This week Home Minister Amit Shah listed comparative figures of the terrorism-related incidents and casualties in Jammu and Kashmir, during the UPA rule of 10 years from 2004-2014 and that of the Narendra Modi government from June 2014 to August 31, 2023. The statistics rolled out by him at the Anti-terrorism Conference in New Delhi on Thursday underlined a significant message, not only for Jammu and Kashmir, which has undergone many changes during nine years of the Modi government but also for the nation and beyond that there is only one approach to tackle the terrorism- ruthlessness.
The meaning was clear that there can be no meeting point between terrorism and the agencies engaged to counter it. Terrorists are ruthless, for when they shoot and bomb people, they show no mercy- their actions are lethal and so is their intent. So, how can there be any different approach toward the terrorists and terrorism that defines their ways , means and end . So, ruthlessness is the answer to their actions. It also depends on the political governments, their inheritance and firm beliefs in strengthening peace as a goal in its real sense of the word.
The point is very clear - terrorists must be dealt with in the manner in which they operate and kill the people. But that also has its own conditions. This approach cannot be applied unless there is an environment conducive to carry out such anti-terrorism operations, eliminating terrorists and choking the breathing space in which they survive.
The political system pays a crucial role in determining the anti-terrorism narrative. Two kinds of political approach were adopted in the past – perhaps it would be correct to trace the political systems and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir to 1989. And before reflecting on the period since 1989, it is important to note here that the elements that led to the campaign of bombs and bullets , there were significant attempts to curb the image of Kashmir as a place where terrorism could be taking roots. It was not a whispering campaign but loudly audible: “ Yeh Hindustan nahin hain( it’s not India0.” This, as such,might have appeared as an innocuous assertion of identity, but the anti-India sentiment was visible both in its content and expression. India, that is the ruling class in Delhi , never thought of changing the narrative.
Of course, the security forces could not have forced the people to say anything different or in favour of India, but the political narrative based on human connect could have changed the scenario. No such attempt was made The approach was full of contradictions, based on make believe world that things were not in favour of India in Kashmir , hence purchase loyalties and the narrative of semblance of peace with money , and to live in a make-believe world that everything is hunky-dory . Second , the rulers were more interested in seeking political compromises than making the people of Kashmir to trust the Indian system and its virtues . Even though a majority of population in the Valley understood that their destiny lay with India, but they were intelligent enough to see weakness of India vis-à-vis Kashmir , and they joined the chorus in seeking concessions from Delhi . This helped the secessionist elements who were always there to blackmail Kashmir with pro-Pakistan sloganeering. And it erupted with utmost intensity in December 1989 when five Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front terrorists were freed in exchange of the then Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s youngest daughter Rubiya Sayeed . Rubiya was abducted by JKLF terrorists on December 8 and released on December 13, 1989 only after five terrorist were released at the places of their choice . That was the turning point – thereafter terrorism in Kashmir did not look behind for three decades . Worse part of the Rubiya Sayeed episode was that the then V P Singh government had deputed two of its ministers Inder Kumar Gujral and Arif Mohammad Khan to pressure Farooq Abdullah to set free the JKLF terrorists . BJP , too , cannot escape the responsibility for it was part of the government .
The course , in right earnest , was reversed post-abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 , when stamping out terrorism became topmost priority . The government gave a free hand to tackle the menace of terrorism . Security forces , not hobbled by the political interference , went all out against terrorists and their ecosystem . That is where the successes greeted them .
The decline in the incidents and casualties , as revealed in the comparative study bear a testimony to the latest anti-terrorism approach in Kashmir . The comparative statistics of incidents of acts of terror from May 2004 to May 2014 and that of nine years of the current regime ( from June 2014 to August 2023) reflect a marked decline in acts of violence and casualties. This declining trend is continuing . It also emerged that Jammu and Kashmir witnessed 70 per cent decline in the incidents of terror -from 7217 to 2197, and the comparative periods showed a decline of momentous 69 per cent in the number of causalities – that is from 2829 to 891, civilian deaths came down to 336 from 1769 , registering a decline of 81 per cent . And in the same comparative periods , the deaths of security forces came down from 1060 t0 555 , a decline of 48 per cent
This ruthless approach against terrorism took away space from terrorism and gained it for peace and development. And, this is primarily due to the zero-tolerance to terrorism approach of the government of the day.