The notorious cordon and search operation-crackdowns–are back. This is a worrying development. The crackdowns put people through a lot of inconveniences and caused huge anxiety in the 90s. The security forces would lay siege to populated areas and order people out of their homes, come sunshine or rain.
They would make the men parade before a pose of security vehicles in which an informer would sit to identify the militants and their supporters. Under duress, the informers sometimes pointed at many innocents. Others were picked on mere suspicion. Many men arrested in the crackdowns disappeared in the custody.
Some of them were later traced to the unmarked graves at Chehal and Trikanjan in Baramulla where Atta Muhammad, a local who died recently, buried them in the unmarked graves. Therefore, the return of the crackdowns marks a new low in the worsening security situation in Kashmir under the PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti, who once championed the cause of human rights in Kashmir.
For now, the Army and the police are focussing on specific areas in south Kashmir’s Shopian, Pulwama, and Kulgam, the new ground zero of the separatist groundswell. Yesterday when defence minister Arun Jaitely and Army chief Bipin Rawat reached Kashmir, the Army and police searched some 500 homes in two villages of Shopian.
Later reports emerged that the government forces have thrashed many civilians. This is the second time in less than a fortnight that the government forces have laid siege to parts of south Kashmir without success. Earlier, some 3000 government forces backed by helicopters and drones, cordoned off some 20 villages of Shopian without arresting or engaging any militant.
Many villagers later complained that the government forces vandalised their property and took away some of their valuables and poultry after the operation ended. Such acts will further fuel the anger on the ground and discredit the government of the day. The need of the hour is to win back people’s trust by right measures. Security operations that trouble people are not the right approach. Such measures have been used in the past with little success.
This time round, such operations being conducted largely seem to be aimed at enforcing the writ of the state on the supposedly safe heavens in south Kashmir. But it has only aggravated the situation. Crackdowns are another provocation for the youth to protest and resort to violence.
Clashes during yesterday’s search operations left many injured. The governments in New Delhi and Srinagar need to ensure that there is no further estrangement of the people, especially, the youth in Kashmir and for that to happen it has to ensure people’s lives and property are protected. As for tackling the militants and their supporters, a better and humane approach is needed.