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Militancy regaining hold of J&K, Punjab - Sunday Observer

K Mursleen ()
8-14 December 1996

Title : Militancy regaining hold of J & K, Punjab
Author : K Mursleen
Publication : Sunday Observer
Date : December 8-14, 1996

The indications are ominously familiar. Both Jammu &
Kashmir and Punjab are sliding back into the vicious grip
of secessionist militancy.

Apparently unmindful of this disturbing drift, the rulers
in Jammu and Kashmir are basking in the euphoria of their
recent electoral triumph while their counterparts in the
Punjab are engrossed in preparing for the February polls.

The selection of targets for some of the recent militant
attacks in the two border states points to a more sin-
ister game plan than the one which the country is sup-
posed to have frustrated not so long ago. The effect of
almost every strike has been deadly, and the meticulous
planning and accurate execution reveal brutal profession-
alism.

These acts of militant violence, like the assassination
of an Akali Dal leader in Punjab, the bombing of a train
at Ambala, and sustained attacks on sensitive target, in
Kashmir, tend to produce a louder echo against the back-
drop of the present international setting.

Thus, American Ambassador in Pakistan Thomas Simons comes
all the way to India to tell us that the 'dispute' over
the future of Kashmir will not go away with the holding
of elections. in that state. This observation is tagged
with an audacious offer of third-party mediation to
resolve the 'dispute'.

Only a few weeks earlier, the shadow foreign minister of
the British Labour Party, Robin Cook, had told us, after
returning to London from a visit to Kashmir, that resolv-
ing the dispute would be one of the priorities with a
Labour government in London. Again, a fresh voice to
support the cause of third-party intervention.

Viewed in the context of the Western acquiescence in the
emergence of the Pakistan-propelled Taliban in Afghanis-
tan and its potential correlation with Kashmir, it is
little wonder that the statements of Simons and Cook went
home in the valley. The Hurriyat Conference, using them
as a springboard, has bounced back into activity. The
Hurriyat's leadership had got marginalized after its
failure to prevent popular participation in the Kashmir
elections.

If the elections in J&K were meant to provide a comple-
mentary political thrust to military operations against
the insurgents, they seem to have done just the opposite.
To cite an instance, a prominent worker of the National
Conference in the valley, Ghulam Rasool from Dooru town-
ship, committed suicide (in the tightly guarded legisla-
tors' hostel in Srinagar) in the face of a militant
threat to kill him for his active participation in the
elections.

The government and the ruling party did not heed Rasool's
plea for protection for him and his family. Finally, he
took his own life hoping to save those of other members
of his family.

In a similar case, Farooq Nadaf's lucky escape from a
bomb blast in his south Kashmir house proved shortlived.
He was gunned down last week by pro-Pakistan militants.
Nadaf, like Rasool, paid the price for being in the
forefront at election time.

The National Conference has not held a single public
meeting after coming to power. The isolated Hurriyat
leaders, on the other hand, have been emboldened enough
to move about freely and stage public gatherings across
the valley. The growing response to their campaign shows
a disconcerting trend against the tendency of the Nation-
al Conference men to shun people and remain holed up.
These trends are reminiscent of the 1988-89 events which
culminated in the abject capitulation of the political
authority before the rising tide of militancy.

The anti-insurgency apparatus In both border states,
raised painstakingly, has either ceased to function under
civilian control or been dismantled. If there is still
some regard for the nuances of excruciating security
operations in Kashmir, it is not visible in the actions
of the powers that be. The political authority is yet to
show any inclination to act.

A deteriorating security situation in J&K is, as has
always been, too tempting for the Punjab subversives to
let it go. It is an open secret that the Poonch-Rajouri
border belt is porous enough for militants from both
states to go across and return with arms and ammunition.
It is also common knowledge that such intrusions are on.
Occasional interceptions are no more than the proverbial
tip of the iceberg.

The evident direction of the renewed onslaught from
across the border presents a contrast to Delhi's aimless-
ness after the elections in J&K. The centrally con-
trolled anti-insurgency mechanism in the state has been
allowed to go haywire without any matching political
device being put in place. And that in Punjab has been
dismantled. It is like a dream coming true for the
militants in both states, and a nightmare for the people
who are at the receiving end of this deadly game.



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