Besieging a dozen odd villages in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on the night straddling between May 3 and 4, is a grim reminder of the situation that prevailed in Kashmir Valley in the early years of 1990s.
Thousands of army and paramilitary troops and police personnel cordoned off the villages to conduct a door-to-door operation to track down militants suspected to be hiding in the cluster of habitations. No militant was captured in the daylong search operation launched on such a massive scale in the region in several decades but it definitely sent across a message that things are not going to be easy in the region in the coming days. The government forces pressed helicopters into service to offer cover to the troops conducting the search operation.
One reason for the massive crackdown is purported that the recent video released by militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, exhibiting a group of young militants donning army fatigues and carrying assault rifles, has been shot in the apple orchards of this area. It is no secret that militants have swelled in number in the south Kashmir region and in many areas they hold the sway.
The recent incidents of looting cash from bank employees and snatching arms from the police personnel have sent shock waves and posed a bigger challenge before the state authorities’ sway on the region. The gruesome attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s cash van in Kulgam on May 1 that killed five policemen and two bank guards is a unique incident that offers a peep into the blasting situation emerging in the area.
It is reassuring that the crackdown ended without any bloodshed but at the same time the action is not altogether a welcome sign. Had there been a standoff, it could have led to a lot of bloodletting. It is unfortunate that the region has slipped to such a pass when massive crackdown is being staged. It is like fire getting closer to a heap of gunpowder.
A good thing that has occurred in recent days is the indefinite deferment of parliamentary by-poll for the Anantnag constituency. This is likely to minimize the interface between the people and the government forces. If such an atmosphere sustains for a prolonged period of time, there can be possibility of restoration of order in the region.
Instead of launching massive crackdowns, which has the potential to antagonize the population, it would be ideal to open the channels of communication with the gun-wielding youngsters.
This cannot be done by the field commanders of the army or the district level police officers or a political class that is virtually on the run. The onerous task cannot be taken up by anyone except the political leadership at the highest level. The deferment of polls indicated that the understanding of situation has gradually developed at that level. It is earnestly required that this understanding must graduate to the next level.