Agenda 2020 – Kashmir Gradual Easing of Restrictions Raise Hope for 2020
Much will depend on the government’s political strategy in 2020 to restore local confidence post 370 while sustaining a strong security and social communication grid appears inevitable as lack of soft initiatives could exacerbate the situation in the summer next year.
Five and a half months after the complete clamp down in Kashmir, there is gradual easing of the controls thus raising hopes of reconciliation in the vexatious northern border state which has been facing continuous onslaught of vicious propaganda from Pakistan.
In the latest tirade Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the people in a public meeting in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) on 26 December that India was planning a major operation on the Line of Control after a series of incidents of firing which has resulted in casualties on both sides.
Mindful of the international call for easing controls in Kashmir, the Government is now creating conditions for holding political meets, has reduced the deployment of security forces and is also restoring broadband connectivity in phases.
Winter may be a factor that has added to confidence at the state and central level as insurgent activity is low during the period while law and order situation is also better due to restrictions on mobilisation of the masses.
If the trend continues 2020 may see restoration of a degree of normalcy.
Importantly concerted measures to overcome the high sense of despondency in the locals as per many ground reports in Kashmir is necessary.
For this resumption of political activity in the State is essential.
Last week a semblance of start has been made as the Times of India reported that Mr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held the first meetings after repealing of Article 370 on August 5 in Srinagar on 23 December.
100 functionaries of the NC are reported to have participated however permission for senior leaders of the party including the party presidents was not accorded
Never the less it is apparent that there is a review of the situation by the Central and the State government to restart political activities in a small way.
The Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu on 12 December said political vacuum in Jammu and Kashmir won’t last forever. Addressing a function LG Murmu said, “We are empowering people at grass root level. J&K is a Union Territory with legislature and one day there will be elections.”
There is easing of troop density in the Valley as Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered withdrawal of 72 companies (around 7,000 personnel) of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).
20 companies have already left the Valley for redeployment in Assam in the second week of December.
The total number of CAPF battalions post 05 August had gone up to 131 battalions with the existing 61 battalions (around 62,000 personnel) in the Valley increased by 70 battalions (around 75,000 personnel). The strength of the CAPF may have now come down by around 9000 personnel.
Another vector restoration of mobile communications and internet has also seen easing.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav was reported by Times of India of having said, “The broadband internet services are being restored in phased manner. The facilities have been restored to the hotels. We will also press the local administration to ensure maximum power supply in Jammu and Kashmir as the indications are there that the winter is going to be very harsh.”
With law and order situation under control and terrorism continuing to be low during the winters there is scope for reaching out to the people at large through restoration of political activity.
Release of the top leaders of the political parties may pave the way for easing tensions while continued vigil will have to be maintained on the terrorism front with Pakistan likely to trigger violence through additional inductions and rejuvenating the existing cells in the Valley in summer. Thus a strong security grid would continue to be necessary.
Much will thus depend on the government’s political strategy in Kashmir in summer of 2020 even as stringent controls including over the social communication grid is expected to continue while a strong vigil will have to be maintained to prevent Pakistan from upgrading the level of violence by exploiting resentment in the people.
On the other hand, failure of a political outreach combined with widening of the schism in the Valley may feed the insurgency and lead to more terrorist attacks a la Pulwama, protests and stone pelting and even another major military standoff with Pakistan.