2 April in Nowhatta (Jammu & Kashmir): Militants attack with grenades, killing one policeman and leaving 14 injured, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s longest tunnel.
11 March in Sukma (Chhattisgarh): Maoists attacked CRPF troops, killing 12 jawans in an area where a highway was under construction.
The common thread that binds these two disparate sets of insurgents in two very different parts of the country is their desire to stall development and to destabilise government institutions and state security systems. The fight against the state is seemingly now being fought just for the sake of it, lest the development initiative weans away the civil war-weary population in the respective regions.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s longest tunnel — 9.2-kilometre-long Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on Sunday. When he hailed the tunnel as the harbinger of renewed tourism activity in the state, little would he have known that the militants would protest with a grenade attack soon thereafter. “This is not merely a long tunnel. It is a giant leap in terms of development and progress for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The tunnel will boost tourism in the state, which had come to a virtual standstill due to the recent increase of extremism in the Kashmir Valley,” Modi had said at a public meeting in Udhampur, after the inauguration.
According to reports, on Sunday evening, the militants attacked a police party near Ganjbaksh Park in Nowhatta area in Kashmir at around 7 pm in which one policeman got killed and 14 others were injured, including four CRPF jawans. Banned militant organisation Tehreeq-ul-Mujahideen has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Security and counter-terrorism experts view this attack as an attempt to oppose Centre’s development measures and, demoralise and erode security system in Jammu and Kashmir.
Objective 1: Anti-development
Separatists in Kashmir called for a shutdown on Sunday against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to inaugurate the tunnel, with sporadic incidents of stone pelting. The prime objective was to oppose the government’s development activities. “Whenever developmental activities are carried out in the Kashmir Valley, the separatists step up such destructive activities. Sunday’s grenade attack was on expected lines, rather it was a smaller one. It’s expected that the militants would do a lot in a bigger way, because the inauguration of the tunnel is a setback for them, as it opens up development opportunities,” said defence and security affairs analyst, Colonel Jaibans Singh (retd).
“These militants have manpower, resources and operative procedures to mobilise the mob in order to retaliate against the government institutions. However, unlike in the past, now the security forces have given a clear message to terrorists that they will launch operations against such elements and eliminate them. Burhan Wani’s encounter is an example,” he added.
Experts feel that any economic development in the Valley is detrimental to the separatists’ objectives of keeping Kashmir in their control and alienating it from the rest of India.
As the prime minister said that the tunnel would help in encouraging tourism, it has also been estimated that with the tunnel going operational, the state will save fuel worth Rs 27 lakh per day. Tourism in Kashmir will witness a boost in footfalls and revenue.
“The separatists are anti-development because they feel that through economic development, India has been ‘intruding’ into Kashmir. Their sole aim is to keep people of the Valley away from the rest of India. Keeping the political aspect of the Assembly polls in the state aside, the 60,000 votes that the BJP got in the Valley indicates that a large number of families here don’t support the separatists and want to get free and join the mainstream,” remarked Ashutosh Bhatnagar, director, Jammu Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC), a New Delhi-based independent think-tank engaged in research and analysis on Jammu and Kashmir.
“Once the railway project between Katara and Kajigund is completed — making connectivity easier to Baramullah, a major backlash from separatists can be anticipated,” added Bhatnagar.
Going a step further, separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, in a joint statement, have apparently said “construction of tunnels and roads are futile and will not succeed in luring us”.
Objective 2: Destabilise government by making institutions collapse
In the past three months, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an escalation in attacks on the police and CRPF. Sunday’s attack is the second in two days. On 1 April, militants had attacked an army convoy in Srinagar’s Bemina area injuring three jawans. By launching a grenade attack, the militants wanted to establish that despite a high-security cordon across the Valley due to the prime minister’s visit, they have succeeded in penetrating it.
As the bypolls for the Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies are getting closer, the Kashmiri separatists — by using youths — have escalated their anti-election campaigning in the four volatile districts of south Kashmir. Defence analyst Brigadier Narendar Kumar (retd) said, “In any hybrid threat, like the one occurred on Sunday evening, the endeavour is to create a situation in which a state collapses and institutions are unable to function. In the past three months, the state police has been the major target of the terrorists. They even threatened policemen, pelted stones and put up posters asking citizens not to join the police force.”
“If militancy has to thrive in the Kashmir Valley, the police system needs to be eroded, because unlike in many other states, the Jammu and Kashmir Police is more efficient in terms of gathering intelligence, cultivating information networks, conducting covert operations and dealing with militancy. So, the main objective of separatists is to destroy the police system and that is precisely what they are trying to do — demoralise police and erode them, so that the institution collapses. The role of the police needs to be acknowledged, as it hasn’t received its due despite operating in such a volatile region, where the families of policemen receive death threats almost every day,” he added.