The government must not to go back to the old ways of pursuing things in an ambivalent manner --- terrorists were killed but at the same time their backers invited to talk --- but try to understand as to what is driving the current phase of terrorism

As the selective killings in Kashmir grab headlines again, there is an urgent need for a fresh understanding of the genesis of terrorism in the Valley, and then steps are taken to bring the situation under control.

Much of the outrage triggered by the gunning down of Kashmiri Pandit Rahul Bhat last month is continuing, thanks to the community members serving under the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation Package. The Pandits want the government to relocate them outside the Valley. Some have already shifted to Jammu, putting extra pressure on the government. However, the government has rejected this demand and decided to post them in safe zones, giving a sense that some places are safer than others in the Valley.

But to think that terrorists are targeting only minorities is misleading. TV artiste Amreen Bhat, who was killed in Budgam on May 25, was a local Muslim, so were the slain policemen and their families. Of course, there is a clear plan of terrorists and their supporters to force minorities out of the Valley, but the larger picture is much more complex: It involves not only minorities but also the majority community (Muslims) of the Valley. Therefore, a balanced approach is required to deal with the problem. Any selective approach will have serious consequences.

Whenever a killing takes place in the Valley, the ire is directed against Pakistan, and rightly so. The neighbouring country has been stoking and promoting terrorism for over three decades. But efforts should be made to look at the complete picture; it would reveal that terrorism has gained roots within Kashmir for foreign and local factors. Unless addressed together, the diagnosis will have shortcomings, leading to further complications.

Phases of Violence

Kashmir has seen various phases of violence, starting with the endless noise of bullets and bombs in 1990s when the system collapsed in the face of “Fidayeen” attacks. Then came the phase of the IED explosions, followed by a slight retreat in the wake of the 9/11, when the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups, aware of the consequences of getting tagged as part of the global terrorist movement, distanced themselves from the bomb and bullet campaign. This gave fillip to the pan-Islamic terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Ansar (later Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen).

Frequent shutdowns, at times for weeks, which separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani used to describe as the only way for the suppressed people to express their opposition to the systemic oppression, also became tools of terrorism. They would not only cripple the normal life, but also create a psyche of fear. There was also audacity on the part of the supporters of the terrorists, some became willing participants while others participated for fun’s sake in interrupting and disrupting the anti-terrorism operations.

The satisfaction and the achievement of the uninterrupted and successful anti-terrorist operations is not the full story in having made Kashmir free of terrorism .

Those who revel in statistics on terrorists killed and how the security forces penetrated the terror ecosystem, see the recent round of targeted killings as an aberration. But they overlook the fact that the tracing and killing of terrorists have not stopped the attacks. The terrorists are aware of the dire consequences, yet they continue killing. This shows that there must be something more than what meets the eye or is being deliberately not highlighted as that would reflect badly on the system.

A thorough planning is needed to stop such killings. The government must not to go back to the old ways of pursuing things in an ambivalent manner --- terrorists were killed but at the same time their backers invited to talk -- but try to understand as to what is driving the current phase of terrorism.

A fresh strategy is needed, in which the political inputs should be taken as critical to improving the situation, while simultaneously bridging the gaps between the people and the system. Terrorism cannot be eliminated overnight, but 32 years is a long time. The clear formula is to do a deep dive into the psyche of terrorists. To do so, involve the locals to keep a tab on foreign and local terrorists. This system has worked before. Like the minority community, the local population is also very much against the terror acts.