The Kashmir conflict is a territorial conflict primarily between India and Pakistan, having started just after 1947 partition. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir – Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 besides Kargil War of 1999.
India claims the entire princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, and, as of 2010, administers approximately 43 per cent of the region. It controls Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and the Siachen Glacier. India’s claims are contested by Pakistan, which administers approximately 37 per cent of the region, namely Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit Balistan. China currently administers the remaining 20 per cent mostly uninhabited areas, the Shaksgam Valley, and the Aksai Chin region gifted by Pakistan to China.
The root of conflict is between the Pakistan and the Indian government over the annexation of Kashmir. Democratic development was limited in Kashmir until the late 1970s, and by 1988, many of the democratic reforms introduced by the Indian Government had been reversed. From 1989 the Pakistan started infiltrating the terrorists from across the line of control (LoC) to create unrest in the Valley with a view to disrupt the functioning of the democratically elected governments in Kashmir.
Although thousands of people have died as a result of the turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, the conflict has become less deadly in recent years. Protest movements created to voice Kashmir’s disputes and grievances with the Indian government, specifically the Indian Military, have been active in Kashmir since 1990. Elections held in 2008 were generally regarded as fair by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and had a high voter turnout in spite of calls by separatist militants for a boycott. The election resulted in the creation of the pro-India J&K National Conference, which then formed a government in the state. According to Voice of America, many analysts have interpreted the high voter turnout in this election as a sign that the people of Kashmir endorsed Indian rule in the state. But in 2010 unrest erupted after alleged fake encounter of local youth with security forces. Thousands of youths pelted security forces with stones/rocks, burned government offices and attacked railway stations and official vehicles in steadily intensifying violence. The Indian government blamed separatists and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group for stoking the 2010 protests.
Elections held in 2014 saw the highest voters turnout in 26 years of history in Jammu and Kashmir. However, analysts explain that the high voter turnout in Kashmir is not an endorsement of Indian rule by the Kashmiri population, rather most people vote for daily issues such as food and electricity. An opinion poll conducted by the Chatham House international affairs think tank found that in the Kashmir valley – the mainly Muslim area in Indian Kashmir at the centre of the insurgency – support for independence with 74 per cent in its various districts. Support for remaining with India was, however, extremely high in Jammu, Ladakh region and even Gilgit and Balistan regions.
According to Pakistan scholars, Indian forces have allegedly committed many human rights abuses and acts of terror against Kashmiri civilian population including extrajudicial killing, rape, torture and enforced disappearances. However, crimes by militants have been in alarming numbers since 1990. According to Amnesty International, as of June 2015, no member of the Indian military deployed in Jammu and Kashmir has been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court, although there have been military court martials held. Amnesty International welcomed this move but cautioned that justice should be consistently delivered and prosecutions of security forces personnel be held in civilian courts. The perpetrators of the crime including the security forces wherever found guilty by the local government are suitably punished but the solution to stop stone pelters who are involved in interfering with the counter terrorism operations has not been found so far and the J&K politicians have completely ignored but rather justified their act affecting the morale of the security forces when their hands are tied.
Recently, seven civilians were killed in the clashes that erupted after an encounter in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on 16 December 2018. More than 15 people were also injured after security forces allegedly opened fire at the stone pelters near the site of the encounter.
In the morning, three terrorists — including Jawan-turned-terrorist Zahoor Ahmad Thokar — were killed in the encounter. An Army Jawan was also killed and two other soldiers were seriously injured during the encounter. Hizbul Mujahideen in July had claimed that Zahoor Ahmad Thokar of 173 Territorial Army, who was missing along with his service rifle and ammunition, had joined the militant outfit.Security forces said Thokar was involved in several killings in Pulwama district.
The encounter broke out after the security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation in Sirnoo village after receiving specific intelligence input about the presence of terrorists in the area.
In a statement, the J&K Police later said, “Loss of civilians is deeply grieved. We once again appeal to citizens to remain away from encounter site, as it is a prohibited zone, which involves significant danger to life. A case has been registered. Incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition have been recovered from the encounter site.”Political parties in Kashmir NC and PDP condemned the killings; saying Governor Satya Pal Malik-led administration has “failed” to secure people’s lives.
Though the encounter ended in 25 minutes with the killing of the three militants, the security forces faced a tough time to ward of stone pelters interfering the anti-terrorist operations to help terrorists escape safely. The security forces had to open fire in self-defence to ensure that the terrorists are rightly punished and do not escape. The parents and teachers of these young stone pelters must be advised not to interfere with the anti-terrorist operations of the army to safeguard their own lives. The intelligence sources have revealed that these stone pelters are paid Rs 7,000 to 20,000 per month by the separatists who need to be punished for secessionist activities.
The main culprits are All Parties Hurriyat Conference who are getting financial aid from Pakistan clandestinely while their own children are studying and serving in the western countries.
Geelani and his Hurriyat have been accused by the Indian media of staging fake protests by paying money to local unemployed youth. According to stone pelters who were arrested, each stone pelter is paid Rs 400 ($6–7) every Friday. Police said Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s followers are raising the money locally. Most of the money comes from fruit markets and saw mills, Pakistan-based LeT terrorists also participate in stone pelting, the police said.
In another encounter in Pulwama on 21 December 2018 six terrorists, including a close aide of Zakir Musa, one of Jammu and Kashmir’s most wanted terrorist, were killed in Pulwama district. Soliha, also known as Rehaan Khan, was the deputy chief of Zakir Musa’s group Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind, which has links with Al-Qaeda.
Zakir Musa is a former Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, and his Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind is said to also have links to Jaish-e-Mohammed. He is one of the most wanted terrorists who are currently operating in the Kashmir valley.
In this encounter no stone pelters came forward to save the terrorists because of the fear of fire from the security forces as seven stone pelters earlier died while interfering in the anti-terrorist operations. Hope they have learnt some lessons.
President’s rule has been imposed in Jammu and Kashmir from midnight following the expiry of the six-month-long governor’s rule on 20 December 2018. President Ram Nath Kovind signed the proclamation paving the way for imposition of central rule in the state, which plunged into a political crisis in June after the BJP withdrew support to the PDP government led by Mehbooba Mufti. The proclamation was signed after the Union Cabinet gave its go-ahead for President’s rule on 18 December.
After the proclamation, the powers of the Legislature of the state shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament.
Since the state has a separate Constitution, in such cases, six months of governor’s rule is compulsory under Article 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, under which all the legislative powers are vested with the governor.
No Presidential proclamation shall in any case remain in force for more than three years except for the intervention of Election Commission of India, which has to certify that the continuance in force of the Proclamation is necessary on account of difficulties in holding general elections to the Legislative Assembly.
Indian Army Casualties
Surprisingly, in the last four years 219 soldiers have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir fighting terrorists compared with the 144 who laid down their lives in the earlier five years. The militants in Kashmir have also increased in strength from 150 to 300 though more than 700 militants have been killed in the encounters. This shows that the situation has worsened because these incidents have transformed a Pakistan-fuelled insurgency into a predominantly Kashmiri one.
The reason for the heavy casualties of the Infantry soldiers is that they are not equipped with the latest weapons and equipment in the face of better armament like Kalashnikov rifles of the terrorists. The infantry needs lightweight tactical modern weapons like assault rifles, carbines, light machine guns, night firing sniper rifles, night vision devises which can detect the enemy from a distance of 100 to 300 meters. The Indian soldier has in fact operated without functional bulletproof jackets and helmets, which are only now being issued. What is the use of having the fastest economy in the world, when the defence allocation in the budget in 1.58 per cent of the GDP the least since 1955?
Some good sense seems to have prevailed in the Modi government when the 1.3 million-strong military is abandoning its two decade-old Indian made rifles and seeking to outfit its infantry with more up-to-date equipment, scouting for a new model on the global market for 185,000 assault rifles. The Ministry of Defence also needs to buy hundreds of thousands of helmets and tens of thousands of bulletproof jackets.
The moves are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s $250 billion push to modernise India’s armed forces, as infantry continues to face the brunt of deadly attacks in disputed border areas of Kashmir and the northeast.
Besides these tactical weapons and equipment the procurement of strategic defence weapons and equipment – 36 Rafael jet aircrafts from France, S 400 missile systemfrom Russia, indigenously built Arihant nuclear submarine, drones from Israel and launch of communication satellite GSAT-7A in the space for IAF for sound communication system – are steps in the right direction as deterrents. With the acquisition of new tactical weapons for the Army, the soldiers’ casualties will be minimal as is the case of Israel, which is surrounded by 17 hostile countries, which are afraid of Israel’s onslaught in case of their misadventure.
It is recommended that more infantry battalions should be converted into specialised forces, as they will mostly be dealing with the terrorists and counterinsurgency operations during peacetime. Besides one company in all infantry battalions should be converted into specialised company with the latest tactical weapons like present effective ‘Ghatak Platoons’ of the battalions.
It is not understood as to why the present government not acting against the separatists especially Hurriyat Conference who are not allowing the democratically elected government to function smoothly.All Parties Hurriyat Conference(APHC) is an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations formed on March 9, 1993, as a united political front to raise the cause of Kashmiri separatism. This alliance has historically been viewed positively by Pakistan as it contests the claim of the Indian government over the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the Hurriyat Conference, Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and India’s control of it is not justified. It supports the Pakistani claim that Kashmir is the “unfinished agenda of Partition” and needs to be solved “as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” The APHC perceives itself to be the sole representative of the Kashmiri people.
The organisation’s primary role has been to project a negative image of counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and to mobilise public opinion against Indian security forces. The alliance has consistently followed up local allegations of security force excesses, and in several documented cases, allegedly distorted facts to suit its propaganda. The APHC enjoys an observer’s status in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). The APHC must be banned and their activities declared as anti-national as these are against the Constitution of India.