The political landscape of J&K is once again seized with the issue of troop withdrawal. The issue gained momentum after the Union Home and Defence Ministers referred to the improvement in the situation of internal security and the near normal conditions that now prevail in the turbulent region. The media picked up the matter from there onwards and troop reduction/demilitarisation became a buzz word with news bytes flying all over. The first salvo was fired by the Chief Minister of J&K, Omar Abdullah, during a meeting with the Union Home Minister on December, 07, in which a road map was given by the centre for withdrawal of nearly 25 battalions of paramilitary forces comprising CRPF, BSF and ITBP from the State with replacements coming from Indian Reserve Battalions from various States. Omar’s response was a suggestion to adopt a calibrated approach with utmost caution before taking any step. Within about a week of this meeting Omar made a statement at Ajmer that Kashmir has now recovered from the brunt of terrorism and the situation is returning to normal, accordingly, around 30,000 army men have been sent back from the State. He added that the army had been removed from the civilian areas and had been replaced by central forces and J&K Police. More recently, the Union Defence Minister in a statement at Hyderabad on December, 24, countered Omar’s views and said that the withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Jammu and Kashmir does not mean that the situation has become normal in the militancy-affected State, he added that as long as terrorist camps are operating across the border we have to be on alert.
As usual the separatist group and the mainstream parties of Kashmir that lean towards the right have an entirely different take on the subject and they have adopted their usual pessimistic and illogical approach. The PDP feels that the troop reduction is cosmetic since one battalion has been replaced by another, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and representatives of the JKLF are of the opinion that the reduction is not visible on ground and they want the Defence Minister to educate them about the areas where the reduction has taken place, an out and out political gambit. Syed Ali Shah Geelani feels that reduction of 30,000 troops will in any case make no difference to the State given the fact that the deployment runs into about eight lakh personnel. Not to be outdone Pakistan described the troop reduction as India’s attempt to divert the attention of the international community from the basic problem of Kashmir
Even as all this was happening the situation on ground served a grim reminder of the capability of the terrorists to strike. On December, 21, Pakistan Army and Rangers resorted to heavy firing on Indian positions to facilitate infiltration by militants in Ramgarh sector of Samba District. This was third intrusion bid on the Line of Control (LoC) and international border within a period of four days. A few days earlier on December, 19, a Border Security Force jawan was killed and two others were injured as a group of militants opened fire on them after infiltrating into Indian territory from the LoC in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch District. On the same day a 25-year-old youth Nazir Ahmad Chopan was shot dead by militants. Two armed militants entered the house of Chopan at Kadipora in Pulwama and sprayed him with bullets, he was shepherd by profession and was targeted by the militants on the suspicion of being an informer of the security forces. In yet another incident on the same day a National Conference worker was brutally done to death by slitting open his throat after he was kidnapped in Pulwama District in South Kashmir.
An analysis of the situation on the basis of the foregoing happenings and statements would makes it very evident that the position of the mainstream leaders and the Union government is one of utmost sincerity towards their commitment to usher normalcy and carry with them all shades of political opinion in the region. The State government under Omar Abdullah is making a very genuine and honest effort to set the turbulence behind and move on and towards this end he has the full support of the central leadership. It is to foster this spirit of sincerity and build confidence amongst the people that troop reduction is being resorted to despite there being no grounds for the same in view of the unabated incident of infiltration attempts and terrorist initiated violence over the last few months.
The manner in which the separatists have reacted clearly indicates that they are not ready to forego their rigid positions to meet the mainstream halfway even if logic so dictates. Even if all of their demands, however unreasonable, are met they will still not be satisfied and will find other reasons to air their grievances. This is because they are enjoying the fruit of political influence without having any responsibility and for them the benefits of being on the other side of the fence far outweigh the trapping of power. So far as Pakistan is concerned, it is merely following its well entrenched policy of adding fuel to the fire and further confusing the issue so that the people of Kashmir keep running around in circles to its advantage.
The rejection by the separatists of the sincere efforts of the government to accommodate their aspirations necessitates a reappraisal on the overall all policy towards security and other political aspects concerning the future of J&K. It is time to realise that there is no way by which the aspirations of either the separatists or Pakistan can be met and as such the best option is to ignore them in favour of a people centric approach that ensures that the gains of hard labour over the last two decade, especially so by the security forces, are not frittered away.
There is no doubt that the internal security situation is Kashmir is improving but the danger of a sudden escalation in case the guard is lowered is very much alive and potent. This apart the situation across the border is such that any reduction of vigil on the line of control can have disastrous consequences, in fact, the need of the hour is to prepare for a tidal wave of Jihadis who may turn towards India at any point in time. Pakistan has the force available, it only needs to provide direction and our cup of woes will be overflowing. The Indian Nation has a responsibility towards ensuring the security of the people of the frontier regions and this cannot be compromised to appease a few segments of the polity.