In the 28 year-long proxy conflict in J&K, the initiative in innovations has been almost equal, between the proxy elements and the Indian Security Forces (SF). At the outset in 1989-90, the SF were smothered by the sheer tempo of the uprising.
Troop build-up took place rapidly with the shifting of troops from Ladakh and Nagaland to Kashmir. There was a need for troops, and none in the leadership hesitated in immediately approving the moves.
The re-deployment of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), from its original operational areas in Punjab also happened rapidly as soon as the gravity of the threat in the Valley was realised. A fine decision, as has been borne out by the performance of the RR as the veritable saviour of the Valley.
Across the Border Terror
In 1999, the Pakistani deep state guided the terrorists' change in strategy, bringing suicide attacks to the fore through the so-called fedayeen. Suffering initial setbacks and casualties, the SF tightened security and did not permit a defensive mindset. Resorting to street turbulence in 2008 was the next ploy, followed by flash mob demonstrations at encounter sites in 2015; both have been neutralised through patience, calibration and innovation, although they are constant irritants.
With greater local colour in militancy, the unsaid convention of not targeting local SF soldiers and policemen appears to have been shelved by the terror groups. Local servicemen along with their families have lived through years of militancy without too much harm. An odd incident, reprisal or revenge-targeting has occurred in the past.
However, the current run of targeting them has almost assumed campaign-like proportions to achieve two aims.
First, to counter the psychological operations of the SF which project the keenness of local youth to join the mainstream. Secondly, to de-moralise the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) in particular, so that it ceases to be the force multiplier which it has been for many years.
A police revolt or refusal to work will have a diluting effect on the anti-terrorist operations of the Army.
The threats held out by the Hizbul Mujahideen to the local SF personnel to resign and make online statements of the same, are apparently now under execution with the abduction and killing of three SPOs. Fake news is also being generated, projecting the resignation of SPOs to cause confusion, dismay and loss of control.
Innovation & Re-Deployment
Under the prevailing circumstances, the JKP leadership has not done badly thus far in keeping its flock intact, but that integrity could see a meltdown any day, recovery from which would be a monumental task. Thus, innovative counters have to be evolved.
Long term strategies are easy and would involve enhanced accommodations for police families, to enable them to live in a secure environment. Yet, that itself goes against the concept of policing. Police forces live as units and sub-units in limited numbers. Mostly they function from police stations and live among the people, in private homes. That makes them and their families vulnerable.
In case of soldiers, it is the Territorial Army Home & Hearth (TA-H&H) personnel, on-leave regulars and their families who are vulnerable. Official government accommodation with protection is only part-solution and would anyway give the proxies a sense of achievement.
The solution lies in innovation and redeployment. Firstly, arming all on-leave is an option but with poorly trained non-permanent police personnel it’s been thus far a virtual handover of weapons to terrorists.
It should not be attempted for now but with more effective training, clubbing their deployment and motivation, they could be safer with weapons in the future.
Second, the most affected zone is the Shopian-Kulgam belt, its immediate north and south. Re-deployment even if temporary, may be done to create more points of SF presence. The answer lies in limiting the freedom of movement of terrorists which clearly demands more troops in the affected zones.
These troops need to adopt domination tactics through 24x7 patrolling and check points along all arteries. Movement control measures have to be professionally implemented without causing too much inconvenience to the general population. All measures for better inflow of human intelligence must be undertaken. Any attempt to cow down smaller and more numerous SF deployments through agitational tactics must lead to arrests and deporting these elements from the Valley.
Any proposal to even temporarily increase the strength of troops in the Valley will be met with resistance.
However, it needs to be realised that extraordinary situations need early arrest of trends before they have a delusional effect.
Govt Presence on Social Media Needs to Increase
The Shopian-Kulgam belt had a very strong Army presence in 1999-2001 when militancy was at its peak. This deployment was scaled down to reinforce the LoC and counter-infiltration grid. The terrorist mentors have been smart as they know raising a security alarm at the internal grid will result in the dilution of deployment at the LoC and open infiltration avenues. Thus, re-deployment from the LoC is not an option. With local body polls in the offing, additional police forces will anyway be inducted. Inducting a few Army units specifically for South Kashmir will do no harm.
With locals getting targeted, a sense of abhorrence among the people against perpetrators of such criminal acts needs to be aroused. Unfortunately, the grassroots in Kashmir are politically very weak.
It is political leadership at the lower level that throws up such social movements. The mainstream parties can play a role but will be reluctant to do so as their boycott of the polls is causing confusion. However, the Governor's advisors should test their own capability to influence minds with social media.
At some stage they will need to ratchet up the government presence on social media. So why not get together with all agencies and the Army to jointly conduct such a campaign?
Lastly, despair is what the deep state across the LoC desires. However, recalling the number of times such situations have arisen and been overcome will do the nation some good. That is the message the nation needs to be given, especially on social media.
(Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain is a former GOC of the army’s 15 Corps and now associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies. He can be reached at @atahasnain53. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)
. Read more on Opinion by The Quint.Latest News: Sensex Falls 537 Points, Nifty Ends at 10,967Pakistan Deep State’s Attack on J&K Police Can’t Demoralise India . Read more on Opinion by The Quint.