T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Inaugural Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

May 2002

 

I N S I D E

 

Spotlight    Chalmers Johnson

Editorial

Special Report Sundeep Waslekar Ilmas Futehally

Fundamentals Jagan Kaul

Book Review Romeet Watt

InsideTrack          Dr Subash Kapila

Himalayan Blunder              Romeet Watt

In Black & White An Assessment

Statecraft             S a p r a   says

Bottomline           Dr Subash Kapila

 

 

 


A b o u t  U s

F e e d b a c k

D i s c l a i m er

C o p y r i g h t s

 

 I N   B L A C K  &  W H I T E

 

J & K in the year 2002

 

An assessment by Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi


Jammu and Kashmir remains the most serious internal security challenge for the country. Global attention is significantly focussed on the State consequent to the military build-up along the borders by India and Pakistan. The build up commenced after five terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) attacked India’s parliament on December 13, 2001 and killed eight security force personnel and a parliament staff member before they were killed. Earlier, on October 1, 2001, JeM mercenaries attacked the J&K State Legislative Assembly complex in Srinagar and killed ten security force personnel and a parliament staff member before they were killed.

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, links between Al Qaeda, the Taliban and terrorists active in J&K are increasingly being recognised by the global community. Outfits such as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, JeM and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had direct links with the Taliban and with Al Qaeda. A large number of members of the Islamist terrorist network may ultimately cross over to India.

The onslaught launched by the US and the Northern Alliance in October 2001, has dislodged the Taliban regime and members of the Islamist terrorist networks previously based in Afghanistan are now on the run. A number of them have been arrested and detained in Pakistan, where they fled in the face of the US attacks. These detained terrorists are being questioned by US and Pakistani security agencies. A real danger lies in the fact, that the lower rung cadre of these outfits, very large numbers of whom have simply ‘disappeared’ into the general population, and who, even in the event of arrests, are not likely to be extradited to the US, may ultimately cross over into J&K. In the past, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence has given jailed criminals the option of release if they were willing to participate in the terrorist violence in J&K. It is plausible that, once US interest in the detainees diminishes, these forces would be channelised towards India.

Between September 11 and December 13, India had been trying to convince the US administration, that the former was also being targeted by the same terror network which inflicted the September 11 attacks on the US, and this common threat emanated from the same Islamist extremist sources supported by common allies, Pakistan, the Taliban militia in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. This threat, consequently, required a common response. While this principle has gained wide acceptance, a degree of ambivalence persists in the US responses, as it seeks to ‘manage’ Pakistan in an unlikely role as a ‘frontline state against terrorism’. It is, of course, the case that, before the September 11 attacks, Western focus had been shifting, howsoever inadequately, towards the burgeoning danger of international extremist Islamist terrorism located in the Pakistan-Afghanistan axis. It is partially this concern that was reflected in the US State Department's assertion, in mid-2000, that the locus of terrorism has shifted from West Asia to South Asia.

Following intense international pressure, Pakistan has been taking nominal steps against terrorist outfits based in its territory and operating in J&K. This was more so after the US, on December 26, 2001, termed the LeT and the JeM as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTO). In the aftermath of September 11, the US woke up to the fact that the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), an outfit it termed as an FTO in 1997 for its links with bin Laden, was operating in Pakistan under the name of HuM after the proscription. The HuM was termed as an FTO in October 2001. Following this US categorisation, Pakistan proceeded to arrest the top leadership of the JeM and the LeT even while permitting the second line of command to operate freely. JeM chief, Maulana Massod Azhar was first detained for a few hours on December 26, 2001 and then arrested again on December 29, 2001. The former LeT chief, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed was arrested on December 30, 2001.

Since the insurgency in J&K began in 1988, India has been consistently indicating that the State was a theatre for Pakistan's proxy war. It was only after the December 13, 2001, terrorist attack on Parliament, that the government decided that this proxy war required the threat of a military response and military deployment along the border with Pakistan was built-up. The consequent face-off between Indian and Pakistani forces has strengthened Western perceptions of the Kashmir issue as a potential flash-point for a future nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan, and the international community has been urging India to avoid an armed conflict with Pakistan and to give President Musharraf more time to curb the activities of terrorist groups based in his country.

Within the subcontinent, India’s and Pakistan’s oft-stated positions on Kashmir were vigorously projected in the context of the September 11 attacks. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, while going public on his support to the US in its global campaign against bin Laden and the Taliban, claimed that this course was being adopted to prevent harm to Pakistan’s "Kashmir cause". In an interview on October 2, 2001, where he was asked about the changing focus of terrorism to Kashmir, he stated that this would be the most contentious issue and "it will not be accepted at all" in Pakistan.

The cosmetic changes within Pakistan in the post-9/11 phase have failed to impress the jehadi groups, and there has been a continuous succession of attacks in India. In the December 13 attack on India’s Parliament, four fidayeen (suicide) terrorists of the JeM, drove an explosives laden car into the Parliament compound and opened fire. Their entry into the Parliament building was prevented by SF personnel. Although one of the fidayeen blew himself up, this failed to cause any major casualties. Eight SF personnel and a member of the parliament staff were killed along with the fidayeen. India has stated that the JeM, in collusion with the LeT, had carried out the attack.

In its October 1 attack on the Srinagar Legislature complex, a JeM fidayeen exploded an explosives laden car outside the complex gate. In the ensuing confusion, three JeM fidayeen entered the complex and fortified themselves within. They fired indiscriminately until they were killed by SFs. 38 persons, including the four fidayeen, were killed in this attack.

Despite several peace initiatives and international pressure on Pakistan to abjure terrorism as a foreign policy instrument, terrorist violence has been on the rise in J&K. As a result, 1067 civilians, 590 SF personnel and 2850 terrorists were killed in 2001. This was only a continuation of the escalating trends in year 2000, when peace initiatives failed to check the levels of violence.  

India and Pakistan’s conflicting positions on the J&K insurgency had also been emphasised during the summit meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Musharraf during the latter’s visit to New Delhi and Agra on July 14-16, 2001. While Pakistan, in the run-up to the summit, continued to emphasise the territorial dispute and the façade of ‘an indigenous freedom movement’, India responded by fixing the focus on cross-border terrorism. As most analysts had foreseen, the summit failed to change ground realities. 87 people were killed in J&K during the three days of the summit itself. Violence in 2001 has been at its highest level since the commencement of the movement in 1988. The declining trend in casualties, which began after 1994, reversed in 1998 and has been registering an upward movement ever since. Interestingly, the number of incidents of terrorist violence peaked in 1992, and have declined continuously since then, to rise again in 2001 – a trend that points to the increasing lethality and sophistication of the weaponry available to the terrorists.  

Major incidents of terrorist violence in the year 2001 included the massacre of 15 civilians at Shrotidhar, Doda, by the LeT on August 2. This was preceded by two massacres in the same district, first on July 21 at Cherji in which 15 persons were killed and the second in the nearby Tagoot on the next day in which four Village Defence Committee (VDC) members were killed. Several other massacres on a smaller scale too were perpetrated in the year. Meanwhile, attacks on SF personnel, bases and other high security targets continued. On August 7, suspected LeT cadres opened fire at Jammu Railway Station killing nine persons, including two SF personnel. One terrorist was also killed in the attack. LeT terrorists, on August 23, attacked the Poonch police Station and killed seven police personnel before escaping. On October 18, separate unsuccessful assassination attempts were made on two State ministers in the Baramulla district by suspected Hizb terrorists. The target of the first attack was Works Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar; the second attack was on Minister of State for Rural Development, Ajay Sadhotra. There were no casualties in either of these attacks. Several prominent counter-insurgents (CI) were also killed by HM terrorists during the year. Ghulam Nabi alias Azad Nabi who founded the CI outfit, Muslim Mujahideen, and was also President of the People's Patriotic Front, was killed on June 16 at Anantnag. Another leading CI activist, Mushtaq Pal was killed in Srinagar on July 26. He had been aiding the SFs in various CI operations ever since his surrender in 1993, and was instrumental in the elimination of more that 50 terrorists in the districts of Budgam, Srinagar and Baramulla. Another prominent CI activist, Mohammed Sikandar Ganai was killed in Anantnag on August 11.

Counter-insurgency operations by SF personnel achieved several significant successes in the second half of 2001. Among the major terrorist leaders killed were Hizb's deputy chief, Abdul Hamid Tantray, also known as 'Commander Masood' who was killed in an encounter at Paloo, Pulwama, on July 25. Al Badr chief Hafiz alias Dr Nayeem and the outfit’s ‘Divisional Commander’ for central Kashmir, Syed Talha Ahmed alias Aamir were killed in an encounter at Srinagar on November 21. Meanwhile, a group of 11 terrorists who had killed four civilians at Chowkian Handan, Rajouri, on August 31, were pursued by the SFs. While five of the 11 terrorists were killed on August 31 in an operation launched immediately after the massacre, two others were killed on September 3, and the remaining three on September 4. The eleven were members of a new outfit ‘J&K Takrir-e-Jehad’. A prompt response by SF personnel averted a massacre on August 28 at Singhpura. Consequent to receipt of information that terrorists had rounded up 25 civilians from the village and were marching them to a nearby forests, SF units rushed in and forcing the terrorists to flee before they could harm the civilians. There were, however, several instances where SF personnel, guilty of dereliction in duty, were punished. The Poonch Station House Officer, who reportedly hid himself when LeT terrorists stormed the station and killed seven personnel, was dismissed from service. Similarly, an SF officer and four personnel were arrested on September 3, 2001, after they surrendered their weapons to a group of terrorists at Dooru, Anantnag.

Even as year 2001 began with a government cease-fire in operation (since November 27, 2000), trends in fatalities indicated that this measure failed to change the intent and activities of the terrorists. The ‘unilateral cease-fire’, actually a cessation of offensive operations by security forces in the State, was initially ordered by the Prime Minister for a month (November 27 to December 26, 2000). It was subsequently extended thrice until its termination on May 23, 2001. Even though total casualties declined during the cease-fire period as compared to the preceding six-month period, these were primarily due to a fall in the terrorist and SF casualties as a result of declining engagement by the Forces. Civilian casualties rose considerably during the period. 

Note: The figures for the Cease-fire period is the monthly average for the period December 2000-May 2001. The figures for the period before the cease-fire is the monthly average for the period July-November 2000.

The government continued its cease-fire policy despite the fact that all terrorist groups operating in the State had rejected the initiative and declared that they would increase the level of violence. A government press release on May 11, 2001 gave a comparative picture of the scene for two parallel periods, the first, between November 28, 2000, and April 26, 2001 and the second, between November 28, 1999, and April 26, 2000. 

There were several instances of major terrorist attacks during the cease-fire period. After an abortive attempt on January 7, 2001, terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s (LeT) fidayeen squads successfully stormed the Srinagar Airport on January 16. Four SF personnel. Two civilians and six members of the Lashkar squad were killed in this attack. A Lashkar statement claimed that the leader of the squad had made a successful escape after the attack. Attacks on SF bases too were frequent and in one such instance, a four-member squad attacked the Srinagar Police Control Room, killing eight SF personnel and injuring seven others, before they were killed. In an ambush by unidentified terrorists at Morha Chatru in Rajouri district, on March 2, 2001, 15 SF personnel and two civilians were killed. Besides, two massacres of civilians too were perpetrated during this period, the first at Mehjoor Nagar in the capital, Srinagar, on February 3, where six Sikhs were killed and the second, at Morha Saluhi in Rajouri district, on February 10, in which 15 Hindus were killed.

In response, counter terrorism efforts, severely restricted by the embargo on offensive operations, yielded significant results. SF sources reported several instances where terrorists, who were located and asked to surrender, launched attacks instead, leading to major encounters. Prominent among the terrorists killed in these encounters were the Lashkar's Salahuddin, suspected by security forces to be the brain behind the outfit's suicide squads. He was killed on March 28, 2001, at Pohru in Budgam district. Another notable success was the elimination of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen's (HM) Rajouri district chief 'Col. Zaki'; in an encounter at the Nangali forests of Rajouri. Tracking the perpetrators of the February 10, 2001, Morha Saluhi massacre (see para above), SF personnel located and engaged them in a series of encounters on February 18-19 at Kot Chadwal, Rajouri and killed 10 Pakistani mercenaries of the LeT and Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HUJI).

The counter-terrorism response in the post cease-fire phase was vigorous, particularly in the second week of July. Of the 280 terrorists killed until August 8, 42 were killed on a single day (July 15) while 15 and 14 terrorists were killed on July 5 and July 10 respectively. July 15 was particularly significant since SF forces, based on intelligence information, raided several terrorist hide-outs in the Hill Kaka forests of Poonch district, where a meeting of top Lashkar and Jaish terrorists was in progress. From the debris of six hide-outs destroyed in the operation, bodies of 21 suspected Pakistani and Afghan mercenaries were recovered. On the next day, Nadeem, suspected to be the chief of the Al-Badr’s suicide wing, was killed, along with two associates, in an encounter at Ganderbal. Meanwhile, in quick succession, two top Hizb ‘commanders’ were also killed. The group’s second in command within the State, Abdul Hamid Tantray alias ‘Commander Masood’ was killed at Paloo in Pulwama district on July 24. Within a week after this incident, Mustafa Khan, reported to be the chief of the outfit’s wing entrusted with eliminating SF informers and counter-insurgency operatives, was killed along with two associates at Goigam in the Budgam district on July 30.

Levels of terrorist violence were also aggressively maintained in the post-cease fire period. Promises by various terrorist groups of renewed violence in the aftermath of the Indo-Pak summit, were kept with a series of massacres in which 31 civilians were killed in Doda district on July 21 and August 2. All the massacred civilians were non-Muslims. Similarly, the Jammu Railway Station was the scene of two attacks, a bomb explosion on June 25 which injured 45 persons, and indiscriminate firing by three Lashkar fidayeen which killed seven civilians and two SF personnel, even as one fidayeen was killed in retaliatory firing by the SFs.

Meanwhile, several peace initiatives were undertaken in 2001 to address the Kashmir issue. Through an official statement on April 5, 2001, the government invited all Kashmiri groups to participate in negotiations to end the crisis. Two days prior to this, Union Home Minister L.K. Advani announced the nomination of K.C. Pant, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, as the government's nominee for the proposed talks.

Initially displaying confusion, the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) failed to issue an official reaction to the government's invitation for talks. The alliance's top decision making body, the Executive Committee, on April 15, 2001, referred the issue to the Working Committee and the larger General Council that includes the seven members of the Executive Committee and representatives of all constituent parties. After a session of the Working Committee on April 21 and that of the General Council on April 23, the issue was referred again to the Executive Committee which, on April 28, rejected the government's offer. This stand was an endorsement of the views expressed by several Hurriyat leaders, including its Chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat (who were speaking for themselves) rejecting the invitation for two reasons: First, the government had failed to permit a proposed APHC delegation visit to Pakistan to confer with terrorist groups based in that country; and second, that the invitation was open to all Kashmiri bodies, which meant that the government was not willing to endorse the Hurriyat’s self-proclaimed mandate as the 'sole genuine representative' of the State's people. The Hurriyat's official rejection stated: "We are ready to enter into a dialogue with the Centre provided we are allowed to go to Pakistan, and New Delhi accepts Hurriyat Conference as the only representative body in Jammu and Kashmir." Stressing the second point, the statement added that the alliance "...is not ready to join the crowded train which goes nowhere.”

Abandoning moves to involve the Hurriyat in negotiations, the government decided to respond to the series of signals emanating from Islamabad, which said that the Pakistan government wanted a summit level meeting on Kashmir. The Indian government announcement, which ended the Ramadan cease-fire, also invited Pakistan’s Chief Executive and thereafter President, Pervez Musharraf, to visit India for a composite dialogue, including the Kashmir issue. Responding to this invitation, Pervez Musharraf, who assumed his country’s Presidency on June 20, 2001, visited India in July 2001. The ensuing summit was variously interpreted as being either inconclusive or a failure.

These trends were only a continuation of the scenario in year 2000 which showed that peace initiatives do not necessarily imply a respite from violence. Casualties in 2000, both among security forces and terrorists, were well above the figures for 1999. The increase in civilian casualties, however, was marginal, and there was also a decline in the total number of incidents recorded (by approximately 5 per cent). But total casualties were significantly higher, testimony to the increased focus and lethality of violence in the State. The casualties suffered by the security forces showed the most dramatic increase (79 per cent over 1999) followed by terrorist casualties (67 per cent). The year 2000 had also repeatedly seen hopes of peace destroyed by arbitrary acts of violence.

Meanwhile, over 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits – out of an original population in the Kashmir Valley of 425,000 prior to 1989 – continue to be displaced. Official records indicate that some 216,820 of them live as migrants in makeshift camps at Jammu, another 143,000 at Delhi and thousands of others are now dispersed across the country. Many of those registered at the camps have also been dispersed according to the exigencies of employment and opportunities for education, trade or business. There has been little effort to facilitate their return to the Valley over the past year (2000), as earlier attempts were neutralised by brutal campaigns of selective murder, including the killing of seven Pandits at Sangrama in Budgam district in March 1997, three at Gul in Udhampur district in June 1997, 26 in the massacre at Wandhama in Srinagar district in January 1998, and 26 at Prankote in Udhampur district in April 1998. The possibility of reversing the terrorists’ ethnic cleansing of the Valley remains remote, and there are now reports of a hidden migration from some of the border areas in the Jammu region where the Hindus are a minority.

The increased US attention on the sub-continent in the aftermath of September 11, has revived calls from separatist forces within J&K and Pakistan for US mediation in the conflict. The US has consistently rejected the idea of mediation unless asked for by all parties involved in the conflict. The US administration under President George W. Bush endorsed India’s stance that terrorism was being perpetrated in the State under the façade of a ‘freedom struggle’ and went a step ahead by declaring outfits manned by Pakistani and other foreign mercenaries, such as the LeT, JeM and HuM, as Foreign Terrorist Organisations. The UK too has banned these organisations.

In the domestic context, it is evident that the Indian government is yet to put in place a coherent strategy of response to terrorism. Indeed, most institutions of civil governance in the State have suffered a complete breakdown in the face of the terrorist onslaught. This includes the State’s prosecution department & judiciary, which, after nearly than fourteen years of terrorist strife, 11,850 civilians and 3,460 security force personnel killed and thousands others injured in the State as a result of terrorist activities till the end of the year 2001, has just 303 undertrials and has pronounced only 13 convictions in cases related to terrorism. Only five of these convictions relate to serious offences, while the others are all for relatively minor offences such as illegal possession of arms and illegal border crossing.  

By special arrangement with Institute for Conflict Management, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution and, South Asia Terrorism Portal.

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