organisations spreading Deobandi-Wahhabi brands of Islam have grown and expanded exponentially during the last one decade and the local brands of Islam are giving way to them.


The burning of the famous Dastgir Sahib shrine in Srinagar saw subdued public reaction. People in the valley chose to lie low and calibrated the public outpourings when some more shrines were burnt after the inferno in Dastgir Sahib; earlier this would have been unimaginable. People still remember the volcanic eruption of public protests and unrest after the relic belonging to Prophet Mohammad was stolen from the dargah on the banks of Dal Lake. Many ascribe this change in public response to the spread of radical Islam; Deobandi-Wahhabi Islam consider shrines and tombs as expressions of idol worship and seek to rid Muslim societies of this ‘evil’.


Pan-Islamic organizations like Ahl-e Hadis, Jamat-i-islami, and Allah-Walle are spreading their tentacles through intense preaching, building networks of mosques, controlling educational institutions and seminaries and expanding their influence in the universities and colleges. Youth are being targeted in a big way by these organizations. The content analyses of posts on the social media used by Muslim youth in Jammu & Kashmir are ample testimony of this radicalisation.


Eating beef was not popular in Kashmir amongst Muslims. Cow slaughter has become the order of the day because many under the impact of radicalisation believe it to be a religious duty. The morning prayers in schools, the slogans and wall writings in classrooms across the length and breadth of the valley exhibit intense religious bias. Secular education has become almost extinct in educational institutions. Morning prayers in most educational institutions are followed by tableegh or sermons of Islamic preaching. Dress of youth, particularly females, shows the effect of this radicalisation.


Erosion of Itiqadi or shrine worshipping brand of Islam is not the only expression of growing Islamic radicalisation. Shia Muslim processions during the days of Moharram cannot take place now and the authorities invariably ban them. The last five years have seen frequent Shia-Sunni strife, a standard feature of Islamic radicalisation in Islamic societies all over the Muslim world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pan-Islamic views about politics and world affairs dominate the public discourse and are brazenly manifest in almost all spheres of cultural activity in society.


The growing radicalisation signifies the widening of the recruiting ground for terrorism and internal subversion and over ground support structures of militancy and secessionism. The numbers of active terrorists quoted by the State Government and the police are still in a range which is more than alarming. Imagine if somebody in USA or Europe from the security or intelligence establishment confirms that a dozen active terrorists are present inside their territories; the alert levels will go beyond red zone. More than 100 active terrorists present on the ground is not an insignificant element but a major asymmetrical military threat from inside which can unravel and unhinge the entire internal order established in the State after a protracted battle and a huge cost of life and resources. The widening ambit of radicalisation within the Muslim social milieu in J&K means a fertile ground which can breed new crops of terrorists.


Measuring terrorism, emasculating common sense


Relying primarily on the number of active terrorists operating on the ground at a given time and the number of terrorist acts during a particular period of time in comparison to a corresponding previous period is a flawed process to assess whether we are winning the war against terrorism or not. Measurement techniques about terrorism deployed by many international experts have relied on ‘groups, events and behaviour’ of terrorist organizations. Their events focused approach has relied on types, targets and regions of terrorist activity. And yet they found these measurement techniques, which are far more comprehensive and of wider range than the assessment framework on which the state and central governments choose to depend to devise policy and political responses, inadequate to predict the prognosis of terrorism with certainty.


Edward F Mickolus, who has critically analyzed the Global War On Terrorism, while appreciating the broad based measurement approach already described, feels that it is difficult to establish a baseline of ‘normal terrorist activity’ and hence characterisation of increasing or decreasing activity may provide a skewed conclusion. Mickolus observes that terrorist groups may need time for planning operations, and these down periods provide false reading if one is counting the number of events in a specific time period and comparing it against another.


Basing internal security assessments on a very limited range of indicators like number of terrorists active at a particular time and number of terrorist acts during a particular period has grave limitations and inflicts assessment delusions. Security experts have recognized this in recent times with increased sensitivity and emphasis. Sean N Kalic observes in his paper on combating terrorism that, “The trend from 1968 to 2003 demonstrates that the peak of international terrorism occurred well before the 11 September 2001 attacks on World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The peak of international terrorist events reached its apogee in 1987 before falling off significantly in 1989. According to the State Department (USA) the total number of terrorist activities reached a high of 665 incidents in 1987…. alone these numbers mean virtually nothing….” He further states, “…international terrorist groups rebounded from their low in 1989 (375 incidents) to a pinnacle of 565 events in 1991. Despite the vast increase made between 1989 and 1991 (a jump of 180 events over two years) by terrorist groups, their activity fell again in 1994. International terrorist activity again surged in 1995 to 440 events before this vacillating trend stabilized in the period 1996 to 1999.


Ups and downs in terrorist incidents mean little or almost nothing in the new terrorism which the world is facing. The nature of terrorist acts and the intact capability of the terrorist regimes operating on the ground to enact the act reveals more than the number of violent incidents. The capture of a village at Shallbatta in Keran sector just along the LOC by fidayeen coming not from across but from the hinterland, had the potential of creating a bigger standoff and crystallizing a security crisis of unimaginable dimensions.


The number of terrorists active at a particular time is an unreliable indicator because it is speculative and depends on ground intelligence which is always not comprehensive enough to be sure. Terrorist regimes don’t keep attendance registers.


Just a few months back, the State administration was maintaining that the number of active terrorists was around 400. Now it says the number has come down to just above hundred. Did the security forces liquidate around 300 terrorists in this period? If newspaper reports about terrorist causalities in this period are to be believed, then the number of terrorists eliminated is far less than what the State Government figures reveal. Did active terrorists sneak back into POK or Pakistan or disperse outside Jammu & Kashmir to the rest of India? Or did they actually surrender to the State Police?


If we take the number of approx. 100 active terrorists operating on the ground, as claimed by the State Police, in a geographically small area like Kashmir province as a gospel truth, even then the situation on the ground remains grim. Imagine if the Homeland Security department of USA confirms the existence of just 10 active terrorists on its soil, how the national alert levels will go up.


The State Police census claims that out of 104 active terrorists operating on the ground, 59 belong to Lashkar-e-Toiba, 30 to Hizbul Mujahideen and 15 to Jaish-e-Mohammad. This means that the militancy in the State has been taken over by pan-Islamic organisations with Lashkar-e-Toiba leading from the front. Even in these formations, there is a mixed presence of foreign and local terrorists. The local terrorists captured or killed in recent times have been found to be from better socio-economic background and educated.


The significant presence of foreigners in the terrorist regimes operating on the ground has been portrayed by the leadership of National Conference and People’s Democratic Party as a sort of indicator of improvement. For them it proves the dwindling support of locals for terrorism. The persistent presence of foreign terrorists in leading roles in terrorist operations however is a potent indicator of wider social support for pan-Islamic operations on the ground. For a single foreign terrorist to successfully operate on the ground in Jammu & Kashmir a far more broad based support structure in society is required.


Just a week before the State Police leaked its confidential census of active terrorists across Kashmir, ‘thousands participated in the funeral prayers’ of the two terrorists killed in Shupian in south Kashmir. Both militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahedin and were locals. “To mourn the death of the two, reports said, all the shops, business establishments, private offices and educational institutions remained closed in Shupian town and its peripheries … whereas transport remained off the roads.”


And only a day after the State Police census of active terrorists came to light, an undeclared curfew was imposed in Lalpora in Kupwara district when angry ‘protestors …stormed the local police station and torched its two bunkers amid demands by them that the bodies of the seven militants killed during a gun fight in Dardpora forests of the district yesterday be handed over to them.’ These protests took place after seven Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists were killed in Kupwara.


These incidents of spontaneous public support for pan-Islamist jihadis are a frequent occurrence in Kashmir. When seen in the light of the expanding reach of pan-Islamist over-ground organizations like Jamaat-i-Islami, Ahl-i-Hadis and Allah-Walle, we are actually witnessing the exponential growth of the infrastructure which can unleash new waves of jihadi war. The State Government on 19 February 2014 revealed that “as many as 1733 cases involving 9166 persons have been registered since 2009 in different districts of the Kashmir division. These persons were booked on charges of rioting, stone throwing and waging war against the State in Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Shupian, Bandipora, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Kulgamand Kupwara towns.”


What better illustration of what is happening in the entire length and breadth of Kashmir province. Increased radicalisation, increased secessionist public mobilisations, and terrorist activities which continue to be a major security asymmetry capable of unhinging the public order in no time is the state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir. The environment and infrastructure which can unleash new and bloody destabilisation have grown to dangerous levels.


Sections of the Congress party along with the entire rank and file of the National Conference have been demanding the removal of AFSPA for quite some time. The claim of waning terrorism in the State helps making the demand politically plausible. But more crucially, the claim creates a delusion of normalcy which can prove to be fatal at a time when jihadi regimes operating in the region, including J&K are claiming victory against the second superpower USA after the defeat of the Soviet Union.


Why have the Governments in the State and the Centre allowed a naïve understanding of the internal security situation in J&K to take control of the public discourse and influence its responses? Why is it that a large section of opinion makers in India indulge in manufacturing illusions about J&K? We are witnessing the emasculation of common sense. We are also seeing the enforcement of strategic stupidity. 



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